It’s hard to imagine that just 30 years ago the state of Tennessee had zero professional sports franchises to call their own. Today they have three…the Tennessee Titans, Nashville Predators, and Memphis Grizzlies.
The Titans are the elder statesmen…the state’s first-born if you will, arriving in Tennessee as the Oilers in 1997. The following year the NHL awarded Nashville with the expansion franchise Predators. In 2002 the Vancouver Grizzlies moved to Memphis.
And while all three teams have enjoyed individual stretches of playoff success, they have never done it at the same time.
The Nashville Predators just made history, becoming the first 8th seed to sweep a number one seed (Chicago Blackhawks) in the playoffs. With their championship aspirations still alive, they prepare to face the St. Louis Blues in the second round this week.
After a dreadful start, the Memphis Grizzlies’ playoff hopes are still alive as well after back to back wins at home has their series with the heavily favored San Antonio Spurs tied at 2-2.
Both teams have captivated their respective cities with their surprising post season play, and the state as a whole is enjoying the rare national attention.
Something that I’m sure is not lost on the Titans, who haven’t been to the playoffs in almost a decade.
After narrowly missing the post season last year by a mere tie-breaker, and being touted as the trendy pick to end that drought this year, there was already pressure on the Titans to follow up their breakout 9-7 season last year.
Now they are looking in their rearview mirror at the Grizzlies and Predators, who are both making strong cases to dethrone them as the state’s most relevant team.
With a nationally televised pre season game (dress rehearsal), a home opener against another up and coming team in Oakland, a home Monday Night matchup with the division rival Colts, and a late-season Thursday Night game in Pittsburgh, the Titans will have an increased opportunity to state their case in the national spotlight this season.
And with the second-weakest schedule based on their opponent’s record last season, fans around the state will and should expect a playoff push from a Titans team that brings most of their core players back, and has two of the first 18 picks in the upcoming draft.
And if that isn’t pressure enough, the Preds and Grizzlies are nipping at their heels.