Hundreds of Tennessee Titans fans poured into the streets Sunday to cheer the AFC champions after Tennessee's 33-14 victory over the Jaguars in Jacksonville, Fla. Thousands more packed Adelphia Coliseum to welcome home the victors.
Stephanie McCormick and Vallerie Coffman drove an hour and a half from McMinnville to join the party, even though they had only attended one Titans game this year.
"It's Tennessee's first NFL team and football is big in Tennessee,'' McCormick shouted above the noise 30,000 fans who had crowded into the stadium an hour before the team was expected back.
Johnny Gann of Nashville and his brother-in-law, Thomas McEwen, have been die-hard fans every since the Houston Oilers moved to Tennessee, even before they became the Titans. They went to every game at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis and at Vanderbilt's stadium, where the Titans played before Adelphia Coliseum was finished last fall.
"We're going to the Super Bowl even if we can't get tickets. We just want to be there,'' said Gann.
Gann's 8-year-old grandson, Daniel, was wearing a Jevon Kearse jersey and a big smile.
"It's good, it's good,'' the boy said of the victory.
After the game, cars decorated with Titans flags and decals honked horns as they paraded past Second Avenue's bars, restaurants and gift shops.
Fans leaning out of windows waved and gave high fives to hundreds shouting and dancing on the sidewalk.
"This is no longer the music capital of the world. This is the home of the Titans!'' shouted Frank Adams of Nashville. "We're no longer known as a bunch of rednecks. We're known as a place people know how to play football.''
Nashville's Wildhorse Saloon, best known for its line-dancing show on TNN, turned into a giant sports bar as over 2,200 people filled tables set up on the dance floor and watched the game on a movie screen hung in front of the stage's red velvet curtain.
Many fans had their faces painted blue with a white T for "Titans.'' Others waved flags, pom-poms and jerseys, their excitement nearly deafening as the game ended with Nashville's come-from-behind win.
Fans threw confetti, danced in a conga line around the bar and chanted "Super Bowl! Super Bowl!''
Carl Edmondson Jr., a Nashville insurance agent, pulled out a cell phone and called his friend in Atlanta, Ga., where the Titans will play in next week's Super Bowl.
"I left him a message. I told him, 'I'm on my way, and I've got a Titan on my back,'' Edmondson said.
As the Titans victory became apparent, Wildhorse Saloon staffers rushed posters inviting the crowd back to a Super Bowl party next week.
The enthusiasm was palpable in a town new to hosting an NFL team, let alone the AFC champions, but where football is a near religion.
"This is a new experience for Nashville, Tenn.,'' Adams said. "Nobody knows what this feels like. We shocked the entire world.''