Nashville is nationally recognized as Music City.
A sprawling hub where aspiring musicians parade every bar and restaurant along Broadway with material, normally country. Music alone would make Nashville a hotspot for tourism – it’s hard to envision a scenario where someone doesn’t enjoy a night out on the town – but Tennessee’s largest city is rapidly transforming into a metropolis of diverse entertainment.
Nowadays, the streets of Nashville are rockin’ not only because of blissful music consuming the airwaves, but because Music City is becoming one of the nation’s premier sports cities.
This isn’t to say it’s anywhere near the levels of New York City, Boston, or Chicago. In fact, Nashville will likely never reach those levels, as the aforementioned cities have rich histories on their side. There’s no Nashville sports equivalent to iconic teams such as the 1927 New York Yankees, 1960s Boston Celtics, or the 1985 Chicago Bears. There haven’t been athletes on the same immortal level as Derek Jeter, Lawrence Taylor, Ted Williams, or Michael Jordan.
Having said that, the city from a sports perspective has come a long way in a short period of time.
Consider the fact that in 1996, the only franchise the city had considered welcoming was the Sacramento Kings. Once that fell through, the seed of the Nashville Predators was planted, and after two years of watering, the dream became a reality: Nashville had a professional franchise.
In 1997, the Houston Oilers became the Tennessee Oilers, but originally played their games in front of sparse Memphis crowds. The team then moved to Nashville in 1998 under the same moniker before becoming the Tennessee Titans in 1999.
Since the late 1990s, Music City has only been home to a pair of professional franchises, which normally isn’t enough to constitute “Sports City” status. Cities such as Boston, New York City, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Dallas all have at least four professional teams and multiple championships on their resume.
Music City has yet to experience a championship parade – they’ve come oh-so close in football and are currently eight wins away in hockey – but it speaks to how passionate the fan base is when it’s evident Nashville is no longer exclusively recognized as Music City.
In a city with so much going on – various forms of entertainment, every kind of restaurant, multiple healthcare companies, hipsters roaming every corner – it’s easy for sports to fall by the wayside, especially when there are zero championships to show for. But the Titans and Predators are so ingrained in the fabric of the city that the lack of impact wins isn’t a deterrent. In fact, the journey for the cities first championship is only adding to its mystique. The fans are hungry, and with both the Titans and Predators either establishing foundations or building off of momentum from a previous era, the excitement is palpable.
For the Titans, the foundation was set over 15 years ago. Tennessee was a premier franchise in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when legends such as Steve McNair, Eddie George, Frank Wycheck, Bruce Matthews, Jevon Kearse, Keith Bulluck, and Blaine Bishop put the two-toned blue in the playoffs regularly. Oddly enough, during Tennessee’s first season as the Titans, Jeff Fisher and company went 13-3 and were one yard away from sending Super Bowl 34 into overtime.
Sure, the revolving door of quarterbacks such as Vince Young, Kerry Collins, and Jake Locker set the franchise back, but now the team has a legitimate franchise quarterback in Marcus Mariota, one of the league’s top offensive lines, and a superstar general manager in Jon Robinson.
The Titans haven’t reached the postseason since 2008, the same year they started 10-0 and finished with the best record in the NFL at 13-3, only to have Nashville’s Super Bowl aspirations crushed by Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens in the Divisonal Round. However, there’s clear reason for optimism. After winning a combined five games in 2014 and 2015, Tennessee finished 9-7 last season and were a stunning loss to Jacksonville away from winning the AFC South.
Currently, the foundation is being set for the Preds. It’s taken some time, but after recently clinching a birth to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history, and after the acquisition of NHL superstar P.K. Subban from Montreal, suddenly, Nashville is slowly creeping up the ranks of America’s most enthralling hockey towns. They also have other recognizable pieces, such as Filip Forsberg, Mike Fisher, and the impenetrable wall that is Pekka Rinne.
Nasvhille’s reputation as a sports city has a lot going against it. There isn’t an NBA team. There isn’t an MLB team (shout out to the Nashville Sounds though). The two professional teams have a combined zero championships and minimal playoff success.
However, with each passing day, hype around both the Titans and Preds is building. Nashville is now home to the current Stanley Cup favorites and a football team many expect to take the next step. Plus, both franchises are incredibly supportive of one another.
If either the Titans or Preds win a championship in the near future, the nationally recognized nickname Music City might have to take a backseat.