Just a few short minutes ago I received a very harsh lecture from some prominent members of the media. Apparently I touched a nerve when I asked why we couldn’t shoot straight and tell fans the real story behind the Titan’s 2013 season. I obviously erred when I suggested that we should just tell the public the truth and let the chips fall where they may.
Of course they predictably said I was a troll. They threatened to have my press credentials revoked. They told me that if I posted this article, my access to the team and players would be severely restricted.
Sometimes its frustrating being a reporter. I get to see all the events that happens behind the scenes and all the while I know that the fans only see a fraction of what actually happens. The information that fans get is so tightly managed and scripted. The media seems to live in a bizarro world where up is down and black is white.
I was in the room when a couple of media backbenchers hatched a cockamamie conspiracy to portray Marc Mariani as being some type of leave it to beaver choirboy from Montana. They told all of us to write a bevy of puff pieces and feel good stories about Marc because they wanted to counteract the "Titans have dirty players" meme that was being propagated by Philip Rivers and Kyle Orton.
Day after day I watched my media brethren depict Marc as a milk and cookies, smiley faced, pussywhipped version of Donnie Osmond but nothing could be further from the truth. Marc Mariani is fierce and very intense. Marc is an in your face, knock the piss out of them, hard-nosed competitor. Marc is an all-in guy who even helped the Titan’s defense recapture a tough-minded approach last season.
Guess who is always standing just a couple of feet away, just out of camera shot during every Bernard Pollard video interview? If you guessed Marc Mariani then yes, you guessed correctly. I would always pray that the cameraman would somehow mistakenly veer or use a wider camera angle so that the fans could see Marc encouraging Pollard; spoon feeding him hard hitting, fiery rhetoric. And whenever it was Marc’s turn to speak to the cameras, the media’s advance men would scurry to plaster Marc’s locker space with autographed photos of Michael McDonald. The media would remove all traces of the Hip Hop legend ODB. And…the media tossed out Marc’s Waka Flocka. The media would always go through extraordinary measures to make certain that Taylor Swift was blaring in the background of every one of Marc’s interviews.
These same media jackals avoided telling the fans why Marc chose to be a mentor to a skinny 2nd round rookie receiver. Marc knew that the rookie had become disillusioned and dispirited about his playing time. Marc also knew that the rookie’s mom was a single parent that was working two jobs and struggling just to put food on the table. I watched Marc spent endless hours after practice; teaching the rookie receiver the entire playbook and route tree. Marc would also give the rookie receiver a ride home every night and risked his own safety by driving through one of the toughest neighborhoods in the city.
Every true Titans fan knows that the team won 3 out of its first 4 games in 2013, but did the press tell the fans that Mariani was the catalyst for the team’s winning ways? Did the media tell the fans that the team’s captains had asked Marc to give a series of inspirational messages?
Each week before the players took the field, the entire team and coaching staff would encircle Marc as he delivered a rousing Braveheart style battlecry speech. Marc would work his congregation like a baptist preacher. It was obvious to all of us that the team had developed a so called "Mariani Identity." The team seemed to always enter each contest as the underdog. The team would alway play with heart and passion. The team would frustrate the pundits while confounding the experts; All these traits are classic Mariani.
Marc pregame speeches had a particularly positive effect on the skinny rookie receiver and when Marc told the coach that the rookie was ready, that rookie caught a last second game winning touchdown against Philip River’s San Diego Chargers. And the game winning football that was supposed to go to the rookie's mom was given to Marc Mariani instead.
Immediately after the news broke about the Miami Dolphin bullying scandal, the media relentlessly pressured the Titan’s front office to quash the Mariani pregame speeches because during some of Marc's pregame speeches, he frequently use epithets that Riley Cooper would approve of. The media didn’t care about context. It didn’t matter to the media that Marc always use the "as"version and would never use the "er"variation of the epithet. The media didn’t care that Marc’s language was never personal and that Marc’s ire was always directed at the opposing team’s players. The media was only concerned that their false Mariani "boy next door" narrative would be shattered. They were afraid that they would be exposed as liars and that Philip River’s proclamations about the Titans players would ring true if transcripts of the Mariani pregame speeches were leaked out and distorted.
And the result of Marc Mariani not being able to give his pregame speeches is.….well…painful documented history. The Titans lost 8 of its final 12 games which included losing to one of the worst teams in the league. The Titan’s defense fell off a cliff; They played flat, uninspired and emotionless. Reports of "cancers"on the team began to surface. The Titans offense never seemed to get its groove back. The starting quarterback got injured and the backup quarterback threw a slew of interceptions and a majority of the Titan’s 2013 coaching staff was fired.
You may wonder what happened to the skinny rookie receiver that gave Marc Mariani his game winning football? Well… that fine young rookie and another member of Marc’s position group were suspended a game for wearing Mariani number 83 jerseys to practice as a protest to the cessation of Marc’s pregame speeches.
MY OBSERVATIONS AND COMMENTARY:
The 2013 season is obviously gone but there are signs that the new coaching staff are aware of the mistakes that were made and are eager to get them fixed. It is clear to this reporter that without the Mariani influence, the 2013 team never seemed to regain its footing or recaptured its Mariani identity. I am hopeful about the 2014 season and beyond. I am convinced that this front office gets it. They are professionals and I know that they will make resigning Marc Mariani a top priority. Immediately after the recent Mike Mularkey press conference concluded, a couple of us overheard Ruston Webster instruct coach Whisenhunt to "Tell MM that its okay for him to talk to his guys." I can’t say that I know a 100% who he meant by "MM" being able to "talk"to the guys, but I’m pretty sure I think I know.