Axios Nashville

Picture of the Nashville skyline.
January 21, 2022

Happy Friday. Call a friend and tell them you love them.

Today's weather: Sunny with a high of 32.

Today's newsletter is 950 words โ€” a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Titans hope to block Bengals fans

An exterior shot of Nissan Stadium on the Cumberland River
Nissan Stadium. Photo: John Amis/AP

Before the Titans and Bengals clash at Nissan Stadium tomorrow, their fans are waging a battle on the secondary ticket market โ€” a game within the game that will determine the extent of Tennessee's home-field advantage.

  • Tickets to Titans-Bengals on secondary ticket websites yesterday were the most expensive of this weekend's four divisional round playoff games, indicating that Cincinnati fans are willing to pony up to see their team.
  • The Titans are actively trying to tamp down Bengals fans invading Nashville and polluting Nissan Stadium with choruses of "Who Dey?"

Why it matters: The Titans scratched and clawed their way to a first-round bye and home-field advantage. Now the team needs a raucous environment reminiscent of their original Super Bowl run two decades ago.

  • Unsettling young Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow is especially vital.

Music City madness: Because Nashville is a fun place to visit for a weekend, road fans have historically been drawn to games like flies to the neon signs on Lower Broadway.

The intrigue: Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. president and CEO Butch Spyridon tells Axios there is a fine line for tourism execs to walk between using Titans games to boost visitor spending and making sure the team maintains its home-field advantage.

  • "The sweet spot is between 2,000 and 5,000 fans," Spyridon says.

State of play: The Titans are doing their part. The Nashville Post reported the organization blocked tickets purchased directly from the team or through the official NFL resale site from being transferred until 24 hours before kickoff.

  • The transfer freeze does not apply to secondary sites such as StubHub.

By the numbers: TickPick tweeted that the 3:30pm Titans-Bengals game had the most expensive get-in seat at $289, compared to just $122 for the Chiefs-Bills game.

  • The cheapest ticket on StubHub yesterday afternoon was $255.

What he's saying: "We're a bit of a victim of our own success," Spyridon says. "People want to come back here in a way that they may not want to visit Pittsburgh, or Kansas City or some other city multiple times."

  • "My guess is we'll see 5,000 to 10,000 (Bengals fans) on Saturday, so there will still be a home-field advantage. And hopefully, we send them home happy with their visit but unhappy with how the game went."

2. Small market teams rule AFC playoffs

Data: Nielsen. Chart: Will Chase/Axios
Data: Nielsen. Chart: Will Chase/Axios

The four AFC teams still alive in the playoffs represent a victory for sports' universal underdog: the small-market team, Axios' Jeff Tracy writes.

The intrigue: The Bills, Bengals, Chiefs, and Titans form the smallest average media market size of any conference's final four since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

  • Buffalo (32nd-biggest media market of 32 NFL teams, per Nielsen)
  • Cincinnati (27th)
  • Kansas City (26th)
  • Nashville (25th)

Of note: Their franchise valuations are similarly low: Bengals (32nd), Bills (30th), Titans (28th), and Chiefs (20th).

The big picture: The AFC is the "small-market conference," with just four of the top 17 NFL teams by media market size: Jets (t-1st), Chargers (t-3rd), Texans (10th), and Patriots (12th). The other 13 are all NFC teams, including the entire NFC East and NFC West.

What to watch: If the Buccaneers (15th) and Packers* (28th) beat the Rams (t-3rd) and 49ers (8th) respectively, they'll join the AFC in forming an all-small-market final four.

*Milwaukee is considered the Packers' home market for ratings purposes. Green Bay would rank last behind Buffalo.

3. Redistricting moves forward

An overhead shot of the Tennessee Senate chambers.
The Tennessee Senate chambers in 2021. Photo: Mark Humphrey/AP

Plans to split Nashville between three conservative congressional districts continue to sail through the General Assembly, even as Democrats foreshadow an upcoming court battle.

  • The state Senate yesterday handily approved the redistricting plan along party lines. The state House is scheduled to vote Monday on the matter.

Why it matters: The debate so far highlights the power of the Republican supermajority in the Tennessee statehouse, which oversaw redistricting.

  • The map quickly moved through committees and toward final approval despite intense criticism from Democrats, who said it would diminish the power of Nashville and the Black voters who currently sit in the 5th district.

What they're saying: During a presentation on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, said the map was legal, logical, and fair.

  • "It will give all of Tennesseans a strong voice in Washington, which is ultimately what we want," Johnson said.

What's next: After the vote, Minority Leader Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, told reporters a legal challenge was likely.

  • "It's hard to imagine you don't see this in litigation at some point," Yarbro said, per the Tennessean.

4. The Setlist

Illustration of a chicken wearing sunglasses with fire reflected in the lenses.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

๐Ÿค  The Nashville Scene debuted its country music almanac: an overview of industry trends and artists to watch. (Nashville Scene)

A state Senate ethics panel recommended expelling a senator accused of wire fraud. (WPLN)

๐Ÿ’ธ Nashville's median home price has soared to another all-time high. (The Tennessean)

5. The Ryman turns 130

An exterior photo of the ryman auditorium
Photo: Mark Humphrey/AP

The Ryman Auditorium this week kickstarted a year-long celebration of its 130th anniversary.

Why it matters: The historic Mother Church of Country Music, which once hosted the Grand Ole Opry, has grown into one of the most famous venues in the world, drawing artists such as Garth Brooks, Dolly Parton, Lizzo, and Harry Styles.

  • The anniversary celebration, and any corresponding surprises, could bring an added jolt to live music's tenuous pandemic comeback.

๐Ÿ’ญ Adam's thought bubble: Every show at The Ryman is special, but my favorite concert there would have to be Dolly. Or Trisha Yearwood. Or Reba.

  • Honorable mentions: Janelle Monรกe, Carly Rae Jepsen, Vampire Weekend, Rufus Wainwright, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Miley Cyrus, among others.

๐Ÿ“ฃ Tell us: What is your favorite Ryman memory? We'll highlight some in an upcoming newsletter.

Nate is picking Titans, Bills, Rams, and of course, Packers this weekend. Go Pack Go!

Adam is thankful for your movie recommendations. Next up: "Tick, Tick... Boom!"