Tuesday, August 04, 2009

My Jaguars Fandom: A Primer

Drew Magary had a pretty good time -- as did we all! -- with my Jaguars fandom in his "Why Your Team Sucks" Jaguars post on Deadspin this morning.

It's probably worth a brief review of how all this happened:

September 2006: I have just left ESPN.com and started DanShanoff.com. Will Leitch was collecting NFL team previews written by their fans for Deadspin, then a year old. I did not have a favorite NFL team. I grew up a huge -- huge -- Bears fan, but things atrophied when I got to college (ironically, in Chicago). A job stint with the NFL didn't help my passion for the NFL. But I felt like the time was right to find an NFL team to call my own. I wanted a team to call my own.

Anyway, Will helpfully mentioned that the Jaguars were unaccounted for, one of maybe two teams not claimed to be written by a "real" fan. (I think the other one might have been the Ravens, which might have worked, given my suburban Maryland roots.)

I thought becoming a Jaguars fan made a lot of sense -- it was right in line with my new-ish (5-year-old) fandom of all things North-Central Florida; the Jaguars were the closest NFL team to Gainesville, and -- unlike many, apparently -- I had experienced some nice moments in Jacksonville. I also liked the fact that not a lot of people were Jaguars fans. But let's be honest here: I'm rationalizing. The selection was mostly serendipity -- the whim of an editor and a heaping plate of whatever leftovers I could find in the fridge.

And so I filed my 2006 Deadspin Jaguars preview. I enjoyed having an NFL rooting interest, although geography and my nominal ambivalence toward the NFL (beyond fantasy) probably didn't make me the most obsessive fan. However, I liked the taste and signed back up for 2007, both a Deadspin preview and fandom.

Last season, I felt my Jags interest begin to wane. I *wanted* to like the Jaguars -- I wanted to love the Jaguars. But I really was investing all of my energy into my Gators fandom. I think a lot of huge college football fans have the same experience; the NFL is a distant second.

In fact, while I root for Jaguars success, I think it is offensive for me to describe myself as a fan -- based on my casual attitude and behavior about the team. I wasn't checking Jags blogs obsessively or reading newspaper coverage. I couldn't tell you who they were playing. I didn't watch games beyond the ones available on national TV.

At this point, my being a fan of the Jags wasn't fair to me, wasn't fair to the team and especially wasn't fair to *real* Jags fans -- Drew's playful insults this morning were hilarious; I found myself much more self-conscious about being labeled the Jags' most notable fan.

I'm not worthy. Check out the Jags blogs for folks who are worthy of the title. Hey, maybe Tim Tebow -- who is from Jacksonville -- is a Jaguars fan. Which is a nice segue...

At some point midway through the 2006 season -- my first with the Jaguars -- I recognized that Tim Tebow was my favorite athlete of all time. Don't need to get into that; it's exhaustively covered elsewhere.

And I recognized, for better or worse, that given my overall lack of organic passion for any NFL team that I would undoubtedly find my rooting interest based on where Tebow was drafted. It will be an easy -- if completely absurd -- transition.

This is why I am so certain that Tebow will be drafted by the Patriots. In addition to actually having some pretty good circumstantial evidence, I am simply convinced that the karmic payback for my lack of soul-gripping faith in one NFL team -- perhaps my earnest but shallow fandom of the Jaguars -- is that Tebow end up on my least-favorite NFL team.

Because while I'm not sure if there is an NFL team I love (yet), there are plenty that I dislike intensely -- led by the Patriots.

There is a happy ending available here: If Tebow is drafted by the Jaguars -- and that would be the team's absolute best play, regardless of need -- then my nominal recent NFL fandom and my most sincere college fandom converge.

Until then, I tip my cap to the *real* Jaguars fans out there.

-- D.S.

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