We are officially one day before the start of the NFL season, so it's probably time to start previewing the monster. The key to the NFL's success — other than fantasy football and gambling, of course — is the rabid nature of its fans. That is to say: You don't see a lot of people painting their faces for their favorite golfer.
We asked a gaggle of writers, from the Web, from print, from books, even a TV guy or two, to tell us, in as many or as little words as they need, why My Team Is Better Than Your Team. This is not meant to be factual, or dispassionate, or even logical: We just asked them to riff on why they love their team so much, or what their team means to them, or whatever. We will be running two a day until the beginning of the NFL season.
Right now: the Jacksonville Jaguars. Your author is Dan Shanoff.
Dan Shanoff was the creator (and writer) of the Daily Quickie on ESPN.com. He now blogs daily at danshanoff.blogspot.com. He also hosts the monthly Varsity Letters Reading Series in New York City (tonight!). His words are after the jump.
I'm guessing that I will set an unbreakable record among Deadspin readers (and certainly Deadspin NFL preview writers) for "history of support."
I didn't even know I liked the Jags until Will asked me if I'd like to do a preview, because the Jags were an unclaimed team.
And so here I am: Hooray, Jags.
The truth is: I have been living without a favorite NFL team since I left my hometown D.C. for college in Chicago, where I realized that being a displaced Bears fan sucked when you finally lived locally among them. I assume this works similarly for all teams.
So I plan to follow "my Jags" as avidly as you follow your team after decades of support. That's the dirty little secret of fandom: The difference between SuperFan and SortaFan is nominal; the bar to hurdle is whether you care about a team AT ALL. (Die-hard fans can rant now.)
I'm not saying you'll see me in a pink Leftwich alternate jersey with the rest of the "Jag Hags." (Amazingly, as yet unclaimed as a fan-base nickname.)
But I will tell you a couple of reasons the Jaguars have been fun to follow. For, um, two weeks:
(1) Instant pet peeve: Fuck-tards who call them the "Jag-wires" or the British-borrowed "Jag-you-ares." I can't believe that professional sports commentators (or football fans, for that matter) can mispronounce the name of a simple zoo animal. It's "Jag-whar." Say it: Jag-whar.
(2) Byron Leftwich obliterates the classic racial stereotype about black quarterbacks, which makes him arguably the most fascinating QB in the league. He is the anti-Vick. No QB in the NFL is LESS athletic; Leftwich makes Drew Bledsoe look nimble. He is a model for every mattress-topped "Byron Nebbish" who ever wanted to be a quarterback but stopped when distracted by a couch-side bag of Cheez Doodles.
What makes this idea even more interesting is that his top target, Matt Jones, obliterates every racial stereotype about white WRs: "Possession" receiver? Not at 6-6 and running a 4.3 40. The combination of the two make them the pass-catch poster boys for eroding the subtle (and not-so-subtle) racism that dominates NFL talent evaluation.
(3) Alltel Stadium was built with a capacity of about a zillion, to accommodate the "Cletus The Slack-Jawed" masses* who descend on the city for the annual
Florida-Georgia college football grudge match.
Apparently, they didn't consider that there's no way in hell they could fill all those seats for a pro team in north Florida (not even with bulk tickets sold for Tiffany, Heather, Cody, Dylan, Dermot, Jordan, Taylor, Brittany, Wesley, Rumor, Scout, Cassidy, Zoe, Chloe, Max, Hunter, Rubella, Scabies, Kendall, Caitlin, Noah, Sasha, Morgan, Kyra, Ian, Lauren et al), so the Jaguars regularly were victims of the NFL's local-TV blackout policy.
To remedy the situation, they put a tarp over enough of those seats (used exclusively for the Gators-Bulldogs game) that now the team will finally sell out its games and get the games shown on local TV. The virtuous cycle of this can't be stressed enough.
(* - I'm allowed to describe them like that because I married into an extended family from north-central Florida. It's like Tim Whatley converting to Judaism for the jokes.)
(4) The Jags defense will eat your children. If this same D was anywhere but Jacksonville, it would be considered the best in the league. If the Steelers were smart, they would hold Ben Roethlisberger out for Week 2, because the Jags D could give him a "season-endectomy."
(The offense is, ah, a little less dominant. RB Fred Taylor most notably ranks among the all-time most maddening of fantasy football talents; he is at the top of the classic argument, "If he could stay healthy, what if...?")
I wasn't a fan last year, so I can't speak to the 28-3 playoff beating they took from the Pats, but if they can earn an AFC Wild Card spot, there's no reason that the D can't carry them through a surprise run deep into the playoffs.
(5) Rookie names: The 2006 first-round pick is named Marcedes Lewis, and I have not been able to figure out whether that's supposed to be an intentional variant homage to the luxury brand "Mercedes" or simply a misspelling at the hospital when he was born. If you Google "Marcedes" and the first entry is "Did you mean 'mercedes,'", that might be an indication that you consider a delivery-room spell-check. Either way, I am rethinking my own newborn's name as "
(Meanwhile, Backup RB Maurice Jones-Drew added "Jones" to his name during last year's college season to honor his late grandfather. He's also only 5-foot-6 and, consequently, one punt return for a TD away from being one of the league's top fan favorite. He also has the initials "MJD," which should make him a Deadspin weekend obsession.)
To be honest, I'm less intrigued by the Jags than I am at the prospect of adopting a favorite NFL team at all — a rooting interest on Sundays beyond hoping for crazy team-agnostic storylines that make for good column-fodder. (Obviously, that's no longer an issue.)
So here's my "Jag-Off" theory I'm going to be testing: That the difference between lifelong die-hard fandom and instantaneous, temporary allegiance is cosmetic.
Now, what do Jags fans do to sign off? "Rowr?" Cripes. Gotta do something about that. Any ideas, Jag Hags?