It’s Christmas morning 1998 and my family is gathered in my Tia Rosana’s living room. The ladies are in the kitchen finishing their breakfast, meanwhile my uncles and all the kids were gathered around the TV. We weren’t watching a Christmas special, Rudolph the red nose reindeer wasn’t trotting around the screen. None of that, my boy Santa had just gifted me Madden 98.
I vividly remember that year of the Madden series for a couple of reasons that will forever be a part of who I am as a person. First, 98 was the first year of the game I ever owned. I grew up with a younger brother and a single mother, luxuries like these were scarce. But, somehow my mother made it happen like she made every other miracle happen throughout my life. Not only was it the first game my brother and I owned, it was the most influential video game of our childhood. It was the game we would rent from Blockbuster every Friday night and continue where we left off last time in dynasty mode. If you just asked yourself what Blockbuster is I’m going to direct you to Google so you can learn you something, young-blood.
Second, 98 was the year I saw the Jacksonville Jaguars logo for the first time in my life. I first ran across it on Twitter, just kidding, I remember it being my turn to play against one of my uncles and I was looking for the team I wanted to rock with. The Jaguars logo made me stop in my tracks. As an 8-year-old, this was the dopest shit I had ever seen. Up until then I was forced to look at the Cowboy’s whack star every Sunday, it wasn’t the most ferocious thing ever, so young me made one of the ballsiest moves ever. From that moment on, I’ve been a Jacksonville Jaguar fan. Funny, ain’t it? I’ve been telling that story for 19 years now when people ask me how the hell I became a Jags fan? I swear it gets better every time I tell it.
We’re a few days removed from the Jaguars first playoff victory since January 5, 2008 versus the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ironically, the same team that they square off against on Sunday in the divisional playoff round. There’s so many levels to this weekend’s game that we must as the intellectuals say, “peel back the layers of the onion.”
This is the second time the Jaguars play the Steelers this season, both teams played each other twice during the 2007-2008 season.
Both games played this season will have taken place at Heinz Field, both games during the 2007-2008 season were played in Pittsburgh.
The Jaguars won both matchups in 2007-2008, and after this weekend THEY WILL HAVE WON BOTH MATCHUPS DURING THE 2017-2018 SEASON. Sorry for the trash talk, that was for my boy Miguel and his wife Liz, two huge Steeler fans who I hope don’t cry this weekend.
I know what you’re thinking, I’m being mighty boisterous for a team whose relevant for the first time in a decade. Guess what? You god damn right I am, the same way I’m going to be when my Lakers are back on top again, but that’s another story for another day.
For a decade, Jaguar fans have been dragged to hell and back. It was more than the on-field performance that made being a fan so hard at times. At times, it felt like the front office and coaching staff were incompetent, if that’s too mean then let’s just say that it looked like they weren’t on the same page. They drafted Blaine Gabbert with the number 10 pick in 2011 for god sakes, the year before they drafted Tyson Alualu; let’s just say both players didn’t quite live up to their potential.
You know how they say once you hit rock bottom the only way to go is up? Yeah, someone lied. Jacksonville showed me that there’s levels to this being bad shit. Fuck there being a light at the end of the tunnel, at times it felt like the light was never coming back on.
That was all until a man named Shahid Khan came into the picture. Khan, a Pakistani-American billionaire and business tycoon, purchased the Jaguars on November 29, 2011, becoming the first minority owner in NFL history. Obama of NFL owners if you may. It was then that the rise from the ashes of mediocrity began.
Khan isn’t a football mastermind by any mean, he gained his wealth manufacturing car parts, so the role he had with the team looks odd from the inside out. Khan brought in football minds and let them handle all football decisions. He knows how to cut the check and get the fuck out-of-the-way.
He brought a pride to the city of Jacksonville by investing in the community and overhauling the team facilities. EverBank field has a damn swimming pool in it, man.
You may think that has nothing to do with anything, but you couldn’t be further from the truth. Players recognize when the team owner cares about the team. Players want to know that the team they’re giving their all for is more than a hobby to some multi-billionaire. You take care of the players, they take care of you, make sense?
Khan changed the culture in Jacksonville and started bringing in big name free agents like the team could never do before. Besides being smart enough to realize when to step back on certain decisions, Khan is a very well-spoken and likeable guy. He understands that bringing in big names in the offseason is integral. You need a fusion of young/veteran players and he has done just that. Prince Amukamara, Malik Jackson, Chris Ivory, and Tashaun Gipson in one-off season?? That’s unprecedented heights for such a small market team.
You mix that in with the team’s ability to draft like their life depended on it and you end up here. One win away from going on to play for the Division title. Two wins from a super bowl appearance. Even as a fan I can admit that this team is ahead of schedule which makes it hard to evaluate from an honest place. It’s hard to keep the fanboy out, but when I study that defense the urge to listen to the little voice on my shoulder grows stronger.
Defense wins championships. It’s hard to deny that. This team has the best defense in the league. I think they can make a run at a super bowl.
Hold up, that was the craziest sentence I’ve ever typed out. My stomach got butterflies and my heart raced just a bit. To go from the leagues laughing-stock to where they are now, is a Cinderella story alone. The fact that it has a real shot to come true would make sticking through the bad times worth it. Holding on and keep believing when it seems like there is no other option is what this team has taught me. Eventually it’s all worth it.