I was born in Dallas, Texas and grew up on stories of Tony Dorsett and the only game my father could afford to attend as he did everything he could to make ends meet and raise two twin boys. When I was about six years old, we moved back to my mother’s home, a small town located in northeast Alabama. In Alabama, football is king; college football that is. Seeing as how I never attended the university of Alabama or Auburn and how Alabama has no NFL team, I found it difficult to watch football. I had absolutely no connection or affiliation to any kind of team other than the Weaver High School Bearcats and I only watched them because I played the trumpet every Friday night at football games with the band. Nevertheless, I always enjoyed Sundays. Since we weren’t anywhere near any kind of NFL city other than Atlanta, we only got the most “popular” NFL games.
I loved watching football as a child. My dad was an avid Dallas Cowboys fan, and I always watched the Cowboys with him and my brother. I noticed something about the Cowboys after awhile; they never lost. All of a sudden they won 3 Superbowls in 4 years and had cemented a dynasty. I grew bored with the team because I always knew they were going to win. Besides, I wanted to find my own team. The Cowboys belonged to my dad.
In 2007 I attended my first NFL football game, Atlanta Falcons vs. Houston Texans, and later in the year after I graduated from college, the Philadelphia Eagles vs. the Dallas Cowboys. It was the game Brian Westbrook took a knee outside of the end zone and ran down the clock. It was a fantastic graduation present, but I left with a feeling of despair. Would I ever be able to find MY team?
While in college, I visited a few different cities with NFL franchises. Indianapolis, Atlanta, New York…Jacksonville. I visited Jacksonville in the fall of 2002 while helping a childhood friend move here. He was still living here in 2008, and offered my brother and I a place to stay if we wanted to move away from Alabama. We took him up on the offer.
We moved in January of 2008. It was only a few weeks after the Jags upset the Steelers. Our first night in town, my childhood friend took us to this bar called Harmonious Monks. Everyone speaking of another upset over the New England Patriots. That upset didn’t happen, but I was under the impression that the fans were this rabid win, lose or draw.
When the fall of 2008 rolled around, I got my first teaching gig at a high school in St. Johns County. I scored free tickets to the Sunday Night Football game, Steelers @ Jaguars from a co-worker. I was astounded…the lights, the action, the excitement. I had found MY team.
Coming from a state that did not have a NFL franchise, I did not know what a “blackout” was. It turns out that local games could be blacked out if the team did not sell enough tickets. I didn’t worry though. There’s no way this team could be “blacked out.” I saw the fans. I knew they appreciated having a team. They appreciated football. When the blackouts of 2009 hit, I was heart broken. I attended as many games as I could that year, doing my best to support the team. Gradually, the team hit a slump. They got worse and worse, but my fanhood never faltered. I knew that I was not alone…
Now it seems there’s more people bad-mouthing the Jags more than ever, including “fans.” Now I’m not saying that everyone is a bandwagon fan. It just seems like the people who only support when the team is winning outnumbers the fans who stand strong win, lose, or draw.
There are only 32 cities with NFL teams. Don’t take this team for granted. Stand by them no matter what. A true fan is someone who doesn’t budge no matter how bleak the circumstances seem, even in the face of defeat. This is a great time to be a fan. Gentlemen, a grand opportunity lies ahead…what kind of fan are YOU?
-David R. Johns