The NFL from Overseas, Pt. I: How I Became a Fan of the Jaguars and the NFL
By Zoltan Paksa
In the next year, I followed the Jaguars all year and throughout the offseason. I followed the draft closely and the analysis of each player picked (the blockbuster ’06 draft), I read every installment of “Ask Vic”, and I started listening to “Jaguars This Week” and becoming familiar with Brian Sexton and Jeff Lageman, both of whom I truly admire. The Jaguars are really lucky to have such a great broadcasting duo; Brian is a great play-by play commentator and Jeff…well, let me say this…if he speaks about what he saw in the tape, I listen real hard and lately, I’ve even started taking notes. He could easily be a color analyst on any national network. Anyways, 2006 was
a breakthrough year for me, because the Hungarian sports channel broadcast FIVE full Jaguars’ games. The opening game victory against the Cowboys (Terrell Owens’ first game in a Dallas uniform), then the legendary battle of the reigning champion Steelers on MNF (a night I’ll never forget, because there were riots and serious clashes in the streets of Budapest – even the building of the national television came under siege, but that’s another story), then the 100th regular-season Jaguars’ victory against Tom Couglin’s Giants (another Monday nighter), and then the last two games of the season, which were not such happy times – the big duel against Brady and the Patriots at home and then the complete meltdown of David Garrard and the rest of the team in Kansas City. 2006 was undoubtedly a tipping point – after that year I became a diehard Jaguars fan.
Then came the ’07 season. Oddly, I was able to catch only two games live that year and both were losses – against the Colts on MNF and against Patriots in the Playoffs. But I still managed to follow every step of the team – since I did not have home internet access at the time, I would visit internet cafes, just to get my daily dose of Jaguars news. I was overjoyed on that Sunday morning in January, when the Jaguars defeated the Steelers for their first playoff win since 1999, and I had been waiting at the door of the internet cafe that morning and couldn’t wait to find out the result. Brian Sexton’s words are still in my ear on that 4th-and-2 play at the very end of the game and I watched that clip over and over again on NFL.com. In that year my love for the team became even stronger.
The next big step in my “fandom” was the discovery of Big Cat Country in 2008. I loved what Chris Harris, Jonathan Loesche, Collin Streetman and Terry O ‘Brian (four writers with great and unique writing styles) did on a daily basis. For the first time, I experienced the guessing game the average fan goes through before the draft. Then the draft came, Harvey and Groves were picked, free agency brought us Jerry Porter, Drayton Florence, and Cleo Lemon, and we all drank the Jaguars-to-the-Super-Bowl KoolAid. Luckily, I saw the big upset against the Colts in the first-ever duel between the two rivals at Lucas Oil Field and Scobee’s booming kick, which clinched the victory. That was definitely the high point of the season and we all know how ugly things got after that. But then I discovered something – I started to enjoy not just the Jaguars, but the sport of football itself. In the middle of the season, I got home internet access, so I could follow every game. I read every article on NFL.com, I spent more and more time on BCC, and I started to read Florida Times Union articles (I miss Michael C. Wright very much, but Tania Ganguli, Gene Frenette, and Vito Stellino have been doing great things over there), and later ESPN’s AFC South blog, and all the great work Paul Kuharsky does.
In January of 2009, I joined BCC, and the lead writers (and commenters) gave me an extremely warm welcoming and lots of positive feedback. I started getting to know these guys and their readers better. After a couple months, I wrote my first Fanpost there and my relationship with the Jaguars and the NFL changed in a whole other way – now I’m writing about them on a weekly basis. The editors were kind enough to put some of my articles into the front page and through the site and various social media, I started meeting more and more people connected with the Jags (and I’ve got to give two shoutouts here – Adam Stites and Brian Fulford, who are both great writers and personalities).
In January 2010, Terry O ‘Brian left BCC and tried to resurrect another Jaguars fansite – Black & Teal. A few days later, he asked me to join the site and what follows that story, you can read all of right here. It should surprise no one that I consider myself a hardcore Jaguars fan. I read, listen, and watch everything I can get my hands on related to the Jaguars. I scout prospects, I making game previews, and I’m constantly thinking of new article ideas in times such as these (although if the lockout will last 1-2 month more, I’ll be really in trouble). In a ten year period, the NFL changed me from an extremely casual annual viewer of the Super Bowl to a guy who spends a good twelve hours in front of his TV and computer every Fall Sunday. Ten years ago, I barely knew anything about the Jaguars, except for their funny-sounding name. Now, I spend hours pondering who make their practice squad or who they’ll draft in the 5th, 6th, and 7th rounds and if you woke me up in the middle of the night, I could recite the entire roster for you, top to bottom. In ten years the NFL has changed me and even the lockout can’t kill the passion I have for this sport and this team – even with thousands of miles of ocean between me and the action.
– Zoltan Paksa