Something like a decade ago, a fellow Jax-native and I were elbowing up to the bar of a dank, dive-y establishment on a Sunday morning, a few ticks before 10 a.m. Now before you pass judgment, or begin to worry about my dependency issues (oh, you’re sweet), let me clarify: I was living in San Francisco at the time and, operating on Pacific Standard Time. This particular bar had one of those satellite TV packages that allowed them to play multiple NFL games, simultaneously. We were there to watch the Jags.
Still worried about me?
Let me explain. I was eight years old when it was announced that Jacksonville–along with Charlotte, NC–would get an NFL franchise. I was 14 when the Jags went 14-2 and made it to the AFC Championship game for the first time. In college, absent a team of our own, some fellow UNF students and I purchased Jags season tickets (Sec. 127, row BB). I’ve never had another team. In other words, I’m OG DTWD.
In any event, when my friend and I sat down at that bar 3,000 miles from Duval County–he in a Jags hat, me in a Jags tee–the bartender tossed a couple cocktail napkins in front of us and then fixed his eyes upon us in a bemused state that said a whole lot more than “What’ll it be, fellas?”
“Holy sh**,” he finally said. “I feel like I just spotted a unicorn.”
We looked at each other, then back at the bartender.
“Jacksonville Jaguars fans do exist,” he said.
Though it may sound like just your run-of-the-mill sports-bar-razzing, the bartender emphasized his sincerity, telling us he’d never in his life encountered a Jaguars fan. Of course, those were down-years for the Jags. Coaching changes, roster turnover, questionable draft decisions, local-TV blackouts, a playoff drought; it’s no surprise the team struggled to gain relevance with a national audience.
Something like 10 years later, as the Jags embark on their 25th NFL season, that’s hardly the case. Led by one of the most recognizable (and well-mustachioed) team owners, with a front office led by a two-time Super Bowl winning coach, they’re just a season removed from an improbable run that had them an unfortunate-whistle away from an AFC Championship. The defense that got them there remains largely intact, and includes a cornerback who pulls hilariously awesome publicity stunts like arriving to training camp in an armored truck. The offense has retooled, most notably at quarterback, where a Super Bowl MVP is now calling the signals.
There’s plenty of hype surrounding this team. And to cut through the on- and off-field noise we asked Jags Reporter Ashlyn Sullivan to give us the top storylines to watch this season (“X’s and O’s and Guitar Solos”). As well-known as the Jags are around the league now, they are nearly as popular across the pond, and Shelton Hull looked at how the team’s yearly London pilgrimage continues to expand Jag Nation (“London Calling”).
Of course, the team’s don’t simply line up and play. There’s a lot more to gameday at TIAA Bank Field and Ian Mikrut profiled some of the Jaguars Unsung heroes (“A Peek Behind the Teal Curtain”).
Outside of a Super Bowl victory, nothing could bring the Jags more national notoriety than getting the bust of a former player into the NFL’s Hall of Fame. And no player has more bonafides than former All-Pro Left Tackle Tony Boselli. We looked into the odds of seeing a bust of #BOSSelli in Canton (“#71in20”).
Twenty-five seasons is, in and of itself, enough to build an army of loyal fans. Add some diaspora of Jax-natives to places around the country and across the pond , a memorable team cheer (DUUUVAL!!!), a (fingers crossed) Hall of Fame inductee and a (fingers crossed) Super Bowl berth in 2020, and bartenders in every time zone are likely to encounter a few more unicorns in the years to come.
Thanks for putting your eyeballs on this issue.
Void Magazine Vol. 10, Issue 5 is on newsstands now.