It looks like the Jacksonville Jaguars and their fans are dealing with another Woody Paige-type situation when it comes to their franchise and respect from other NFL cities.
Eric Wilbur, a sports columnist for Boston.com, has summarily decided to take it upon himself to tell the world, or anyone who will read his column, that the Jaguars are nothing more than a speed bump in the New England Patriots road to another Super Bowl appearance. Ah, shades of 1997 all over again.
When the Jaguars made their improbable run toward the AFC Title game in only the team’s second season of NFL initiation, it was Paige, a highly respected columnist for the Denver Post, who abused the Jaguars and their fans with a tirade in a column that referred to the team as “Jagwads.”
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As a fan and now someone who covers the team, the aggravation from Wilbur’s remarks far exceeds what Paige, who later apologized for his comments, said almost 20 years ago.
I guess Wilbur has been drinking the Kool-Aid like everyone else, thinking there is an air of invincibility in these Patriots – the team that continually seems to get itself into some kind of controversy while Tom Brady is accused of deflating footballs, head coach Bill Belichick tries to win at all costs, and most recently, the stadium seems to have issues with headset management.
You could write a soap opera that rivals As the World Turns. Wilbur’s words sting, mainly because while Jacksonville is a team that has had little success in the last three seasons, the team did win last week and appear to be better than last season.
Wilbur said: “The Jacksonville Jaguars, an NFL franchise that does the impossible in managing to be just as sapless as the generic Floridian strip mall it calls home, are in Foxborough Sunday for an afternoon that should welcome a fair number of hand-me-downs from season-ticket holders, who, frankly, deserve to watch this one from afar.”
Oh trust me, there is more. These kinds of comments make it hard to separate the issues of being impartial and being a sports writer. Wilbur must under the impression the Patriots are invincible or something. I’m not here to say the Jaguars will win on Sunday. They are outmanned, outnumbered and New England is clearly the better team.
But if there was ever a reason for billboard material and locker room motivation, this has to be one of the best forms.
Wilbur said: “There’s a first time for everything, but if you expect such things to come in the form of a Jaguars win this Sunday, you might as well go back to dreaming about there never being a 20-minute wait at your random Applebee’s within Jacksonville city limits.”
The Jaguars are a double-digit underdog on Sunday. They may be playing without two starters on the offensive line and young quarterbacks do not fare well against Bill Belichick-coached teams. But to say the Jaguars have no chance is asinine.
Everyone in the NFL has a chance to beat any other team on any given Sunday, or so I thought. I suppose NFL commissioner Roger Goodell gave Wilbur the green light to make such a statement and change the rules a bit to benefit everyone’s version of the Bad Boys of sports.
Maybe Wilbur should have the pleasure of coming down to Jacksonville and imparting some of his wisdom on the team and these fans. Maybe he should start first with the Bold City Brigade or maybe the Forever Jaguars group. Everyone here believes in the mantra of “Duval Til We Die” and have lived through 21 years of on again, off again success – mostly poor play, but the fans still come out to the games and are committed to the cause.
The Jaguars may not win on Sunday, but don’t just throw another “W” on the scoreboard before you count your chickens. Comments like that lead to upsets.
The point is, maybe Mr. Wilbur should shut his mouth and watch the game first before he decides to cast disparaging words on the team and the city. Winning does a lot of things for NFL franchises, but in this case, it does not prevent its columnists from proving how uneducated then could truly be.