I’m torn. In general, I pride myself on being a good sports fan. I cheer for my teams and only my teams, I try my best to support all local teams, and nobody follows their teams (and sports, in general) quite as closely as I do. I will never and could never turn on the Leafs, Raptors, and Blue Jays (though I still contend you should be able to have a favorite National League team). The only exception, I think, would be if I moved out of the Toronto area (I’m an hour West of Toronto), in which case I’d have to consider following my new local team, at least in tandem with my hometown Toronto teams. Alas, even then I think I’m Toronto-for-life when it comes to sports. (Yes, it’s a sad situation, but I am what I am.)

However, a recent Rick Reilly article has me thinking…about football…and my long-distance adopted Jacksonville Jaguars. After much thought and deliberation, I have settled on a corollary for sports fans looking for a change in their rooting habits: Canadian fans of the National Football League should get one free change of favorite NFL team to use in their lifetime.

Before you call me a bad fan, a fake sports enthusiast, or whatever insults you may throw at a treacherous traitor like myself, hear me out. After all, Canadians following the NFL exist in a very strange sports bubble. We have no local team by virtue of the Canada-United States border. We have a laughable watered down substitute for the sport in the CFL. We have very few local players to root for.

Still, though, the NFL is as prevalent in Canadian sports culture as any other sport, save for hockey. We may not be very good at it, and we may not have been brought up on it, but we unquestionably love it.

So why should we have to spend a lifetime cheering for the wrong team?

Obviously, I am speaking from my own experience here. Let me take you back: it’s late in elementary school (grade eight), I don’t know much about football, and my football-crazy neighbor is constantly talking about it, trying to get me to watch it, bet on it, play it, etc. I slowly begin to accept it. He is a Seahawks fan, and I’m certainly not going to adopt them as my team. But one Sunday the 12-1 Jaguars beat the Cleveland Browns to move to 13-1…and I get to playing Madden 99…and am intrigued by the lethal combination of Mark Brunell, Fred Taylor, and Jimmy Smith. This is a team coming off two winning seasons, they have great jerseys, likable players, and, best of all, my neighbor hates them.


Clearly, my story of football fandom started out on rocky footing. I chose a team based on success, jerseys, Madden, and ticking someone off. Give me a break, I was like, 14.

But based on the unwritten rules of the sports universe, this is a decision I’m stuck with. And I’m sure there are others that are just the same.

Don’t get me wrong…since then, despite a lack of success, I have supported the Jags with vigor. I’ve loved Del Rio, Peterson, Mathis, Nelson, Stroud, Henderson, Taylor, Jones, Williams, Wilford, MoJo, and Leftwich. Especially Leftwich. Like…an unhealthy amount with Leftwich.

But as of late I’ve found it more difficult to root for the Jags. They have let go Taylor (free agency), Matt Jones (drug problems), Reggie Williams (parallel universe), Marcus Stroud (trade), Mike Peterson (free agency), and Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith (Falcons head coach), among others. Additionally, their ownership has basically bitchslapped their local fan base by blacking out games locally (not televising them to encourage people to head to the stadium on game day). This doesn’t affect me as an out-of-market fan, of course, but it’s a strong signal to the type of franchise being run.

So this year I’m left to cheer for Maurice Jones Drew, Reggie Nelson, Rashean Mathis, and a motley crew of middle-round draft picks and unnoticed free agent signings. The team doesn’t promise to be great, doesn’t promise to be exciting, and there’s reason to believe even more of my favorites will be shown the door in the coming years.

But I have to remain loyal, so say the rules. But why? Yes, if I lived in Jacksonville I would have no excuse, but I don’t. I live in Canada. I will probably never get to see a Jaguars game live, they are rarely on regularly televised games (but I have the sports package, of course), and I just don’t feel that strongly about them. I feel trapped and obligated, not enthusiastic and optimistic.

And yes, the main criticism would be me jumping to a winning team. But I wouldn’t. I want someone local, someone I can go see once a year, someone who will be televised once in a while…and I’m not talking about the Bills. Yeah, I’m strongly considering adopting the Detroit Lions as a favorite team. I like them…they’re close…they have potential…they suck, but they have potential.

So you can’t slap that big criticism on me. I might be a traitor, and this may be completely wrong, but I can’t help but feel like there are more out there just like me.

I haven’t decided one way or the other…I’m actually heartbroken over it. But change could be coming. I’m ready to cash in my imaginary get-out-of-fan-jail-free card. Hello De-Troit Football…?

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