"A Story of Disappointment"
My debut fanpost begins with a true story detailing my sole encounter with a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars organization.
As a United States Marine stationed in Oahu, Hawaii, I craved February. I knew that every year the island would be brimming with tourists, attractions, and NFL players. I was also faithful in my hope that one day the fans and players would do Fred Taylor justice and ensure he achieved his first Pro Bowl selection. As the years wore on, however, I began to wonder if Freddy T. would make it to Hawaii during my tour there.
Then it happened. After a monster season with seemingly endless highlight reels, a Willie Parker broken leg, and the support of life-long Jaguars fans, Fred made his first Pro Bowl.
I began to anticipate the moment when I would meet him. I envisioned myself shaking his hand with years of emotion spilling out in one big grin. I wanted to tell him how badass he is. Countless thoughts screamed through my mind, and yet nothing really mattered as long as I met him.
Therefore, donning a white Taylor jersey, I treaded the streets of Waikiki, Hawaii, in hopes of finding him. After hours of searching throughout several days, hope began to fade. Doubt loomed, and I knew in my heart I was searching for a unicorn. Upon my exit from the city on the night before the game, I talked my wife into stopping by the Hilton Hawaiian Village to take a look around. Usually, players spend most of their time there with their families.
As we made our way through the different areas of the hotel, I noticed one massive figure standing out from the rest of the crowd. As I approached, I immediately realized that Khalif Barnes was standing across the way, "gettin' his drink on." As I walked up to him, I pulled out my binder stacked with years worth of Jaguars football cards. As we shook hands, he asked me if I knew who he was. "Yeah", I replied, "you're Khalif Barnes." As confirmation of his identity, he smiled with a knowing proudness.
While we talked, I couldn't help but show off my Jaguars memorabilia. As he glanced through the pages, he was undoubtedly impressed with how dedicated to the team I seemed to be. He then looked at me and asked if I wanted him to get the jersey I was wearing signed by Fred. "Hell yeah!" I exclaimed. However, I immediately began to wonder how it would even be possible without meeting Fred in person. I wondered if I could trust him due to his high level of intoxication. He definitely wasn't talking cleanly. Without hesitation and sensing my conern, Khalif soothed my worries to sleep by assuring me that he would take the jersey the next day to the game and get it signed. I would then return to the hotel after the game and pick it up. Bam! Signed on gameday. To further remove any doubt that could feasibly still exist, he gave me his phone number in case I had trouble finding him and instructions on a specific time to meet. He even went as far as to say, "What? You don't trust me, man?" Finally, I conceded by giving up the jersey, and I left with swirling manifestations of the two of us being homeboys.
The next day, I enjoyed the Pro Bowl and made sure every fan in hearing distance knew who Fred Taylor was. I screamed like a little girl on his first run, and when they kept throwing to him, I shook my head in confusion at the coaches saying, "Fred's not good at catching the ball." Just hand it to him and let him run.
After the game, I couldn't think straight due to the anticipation of getting my jersey back. I wanted to show it to the world. Hell yeah. Maybe, just maybe, Freddy would even be there at the hotel with Khalif. Maybe we would get to hang out. Was my mind running wild or was it feasible?
Arriving at the hotel, we entered into the foyer looking everywhere. As players and families crossed in front of us constantly, I became distracted by players like Devin Hester. After spending a little time enjoying the sight of so many badass football players, my wife and I began to once again look for Khalif.
About two hours into our search for Khalif in the main sections of the hotel, we then decided to look toward the beach area. A couple of minutes later, and we saw none other than the mystical Khalif Barnes, drunk, and sitting with a group of people. As I walked up to him, I noticed he was completely hammered and drinking to his heart's desire. Shrugging it off, I then pulled out my Khalif Barnes rookie card, and I said what's up to him as he signed the card.
After the card was signed, my wife and I then patiently waited with our infant son for the next hour. Khalif told me he had found Fred and had gotten him to sign the jersey, but it was up in his room. He constantly assured us it would only be a couple of minutes, and the girl he was with would bring it down to us. Meanwhile, Khalif downed shot after shot at the bar and stumbled through the crowd while giving autographs. Impatience mounting, I began to somewhat follow him around hoping to get the point across that we had waited long enough.
After another hour of delay, I then approached Khalif for about the third time and asked him where the jersey was and if he could give it to me. Although I don't remember his exact words, and I do not want to misquote him, it was anything reassuring. At this point, he was completely hammered, and he was drawing a large crowd of people who wanted his autograph. Dismay controlled my emotions, and I began to realize I may not get the jersey back.
Then, after a collective four hours of searching and waiting, I saw the jersey. Khalif was carrying it around as he gave autographs. As I watched from a distance, I noticed he was not just holding the jersey but signing it. As anger swelled inside of me, I realized Khalif was drunk-signing my jersey. Then I began to question whether it was really my jersey.
Doubts loomed, questions followed, and I realized there would be no happy ending. After circling the building on his trail, I finally caught up to Khalif. When he saw me, he handed me the jersey. As I held the jersey out in front of me, I noticed not one, but two Khalif Barnes signatures. On the back of the jersey, Fred Taylor was half written in black sharpie ink by an obvious drunk person, and a dozen stray sharpie marks were scattered across the entire length of the jersey.
I then forced myself to mount up the courage to say something to this huge man in front of me. Too long I waited, and I was not about to let this go without expressing my disappointment. As I managed to ask him why he lied to me, he responded with, "What? You don't believe I'm Khalif Barnes? Look! Here's my credit card. It says my name right here." While I tried to convey to him I believed who he was but was upset about the jersey, he then followed up with words on how Fred doesn't sign for anyone anymore since he reached 10,000 yards. As this progressed, several people walked up with the misconception that I had tried to start a fight or something. The crowd was getting increasingly hostile, so I caught up to my wife and son. We then left with feelings of betrayal, anger, hurt, and disappointment.
I guess I should have expected the worst the night before when he drunk-dialed me during my family's dinner at Hooters.
As the Raider Nation receives the services of Khalif Barnes, I hope in my heart he works out for them. However, Gene Smith will forever receive my gratitude for knowing the Jaguars organization and its fans deserve better.
So long, Khalif. I have my ruined Fred Taylor jersey hanging in my closet as the reminders of your broken word and my once-broken heart.