Sunday's are a good time for waxing poetic about some of the larger aspects of fandom. Rather than focus on the first day of training camp, let's take a look back at a Jaguar Great, as he begins his season with the Texans.
I'm not so dense as to not understand the way the NFL works. I know that you should carry no loyalty to any one player because the salary cap machine and free agency demands that older players move to make room for the new rookies.
I also know that it has been a very long time since Keenan McCardell wore a Jaguars uniform, 2001 seems like an eternity ago.
However, I grew up as a Jaguars fan with the threat of "thunder and lightening", the combo of Keenan and Jimmy Smith, the one-two punch that made defending the Jaguars offense so difficult. I remember his amazing tendency to sacrifice his body and go right over the middle to make the tough catches and the critical first downs. Paired with Jimmy Smith was the ultimate duo of wide receivers for the young Jaguars, especially as they entered the playoffs in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999.
Losing Keenan to Tampa Bay in 2002 was difficult because it symbolized the hard choices the Jaguars had to make as they recovered from the salary cap hell Jacksonville had put them in to push for the Super Bowl. Keenan did get his ring that year, but it was with another team, and that was hard. Jacksonville had to choose which veterans to keep, like Jimmy Smith, and who was expendable.
Now Keenan went on to have a remarkable career, spending time in Tampa and San Diego. He, frankly, could have won another ring last season, had the Chargers not melted down against the Patriots.
But now the goodbye is complete, as Keenan has returned to his hometown of Houston for one more season in the NFL. Keenan will return to Jacksonville another time this season, wearing the "battle red" of a hated divisional opponent, one that often burns the Jaguars. How bizarre it will be to root against him, to wish that Reggie Nelson or Rashean Mathis delivered the big hit or the interception. To go from jumping for joy when Keenan crosses the goal line to wanting nothing more than to eliminate him from the game plan and render him useless.
Such is the way of the modern day NFL fan, I suppose.
We fall for a player in just the right place and time, and things beyond our control or understanding take them from us. We don't always understand the salary cap, or "jars on the shelf", we don't always understand why a future draft pick is a better choice than an older veteran. We want the good ole days, the all or nothing days, the days when winning the super bowl was all that mattered, even if it meant signing every available veteran who ever had a wisp of talent, just so we'd have something to believe in.
The story of Keenan McCardell is the story of me, as a fan. Losing Keenan in 2002 began my academic study of football. I didn't understand what was happening to the Jaguars, so I sought to learn. I didn't understand why the Jaguars had fallen so hard since 1999, and why we had to lose more players to "compete".
Years later, I feel like I'm beginning to understand the machinations behind the NFL.
But it will still hurt to see Keenan going into the end zone for the wrong team.
So Goodbye Keenan...