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The Circle of Life, NFL Style

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The Buddhists tell this teaching story; a woman comes to the Buddha hysterical in grief, "Buddha, my father has just passed away, please can you bring him back"? The compassionate Buddha replies "I can, but first you must bring me a mustard seed from a home that has never known grief". The woman runs to the first home in the village, "Please, do you have a mustard seed" she implores. "We do" the people reply. "Have you ever known grief" the woman asks. "Unfortunately we have" and they proceed to tell her their story. By nightfall the woman has listened to every story in every home in the village and understands all of the grief that exists. Tired and saddened but with compassion for everyone she met, she visits the Buddha again. "I understand, sir" she says with tears in her eyes, "we all go through this and we are all together in this experience". The compassionate one gives her a big hug and instructs her to feel her pain and then to rise above it and find and share joy again.

When my wife passed away suddenly a few years ago, that story actually helped me deal with it by understanding I was not alone in what I experienced. I spoke to others and understood that everyone has to deal with hard times and that usually people survive and live on. They find their joy again with one difference; they don't take it for granted. They feel the joy with more vibrancy and intensity. Just felt like sharing, hope you don't mind.

But what does this have to do with football? The Jaguars had a bad year. We had a real disappointing year. Some of us are mad, some have turned away, and some are looking for answers. We don't understand what is happening. So let's knock on the door of homes in the fan village and see what they can tell us.

The first home is marked "Atlanta Falcons". Knock, knock, "Hello, have you ever experienced a disappointing season"? "Are you kidding, did you see us play in 1998" Dan Reeves asks? "I was a genius, we were 14-2, went to the Super Bowl, lost to John Elway". What happened then we ask. "Next year I was clueless, we went 5-11, year after 4-12, no one can explain why". We look down, nod our head in understanding and ponder how disappointed the Falcon fans must have felt. We move on.

Next home is marked "Minnesota Vikings". Knock, knock, "Hello, have you ever experienced a disappointing season"? Dennis Green answers "Oh, let me tell you, I was a genius in 2000, we were 11-5, played the Giants for the NFC Championship game, lost big, but felt powerful". What happened we ask? "2001 I get fired, Mike Tice takes over, and they go 5-11, don't know what happened". We nod with understanding and move on.

 

Here's a place marked "Chicago Bears". Knock, knock, "Hello, have you ever experienced a disappointing season"? "Oh let me tell you, 2001 we had the best time", Dick Juron says. "We had Dennis Green all turning around shouting stupid things like "They are who we thought they were", we laughed all season long". What happened we ask? "Went 13-3, lost to Philly in the playoffs, came back the next year and went 4-12, can't explain it". Sounds familiar we say and move on.

 

Philadelphia. Knock, knock, "Hello, have you ever experienced a disappointing season"? "Hey buddy, 2004 we lost the Super Bowl, 2005 we go 6-10, you tell me".

Seattle. Knock, knock, "Hello, have you ever experienced a disappointing season"? "Did you see us play this year, are you being funny" Mike Holmgren asks? "Remember the 2007 AFC Championship game, we were in it". "Oh sorry" we apologize and move along.

NY Giants. Knock, knock, "Hello, have you ever experienced a disappointing season"? "Don't you remember why we hired Tom Coughlin" they look at us like we are stupid. "2002, wild card playoff loss, 2003, we go 6-10. Hello" We suddenly remember.

NO Saints. Knock, knock, "Hello". The curtain parts in the kitchen window, a dog starts barking, a man with a shotgun looks out. "Skeeter, hush, what you want boy" he yells. "Have you ever experienced a disappointing season"? "Every season is disappointing, deal with it and get off my property". We run away real fast as the shotgun goes off.

So after visiting all the homes in the village, we understand. Football teams can fall apart for all kind of strange reasons. It just seems to happen. All of our neighbors in fan village share our pain. We decide to take the Buddha's advice and rise above it and seek the joy. Back to the village we go.

Here's a home marked "St. Louis Rams", we knock. "Hello, did you ever feel really low about your team and then get surprised" we ask? Dick Vermeil smiles at us, "Damndest thing" he says, "1998 we are 4-12, 1999 we are the Super Bowl Champions, greatest show on turf". Even though we hear him, our thoughts are drifting to a Jaguar Super Bowl vision. "Dick, how can we make it happen in Jacksonville" we ask. Dick pats us on the back, "Can't tell you, every case is different" he says. "Just keeping going to the games and enjoy it, one day out of the blue, it will happen". We thank him and move on to the next house.

Here's a place marked "Carolina Panthers", we knock. "Hello, did you ever feel really low about your team and then get surprised" we ask? John Fox answers, "This team was 1-15 in 2001 when I found them, no self-esteem and no confidence". Then what happened we ask? John smiles, "2003 we're playing the NE Patriots in the Super Bowl, wish I could take total credit, but I really can't explain it, the team just clicked". You must have had something to do with it we ask? "I'm sure I did, but honestly there are other factors we can't figure out, go ask Belichick, he was 5-11 in 2000, and then won the Super Bowl the next year, he knows". We thank him and head down the road.

Here's the place we were looking for "New England Patriots", we knock. The curtain parts in the kitchen window, a dog starts barking, Belichick holding a shotgun looks out. "Get off my property". We run away real fast just before the shotgun goes off.

Our little adventure teaches us that sometimes teams fall apart and sometimes teams come together very suddenly and unexpectedly. Watching it all happen is part of being a fan. The Tamps Bay Buccaneers recently experienced both the fall and the return. Later I'll examine the back room politics and moves the Tampa Bay team made to come back from the fall. Maybe we can learn something about rebuilding the Jaguars. Until then, it isn't life or death, so seek and share the joy.

- Terry