Think your job sucks? Try writing peppy things about the soon-to-be 0-16 Jacksonville Jaguars for a living.
Perhaps you have a lousy job, one that involves contact with unpleasant things like human waste, violent animals or John Tortorella. Look on the bright side: At least you’re not the guy who has to write upbeat stories about the Jacksonville Jaguars for the team’s website.
This job exists. This person exists. So you should pause for a moment and silently thank God, fate, providence, happenstance, the stars, the Magic 8 Ball and your mom that you dodged the bullet that ultimately found John Oehser, “senior writer” for Jaguars.com.
A quick refresher: The Jags haven’t had a winning season since 2007. The team won two games last year, five the year before that. A quarter of the way into this season, they’d given up 100 points more than they’d scored, possibly because their playbook of choice appears to be “Baby’s First Offence” by Fisher-Price. On Sundays, they’ve entrusted the football to either Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne. There haven’t been two quarterbacks of this calibre in the same room since JaMarcus Russell looked in the mirror.
It is Oehser’s job to take these lemons and try not to swallow them whole out of suicidal impulse. Also, to make lemonade.
For some time, Oehser did his duty with enthusiasm. A year ago, he was gamely putting a positive spin on the team’s terrible season. He was a staunch defender of Gabbert, saying, “Quarterbacks miss open receivers all the time.” He even wrote that the Jaguars are “closer than many think to a competitive season.” (Technically, that may have been true, in that most people thought the Jags were about as close to a competitive season as John Mayer is to celibacy.) Bottom line: The guy wasn’t just the team’s senior writer. He was its executive vice-optimist. Sure, Jacksonville went down to defeat 14 times—but they were 2-0 in games they didn’t lose!
To some extent, that hopefulness has endured into 2013. A couple of weeks ago, Oehser seemed pretty high on the Jags after they lost by only 14 points to one of the other worst teams in the league. What got him inspired? According to Oehser:
—The Jaguars “played competitively for a quarter,” and;
—One of the guys on the offensive line was graded as the “ninth-best pass blocker in the league” that week. (Surely all Jags fans look forward to the banner-raising ceremony to mark this historic achievement.)
But there have been darker moments, too. Responding in his daily online mailbag, Oehser has been more sarcastic and combative, referring to one doubter as “ignorant, short-sighted, antagonistic, juvenile, extreme and just plain ridiculous.” And then there was this bleak admission:
Sean from Jacksonville: Help is not on the way.
Oehser: No, it is not.
Day after day, people write in with questions like: “John are you Brain DeAD?” You’d think that Oehser’s sense of regret would be as intense as that of Larry King’s last eight wives. Instead, he writes: “Working for the Jaguars from my perspective is the best job I’ve had.” (Oehser’s Christmas wish list: one new perspective.)
Recently, Oehser and some readers engaged in testy exchanges relating to the writer’s belief that Jacksonville will do better in the second half of 2013. Why is he bullish? For one, he sees “improvement” in the team. (For instance, there have been at least three occasions on which the secondary’s attempts at coverage have not synced up perfectly with the Benny Hill Show theme.) For another, Oehser predicts that “other teams will sustain injuries, and possibly to the quarterback position. I believe that will give the Jaguars legitimate opportunities to win in the second half of the season.”
Um, that was kind of specific, wasn’t it—that bit about a quarterback possibly maybe getting injured perhaps, nudge-nudge? I’m not making any allegations, but if I were Andrew Luck, I’d keep my eyes open for a metal-pipe-carrying fellow wearing a Jags golf shirt and a facial expression that says, “Nothing left to lose.”
This story originally appeared in Sportsnet magazine. Subscribe here.