I was reading the mid-season interview with Jaguars Owner Wayne Weaver today in The Florida Times-Union … and was struck by Weaver’s answer to the obligatory “are the Jaguars for sale” question:
Q: You’ve denied you’re going to sell the team several times, but I just want to make sure that hasn’t changed.
A: I’m never going to have another job. I promise you that.
That’s a much different answer than “the team is not for sale”.
The Jaguars today couldn’t hold onto a 14-3 lead against the undefeated Tennessee Titans. They wound up losing 24-14, and the titans go to 10-0, while the Jaguars languish at 4-6 in third place in the AFC South. The economy is in the doldrums, if not in a full-on recession. The year started with a lot of promise for the local NFL franchise … but early-season injuries and a surprising Tennessee team have made this a difficult season for even the most die-hard Jaguars fan. And when it comes to a choice between buying football tickets or paying the mortgage … well I know what decision I’D make.
Still, one has to wonder where the team might move should Weaver decide it’s time to move on. Los Angeles has proven time and time again over the years that they won’t support an NFL team. Every team to play in LA has moved out. Governor Schwartzenegger is asking for a chunk of federal bailout money for Coleeforneea, and so it’s very unlikely the state would chip in to build the lavish new stadium on which any team moving to the city would insist, and it’s unlikely that the city of Los Angeles would agree to build a stadium for a team moving there.
LA remains the only major television market without an NFL team. I’m not sure any other city the size of Jacksonville or smaller would be willing to do what it would take to secure the Jaguars franchise, particularly in this economy.
Of course … everything’s for sale if the price is right. And I know a lot of cities would love to have the prestige of having an NFL franchise. But, I’m also willing to take Wayne Weaver at his word that he’s not looking to move the team out of Jacksonville. I truly enjoy having an NFL team in the city, and would be sad to seem them go. And no, I can’t afford tickets, and parking, and a beer at the stadium, particularly not now.
Still, I just don’t see it. The Weavers have done a great deal for this city so far beyond just owning a football team. They recently won the United Way’s “Toqueville” philanthropy award for donations both here in Jacksonville and nationally. It seems that they really like it here. People living here could maybe do a better job supporting the team, but I honestly think that part of the problem with that is there are so MANY things to do here on a Sunday afternoon. Some of it rests on the players and Jaguars organization themselves. I don’t want to say the fans are fair-weather, but it really helps when they put a winning team on the field. When there are the attractions of the ocean, the beach, the river, a plethora of entertainment choices and often great weather deep into football season … well the team has to compete for attention. With only a limited population to draw on as a fan base going in, and no long-standing pro football tradition, the team really has to prove it’s worth the price of admission week in and week out. While they have shown flashes of brilliance over the years, they’ve won ONE playoff game since 1999. And I’m not a proponent of the city pouring more money into keeping the team when cuts are being made in so many other areas.
I’d hate to think that our fans are so blasé that it would take a playoff season to get them in the stands, but it’s also understandable when the team is 4-6 they might be less willing to part with $200 – $300 or more for an afternoon’s entertainment.
The bottom line is, I hope the Jaguars are in Jacksonville for a good, long time. I hope I’m able to afford to buy a ticket sometime in the not-too-distant future. It’d mean I’m back to work, at something a little more lucrative than I was doing before.