I think that the national media owes Jacksonville an apology.
At the end of the 2009 NFL season, all that was said of the Jacksonville Jaguars was that they couldn't fill that stands and they should just give up and move to Los Angeles. The media spoke, and Jacksonville residents, former Jaguars players and local businessmen heard them loud and clear.
The inaugural member of the Pride of the Jaguars, Tony Boselli, headed up Team Teal—a grassroots effort to sell season tickets and continue confidence that Jacksonville deserves an NFL franchise. It worked. Last offseason the Jaguars sold more new season tickets than any other franchise in the NFL.
The national media’s debate was that Jacksonville could not support the current franchise that it owns and Jaguars owner J. Wayne Weaver should just cut his losses and move to the West Coast. Since the Jaguars can only get about 25,000 fans per game, and they are being blacked out seven of eight home games, there is no reason that the Jaguars should stay in Jacksonville.
Last week, December 19th, the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns game was blacked out for the first time sine 1979. The Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos game was blacked out. Now, that might not surprise some of you since the Broncos are so bad, but the Raiders are still in contention for a playoff spot.
As you look through the 2010 season, 21 games so far have been blacked out. Some of those teams include the aforementioned Cincinnati Bengals (three) and Oakland Raiders (seven), as well as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (seven). The Bucs are surprising because aside from finishing 3-13 a year ago, Tampa Bay is 8-6 and one of the most improved teams in the NFC.
The NFL is about to end their third straight season of declining attendance and after this Sunday is sure to have broken the record for blackouts in a season. This being mainly on the West Coast, with contenders like Oakland, San Francisco and San Diego all having trouble getting their storied fans to the stadium, with Buffalo helping out greatly, too.
Los Angeles is the nation's second-largest television market and the largest that does not have an NFL franchise. Some in the national media say that it deserves two. It has seen the Rams leave and go to St. Louis. It has seen the Raiders leave Oakland to come to L.A. and have such a great time there that they left and went back to Oakland.
I ask you, is this very inviting for another franchise to want to move there?
All the while, the team that the national media had packed and ready to go, the Jaguars, is currently 8-6 and in the hunt for their first division title since 1999. The Jaguars have sold enough tickets every game in the 2010 season while only asking for extensions for the Oakland game (go figure) and the Cleveland game.
This proves that the citizens of Jacksonville can and will support an NFL franchise.
So I think that the national media owes Jacksonville an apology for moving the team before it had a chance to react to cycles that every team goes through. For trying to get L.A. yet another team that would fail, and for trying to take away the one thing that has elevated Jacksonville to truly being the bold new city of the South.
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