This post was contributed to FanSided.com by Paul Young (@MoviePaul) and James Johnson (@J_1010XL). Paul is a writer for Screenrant. James writes about the Jaguars at Inside Edge Sports and for Jackonsville sports talk radio station, 1010XL. Both are Jags die-hards.
This piece is in response to BroJackson.com editor Ramon Ramirez’s post on the worst fan bases in the NFL.
Unicorns, leprechauns, trolls – fans of the Jacksonville Jaguars have been called every fictional name in the book to make it seem like we don’t actually exist. Usually, an article bashing our fan base’s alleged lack of support is presented with pictures of a half-empty stadium. Those pictures are almost always out of context and are chosen to support the writer’s (incorrect) narrative.
Ramon Ramirez is one of those writers. He recently wrote an article that is a perfect example of the type of uninformed opinion most people will take as truth–mainly because they haven’t heard the truth in a really long time.
Jaguars fans have a strong Twitter presence – anyone who has ever made the mistake of hashtagging #Jaguars while tweeting a joke or insult can confirm this. While we were harping on Ramirez for the lazy opinion piece he wrote regarding Jaguars fans, he gave us the opportunity to respond. We took him up on it.
*Jacksonville was awarded the 30th NFL franchise in 1993
*Inaugural season was 1995
*EverBank Field has a capacity of 67,246 which can be expanded to 76,867
*AFC Division champions twice (1998, 1999)
*Six playoff appearances, last time in 2007
*Jacksonville hasn’t had a TV blackout since 2009, despite going 22-42 over the last four years
*Average attendance in 2012 (per ESPN) was 64,984, ranking 20th in the league
Where to start? We’ve had a pretty crappy team on the field since 2007. Fans aren’t naïve enough to argue otherwise. We’ve had one star on the team – running back Maurice Jones-Drew – and that’s pretty much it. Thanks to poor drafting – and even worse free agency signings – the Jaguars have basically built themselves backward. We’re horrible. Fans know it. Hopefully, new general manager Dave Caldwell and head coach Gus Bradley can turn that around.
There’s a misconception perpetrated by some national sporting news talking heads that our fan base doesn’t care about our team – this just isn’t true. The problem is, people outside of Jacksonville take this uniformed, baseless opinion and treat it as fact.
The city of Jacksonville is unlike most NFL cities. There are four military bases and four colleges just a few hours from the stadium, making its population highly transient. Military families and college kids come here for a short time and bring with them allegiances to other teams – which is to be expected.
Jacksonville is really just now starting its first true generation of fans who were born and raised to love the Jaguars. Big Cat Country Editor-in-Chief Alfie Crow wrote a great article regarding the rise of “Generation Jaguar.” In it, he talks about how kids who have grown up with the Jaguars are just now able to afford their own season tickets and are also raising their own children to be Jaguars fans.
The fact is, even with a pitiful 2-14 record in 2012, EverBank Field was filled with the largest crowd of the year. There are two other teams in Florida – Miami and Tampa – who blacked out multiple games in 2012 despite going 7-9 each. Jacksonville averaged 8,000 more fans per game than Miami (57,379) and 10,000 more than Tampa (55,102) but yet WE’RE the ones with an attendance issue and a poor fan base – the facts say otherwise.
Inevitably, when presented with facts that counter the narrative, people will immediately shout back with, You put tarps on seats! Your fan base is terrible! Sigh . . . let’s talk about the tarps for a moment, because we can’t hide from them.
Without tarps, EverBank Field is the 4th largest stadium in the NFL; with tarps, the capacity drops to 67,246, still making it larger than 11 other stadiums. Why is that important? Well, 14 years after the newness of the team had worn off, a couple of losing seasons, and a financially-dark time in the city, attendance dropped – drastically. In 2009, attendance withered away to a meager 49,651 per game and all but one game was blacked out that season. It was a bad time to be a Jaguars fan.
In 2005, to help avoid blackouts, the NFL granted the Jaguars permission to permanently tarp approximately 9,700 seats – essentially bringing the stadium to market size. The original stadium plans called for 65,000 seats – a number Wayne Weaver and the Jaguars planning committee KNEW could be sustainable over the long term.
But the Jaguars aren’t the first team to employ tarps to help alleviate blackouts. The Oakland Raiders are tarping their already small stadium (63,132) in an attempt to avoid blackouts. The Miami Dolphins are also considering the use of tarps, while the Washington Redskins chose to physically remove 14,000 seats.
So why is EverBank Field so huge if the city can’t fill it?
Jacksonville has been the host of the Florida/Georgia football game since 1933. It’s kind of a big deal around here since it draws lots of visitors to the city. In 1993, original team owner Wayne Weaver brought a stadium proposal to the City of Jacksonville which initially put the stadium size around 65,000.
The city shot that proposal down saying it needed more seats to accommodate the FL/GA game. Since the city owns the stadium, severely limiting the amount people who can attend by upwards of 10,000 would adversely affect its bottom line. So a compromise was made. The stadium size was increased to 76,867 with the understanding that temporary seating would be available during the FL/GA game to bring that number up to over 82,000.
Oh yes, the dreaded “M” word. We’ve had this ignorance hurled at our fan base for almost a decade. Supposedly the two most likely places the Jaguars will wind up is Los Angeles or London. Of course, there’s no actual evidence to back up such an event taking place (there’s plenty to the contrary) but that doesn’t keep reporters like Bart Hubbuch or Jason La Canfora from drumming up buzz by reporting speculation as fact.
Your owner doesn’t have any ties to the city and therefore no commitment.
When billionaire businessman Shad Khan bought the Jaguars from Weaver in 2012, it was with a gentlemen’s understanding he would never move the team. To prove his commitment to the city, Khan not only invested tens of millions of dollars reinventing the team’s image with new uniforms and logos, but renovated the locker rooms and weight room and brought in a new general manager and head coach as well.
Going one step further, Khan just announced major upgrades to EverBank Field which will include swimming pools (!!!) and the largest score boards in the world. Khan’s also invested greatly in downtown Jacksonville, saying recently he’s eyeing a prominent piece of riverfront property – called the Shipyards – with plans to bring it into the general sports experience.
But you’re playing four games in London.
Khan is a smart business man. He has a plan to make this the best team in the world and knows that he needs to successfully market the team outside of Jacksonville to do that. So when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was asking for teams to play in London, Khan shrewdly jumped on the opportunity. By committing to play ONE home game per season in London over the next four years Khan secured EXCLUSIVE rights to market in London. That’s a pretty big deal.
It’ll be years (if ever) before London gets an NFL franchise of its own, so why not give them a team to root for consistently? While most NFL owners are content to stay national with their brands, Khan is wisely looking globally with his. He’s an innovative, forward thinker and the city of Jacksonville is lucky to have him.
So if the owner has said multiple times he isn’t moving the team and is investing millions of his own money into the team and city, what could possibly be fueling these unfounded moving rumors? The Jaguars playing one game per season, over the next four seasons in London? Surely there has to be more than that? No, not really. That’s pretty much it.
The Wrap Up
Ramirez wrote that “This [fan]base does not actually exist. The Jaguars were an investment and an experiment that has not worked out by any sustainable metric.” I’m sorry, but this is just plain wrong. There are Jaguars fans everywhere and our numbers are growing every day. We’re going to be around for a very long time and if media types on Twitter think we’re salty now, just wait until we have a winning season – we’ll be insufferable.
Disagree? Look me up on Twitter – @MoviePaul – and tell me why.