Local sports radio listeners were fired up over Jaguars legend Mark Brunell this week. Not for anything he did on the field, but for what he said regarding the franchise being a relocation target.
"You know, it wouldn’t surprise me," Brunell said when an ESPN host asked him if he thought the Jaguars topped the list of franchises that could move to Los Angeles or London. "I hate to say it, but we’ve got an owner in Shad Khan that’s bought the soccer team over there and all indications are that we’re headed that way. It’s not good for Jacksonville. You don’t hear a lot of that talk in Jacksonville right now but everywhere else, someone mentioned it the other day it’s the Jacksonville Jaguars of London. I want them to stay. That’s my home. I love the franchise. I love the organization, but it wouldn’t surprise anybody if in a few years it happened."
The callers I heard during my commutes, and the hosts, trotted out the familiar refutations. No blackouts here in a long time. A lot of "tickets distributed" every week …though it seems to most that most of those tickets must only be good for the first half. Et cetera.
It is hard to argue that Jacksonville has done anything but support this franchise in recent years. A concerted civic effort did a lot to make that happen. But, as I have argued in print and on radio, the question will always be one of "how long can 'save the whale' type efforts actually work?"
Never mind corollary questions. Given the quality of play on the field since, well, the beginning of Obama's first term, and given the microscopically low expectations about a franchise perpetually rebuilding, and given other issues (like a generation of fans that would rather watch their fantasy football assets than the Chad Henne offense), one wonders if the issue with football in Jacksonville has that much to do with an underperforming fanbase.
Could it be that fans' failure to sufficiently support the home team is because the Jags are so consistently dreadful?
Could it be that football itself — like baseball — does not hold the decreasing attention spans of people in the Smartphone era?
Could it be, ultimately, that Jacksonville, Minnesota, St. Louis, Tampa, and all of the other franchises with attendance issues are mere canaries in the coal mine, harbingers of a sport that is on the ropes?