SPORTS w/The Jock 6/17/11

by Tom Weppel
NFL in Los Angeles…
Well, you had to figure the topic would once again come up in time.
A corporate group in Los Angeles has brought up the idea of having an NFL franchise back in one of the largest markets in the U.S. It has been quite a while since the Raiders and Rams both called Southern California their home, with the Rams in Anaheim, and the Raiders in downtown Los Angeles.
But now this group says they have made connections and had ‘talks’ with five different existing teams recently, to discuss the possibility of them moving from their current location. Those teams include the Vikings, Chargers, Raiders, Rams…and Jaguars.
Of course, as soon as this story hit some media outlets, the discussion started. A couple of national personalities came out deciphering the pros and cons of each team possibly moving. A couple of them suggested the Jaguars would be the best ‘fit’ to go to L.A., for simple reasons…market size, potential interest, past attendance, etc.
When they made these comments and drew these opinions, though, the bottom line is they were probably thinking more along the lines of what THEY wanted to have happen, versus what could end up being the most ideal situation.
On top of all that, the most important aspect of this whole mess to consider is…L.A. DOESN’T HAVE A VIABLE STADIUM!!!
And so, this whole deal is nothing more than a simple crapshoot and a farce. There is no team currently wanting to be in L.A. Los Angeles might not even be slightly interested, for that matter!

The Jaguars have indeed not had the utmost success in cultivating their fan base. Their attendance has not been exactly 100% every single season. If you were to compare it with other franchises and markets around the League, it would be fair to say the Jaguars aren’t in the top 50%. Call that unfortunate, if you will.

But in my mind, there is a reason for that.
First off, the Jaguars have not been one of the most successful teams in the League. Their record for the last decade has been mediocre at best. I feel that has had a lot to do with potential football fans in this area buying Jaguar season ticket packages.
Because the predominant majority of area football fans are college football fans! They follow either the Gators, Seminoles, or Bulldogs. ALL of those schools have produced winning teams year in and year out. All three contend for their Conference championships, go to Bowl games, and occasionally compete for a National title, as the Gators most recently did.
That makes a HUGE difference in the minds of many! Winning breeds interest, desire, passion, and a willingness to go out and spend money so they can consider themselves ‘associated’ with that college team, whether they went to that school (or even went to college!) or not!
That said, what it means is the landscape in this area for cultivating football fans breeds a high level of acceptance. As an example, consider the Jaguars in their first six years of playing. Under Tom Coughlin, the team did a great job in producing competitive teams, going to the AFC Championship in 1996 and 1999. That alone allowed many fans to want to get involved, come in, show up for games, and get very excited about what the Jags were doing!
As things changed over this past decade, and the team struggled with mediocrity, interest and enthusiasm sagged. Ticket sales dropped, and so it has taken a great effort to get the college fans rejuvenated and interested in coming back into the fold. If they are able to accomplish this, they will be following the example of a number of other NFL cities that support their teams, good or bad. My feeling is Jacksonville is close to getting there.