It IS Go Time…For YOU

Posted: July 27, 2011 in Jacksonville Jaguars, NFL
Tags: , , , , , ,

“It’s Go Time.”

That’s the Jaguars’ newest marketing slogan. You’ll see and hear it everywhere. No First Coast eyes and ears will be spared. The message is clear; the desperation not as much but it is there. The Jaguars need to sell tickets. The number is 17,000. And time isn’t on their side.

The Jaguars aren’t alone in this predicament. The 136-day NFL owners’ lockout has many franchises scrambling to sell tickets to avoid TV blackouts and also trying to mend public relations fences with their fans. The latter won’t be difficult. Most people are ready to forgive and forget. But are they willing or able to shell out of cash for tickets on such short notice?

Few teams face the challenge of the Jaguars, who have a history of struggling to fill the seats in Everbank Field. The season opener is 44 days away. The timing of the lockout couldn’t have been worse for the Jaguars. It all but wiped out the momentum achieved during the last offseason by the team’s Teal Deal blitz that accomplished the longshot goal of eliminating TV blackouts. If you think Teal Deal Commissioner Tony Boselli and his troops shook a lot of hands and kissed a lot of babies in 2010, well, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Jaguar reps will be everywhere, mashing the fresh and wearing smiles wider than Terrence Knighton’s backside. Ticket office hours will be extended. All practice sessions will be open to the public. Hell, they might even give away water. Getting autographs will be easier.

It will, indeed, be the biggest pro football challenge facing our city since the summer of 1993 when we sold nearly 10,000 club seats in 10 days to convince the NFL owners that Jacksonville was serious about getting an expansion franchise.

The odds are against the Jaguars selling enough tickets to avoid TV blackouts. Unlike in the summer of ’93, the economy is in the toilet now. Businesses, big and small, have trimmed budgets. Perks have all but disappeared; entertaining clients isn’t what it used to be. Owner Wayne Weaver says, “We need the fans to step up.” Actually, the Jaguars need to fans to leap up.

The first push will be to court the 9,000 ticket season holders from last season who didn’t renew. Mackey Weaver, head of ticket sales and marketing, points out about 40 percent of them listed the lockout as the reason. If all 40 percent renew that still leaves a lot of tickets to sell.

No NFL franchise will be more closely watch by outsiders during the next five weeks than the Jaguars. There are cynics who have always insisted Jacksonville didn’t have the population or corporate base to be an NFL city. Until last year hardly a week went by in this century when someone wasn’t talking about the Jaguars moving the Los Angeles. You can expect that talk to start back if the Jaguars open their home schedule will thousands of empty seats and no local telecast.

Ticket sales could be given a boost if the Jaguars make an immediate splash in free agency. Signings can begin Friday at 6 p.m. The Jaguars have more money than most that they must spend based on the new collective bargaining agreement.

It will be interesting to see if Jaguar general manager Gene Smith factors in ticket sales when pursuing free agents. As a rule, fans want to see their teams sign players who have impressive resumes, which often mean they’ve peaked or are on the downside of their careers. Smith has steadfastly ignored “marquee value” for potential, looking for “good fits” with their upside still to come.

Will Wayne Weaver persuade him to take a different approach? Of course we’ll never know until, as they say, the book comes out.

Regardless of what approach the Jaguars take, you’ll hear a lot in the next few weeks about civic pride and civic duty.

Make no mistake about it; the Jaguars are important to Jacksonville. Ironically, the most important thing about the franchise may be not losing it to another city. As a relatively small major sports market with only one pro franchise, losing the Jaguars would be a crushing blow to our image and, perhaps, our economy. It could discourage other businesses from locating here. It would discourage other forms of entertainment – concerts, etc. — from including Jacksonville on their tours. It would costs us several hundred jobs and millions of dollars spent here.

I can hear those of you screaming how you couldn’t care less if the Jaguars play in Jacksonville, Los Angeles or Timbuktu. You’re college fans or maybe you couldn’t care less about sports. Maybe you’re one of those people who see professional athletes as over paid morons and pro franchises as big businesses who use taxpayers’ money while raking in huge profits for themselves. Maybe you’re someone who says if you’re going to spend your money on athletics you’re going to give it to our schools to keep Duval schools from losing their sports programs.

I understand how you feel and I’ll make no effort to change your mind. The NFL is big business and, like any business, it needs to succeed or fail on its own merits by offering a good product at a reasonable price that’s in demand. I’m talking to those who like having the Jaguars in our town. I’m telling you now is not the time to wait for someone else to buy the tickets. I’m telling you if you can afford it you need to step up.

Jacksonville isn’t going to lose the Jaguars this year regardless of what happens. I still believe the team is here for the long haul. There are other franchises, I think, in more trouble than the Jaguars. And I know the Jaguars and other NFL franchises are responsible for these problems because billionaire owners and millionaire players couldn’t get their act together for more than four months.

Whatever. Now is, indeed, that time.

“It’s Go Time.”

  1. Wyman Stewart says:

    (1.) Players and owners have had since the last Collective Bargaining Agreement was signed to work out the details of the just signed agreement, so the past 4 months never should have happened. (2.) Good marketing would dictate that all Blackouts be lifted for this season. That acknowledges a self-imposed penalty (at little cost to the NFL), while giving fans a gift and reason to faithfully return to NFL stadiums. Tossing in free bottled water would be good too, since fans in the stands could see, feel, touch, and drink that gesture. (3.) The NFL should be contributing heavy dollars to marketing all NFL teams in their locations and surrounding areas, in addition to the individual team’s marketing and normal national marketing. This would benefit small market teams like the Jaguars and teams with problems putting fans in the stands. It would not cure the problem, but might put a dent in the problem. (4.) At NFL Headquarters and individual team levels, owners and players need to apologize for their disregard of fans, and economic times, by having engaged in a “Greed War” between owners and players. Both effectively disconnected themselves permanently from their fanbase.

    Those are four points the NFL, owners, and players could start with. I’m sure there are many more sound ideas that might help. But I’ve heard it said, long before there was a Jaguars team, that one key to business is MARKET, MARKET, MARKET. So get to it, Jaguars Marketing Department!

    • lammatlarge says:

      You make some great points here, Stewart – especially the idea of lifting of the blackouts league-wide. But just like the fanbase, money is an issue for Wayne Weaver and the ownership, too. Let’s hope they get the message, though.

  2. Wyman Stewart says:

    Now, my personal perspective. For various reasons I can’t attend Jaguar games, but I’ve been a fan, in the follower sense. As soon as last season ended, with talk of a lockout, which came to pass, I lost interest in the entire NFL, not just the Jaguars, which I’ve also lost interest in. Not sure I will come back. It was easy to do. Why, especially the Jaguars? The Jaguars have been fooling themselves for a few years now. Last season, owner, coach, and hopefully the players woke up to finally realize, the Jaguars are NOT a very good football team. On defense, the Jaguars may NOT be an NFL caliber defense, but a minor league defense. On offense, no one dares to acknowledge, the wear and tear on Maurice Jones-Drew may mean, his best years are over with. Quarterback will be, “what-you-see-is-what-you-get,” Garrard is Garrard and the rookie will be a rookie. Coach Jack Del Rio may finally be a real NFL head coach, but the season will have to reveal this. If he is for real, does he have a better than 8-8 squad to work with? If he is not a real NFL coach, is it worth living through another lost season with Del Rio as coach?

    Put simply, the Jaguars don’t excite my interest. Do they excity your interest? Yes, a potential new quarterback offers a little buzz, but if the rookie looks like a rookie and Garrard suddenly has his best year, you get the same buzz. If Garrard looks like a QB who is done and the rookie plays like a rookie, this team might do well to be 8-8. Then you have no buzz at all and a new worry about a potential draft bust at QB. The defense still doesn’t look fixed. To look fixed, the defense will have to go out and play solid defense. Despite the record, the offense was the best part of the Jaguars last season. Not sure the offense is good enough to repeat last season. In other words, this team appears two to three seasons away from being a serious contender for the NFC South top spot and the playoffs. I can’t see it playing for the AFC title in less than three seasons. The receivers are improving, but no one will fear any Jaguar receiver going into this season. Special teams, if as good as last year, is the only real positive about the Jaguars. No diamonds have emerged among Smith’s drafts of “rough cut” draft-stones.

    The one hope the Jaguars have of me following them this season is habit. It’s what I have been doing each season since the Jaguars arrived in Jacksonville. However, without a new Jaguars coach, without a sure-fire QB, without an injury free Maurice Jones-Drew or an heir apparent, without a high caliber defense ( I grew up a Chiefs fan, thanks to TV, so love defense), without so many things, the habit may be easy to break now. Think the habit bit the dust with last season. I was not going to follow the team, because I predicted an 8-8 team, which is not impressive. The season ended with coach, management, and ownership acknowledging reality. That’s good, but I think it’s too late for me. I don’t want to wait 2 or 3 more seasons for an NFL caliber team to show up in Jacksonville. Too many unkept promises, too much blame the fans, too much bad economy. Oh yeah, too many rich owners, although I like our owner (whatever his football shortcomings), and too many rich players, who live in a different world than I do. “Thanks for the memories,” as Bob Hope might say.

  3. Wyman Stewart says:

    To David Lamm: DAVID, PLEASE HAVE SOMEONE PROOFREAD THESE POSTS YOU WRITE! I respect the fact you’re an ex-newspaper guy. I remember those days, for I regularly read your stories. I even followed you in the Shoppers Guide that used to be thrown in my yard, for you were the only reason to pick it up, other than to trash it. My RESPECT for YOU is IMMENSE.

    The print is a strain on the eyes to read. I write two blogs, so I know that for a fact. BUT, a couple of times in this post, I had to stop and say, “Huh, what’s David trying to say?” If the strain on your eyes is too much to Proofread your work, have younger eyes proofread the posts. In fact, a second set of eyes will keep glaring errors from being glossed over by you by mistake.

    😉 Unlike Charles Barkley, you’re one of my Writing Gurus. “I want to write like David Lamm!” However, you’re giving me second thoughts about that. Plus, as a Wildcat fan, you don’t want me to think the Tar Heels didn’t give you a good education, DO YOU? So, from one set of old, tired eyes to another, GET A PROOFREADER! Don’t want to have to send in Trump to fire you from my reading list. PLEASE DAVID, PLEASEEEEEEE? (I’m not yelling, just making it big enough for both of us to read.)

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