Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fans, Franchise Each Growing Up

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fans, Franchise Each Growing Up

Article excerpt

There has been much hand-wringing in recent days -- in this

newspaper, on sports talk shows and among Jaguars players and

coaches themselves -- about the nearly 10,000 no-shows at last

week's game between the Jags and the Baltimore Ravens.

Fans have been called out for tomorrow's game with the Patriots

by coach Tom Coughlin; they have been ripped by acid-tongued

radio gabmasters; they have been told that they should be more

rabid, more loyal and more passionate. There is a

playoff-contending NFL team in this city, by gosh, and you need

to be more fevered, more obsessed. You need to take it more

personally.

If only it were that simple. I hate to be the bearer of bad

news, but passion cannot be turned on and off with the flip of a

switch. If it could, there would be far more happy marriages and

far fewer guys hanging out at sports bars.

These days, hasty professional sports owners don't build

championship teams, they buy them, but there is one problem:

Passion isn't included in the price of those permanent-seat

licenses.

Florida Marlins owner Wayne Huizenga brought in a bunch of

highpriced free agents last season and won a World Series. And

now he is dismantling and selling the team because fans didn't

provide him enough sellouts. Marlins Fever: Catch it while you

can.

Not that this has anything to do with Jacksonville, but it is

a telltale sign of the impatience in sports. Just as the Jaguars

have become one of the league's best teams almost overnight,

many of us expect Jacksonville's fan base to follow suit and

immediately become among the league's most loyal. That's

unrealistic and unfair.

It's silly to compare Jaguars fans to those in Pittsburgh or

Green Bay. If you grew up in Pittsburgh, you grew up a Steelers

fan. If you grew up in Green Bay, you grew up a Packers fan. But

if you grew up in Jacksonville, you probably grew up a Gators

fan, a Seminoles fan or a Bulldogs fan.

Since moving here 2 1/2 years ago, one thing has struck me over

and over again: Jacksonville may be an NFL city, but it is

still, in many ways, a college football town. …

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