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Blackouts Shouldn’t Give Jacksonville a Black Eye

miller-article1There is no escaping it. Television blackouts will be a problem during the Jaguars’ 2009 season.

We all have heard the excuses about the lack of ticket sales here in Jacksonville. They never seem to stop. For a blackout to be lifted, the Jags need to sell 50,000 non-premium seats for home games. It was recently reported that the team has sold only around 35,000 non-premium tickets thus far.

It doesn’t take a math whiz to figure out that the Jaguars need to increase ticket sales. However, Jacksonville isn’t the only NFL city to suffer from blackouts, although some in the media act like we're unique.

The only way to avoid the infinite blackout excuses is to win. Fans forgive everything when a team wins. The Jags must improve upon last season’s 5-11 record. Five wins will not bring the fans out to the stadium for expensive food and questionable weather when home offers a big screen, solitude, homemade treats and sizable breaks if the game is going sour.

Since the Jack Del Rio era began in 2003, the Jaguars are 50-46. However, the s-shaped curve, in terms of total wins, has frustrated many people. In the 2003 season, the Jaguars finished 5-11, but because it was the start of a new era, fans purchased tickets. From the 2004 to the 2008 NFL season, the Jags ended their regular seasons with records of 9-7, 12-4, 8-8, 11-5 and 5-11.

Fans cannot get pumped up for home games without consistent results. Wins! It’s all about either the wins... or at least a highly competitive fight with the possibility of a win.

But these fans should understand that consistency is difficult to obtain in the ultra-competitive NFL. While challenging, it’s something the Jaguars must aim for this year. A split locker room and expensive free agent acquisitions are a philosophy of the past.

Thanks to the 45-year-old general manager Gene Smith, team unity is the fresh way of thinking. And, I know his team-first club will bring numerous on-lookers. I’m just not sure if he’ll bring enough spectators to fill Jacksonville Municipal Stadium. But the team’s new regime starts September 13th at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis. That’s where the consistency must begin.

Several NFL cities experience regular blackouts for their home games. Our NFL neighbors have suffered similar hardships.

The Atlanta Falcons have struggled the past few years with ticket sales. Prior to last season’s dream run, our neighbors to the north relied on Michael Vick’s stardom to sell the team. With their star serving a prison sentence, the team had to begin a new era.

A few years ago, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a waiting list for season tickets. Now, no such list exists, and Bucs tickets are as easy to come across as bandwagon Tampa Bay Rays fans.

The Miami Dolphins also went through blackout extensions last season. Empty seats were a common occurrence in what was known as Dolphin Stadium. Blackouts are an issue for most teams as they develop and grow, and even some that are already established.

Other than in cities like New York City, Chicago, Green Bay or Pittsburgh, blackouts will always be a possibility in the NFL. This is a league that has become what it is because of television rights. The Jaguars almost certainly won’t have every 2009 home game televised. Discussions of Jaguars blackouts are to Jacksonville as rolling blackouts were to California under former Governor Gray Davis. It’s nothing new to this city.

In my opinion, television blackouts will not result in the departure of the city’s beloved Jaguars. The Chargers will become the London Broilers before the Jags leave Cowford.

The Buffalo Bills will move to Toronto before the Jags depart.

The Raiders will be out of the Bay Area within ten years.

The Browns might leave Cleveland again before the Jags call anywhere else home.

The talk of blackouts keeps Jaguars fans occupied during the offseason. Blackouts are over-hyped. It will just be history. Don’t mope about the blackouts. Don’t let them leave you bloody and bruised.

To contact Richard Miller: Richard.Miller@jaxobserver.com

17 Responses »

  1. Great article Richard. You're right on the money with this one!

  2. Let's suppose a two people attend a game. It would cost the same as a monthly payment of a Toyota Prius to attend, the cost of Ruth's Chris Steak House (for 2) for dogs, beers, nuts and a coke and the cost of a movie and a large popcorn with butter to park the car. There must be entertainment value. Oh, you can pump up the old hits (loud music) but you can't air-condition the stadium. All to be entertained for four hours. Today, the replacement alternatives are endless. Annual Florida Residence passes to Disney (all parks for 280 days) would cost $400. About the same as one and a half Jaguar games for two. And, did I mention that for the prices we are debating, we would be sitting 60 yards from the field? Heck, you could fly to Chicago (69 each way) for $240, spend the night, and pay for food for the price of Box Seats.
    I love the Jaguars and NFL football, but when the season cheap seats for two including food and parking add up to apartment rent for ONE YEAR, you have to expect some fans to stay home. Even if they can't watch the Jaguars. Two other NFL games will be televised, and that is if they don't pay for the NFL package. Go figure! Even winning games might not fix this dilemma. Good luck with that!

  3. Now you've got me started. I must add that you can't attend a game without the proper attire. A season's wardrobe for two could run a minimum of $200 smackers if you purchased two mall store official NFL jerseys and hats. Buy them at the stadium and the price jumps to $300.
    When you consider what has been discussed above, the team owners, the NFL and the vendors should get down on both knees and thank GOD that anyone takes the time, spends the money and enters that stadium even one time each year. And that my dear folks is in a good economy.
    Seriously, Good luck with that ! Richard, thanks for inspiring this discussion.
    Maybe, NFL cities need to debate the real question. Do we need to spend $500 million dollars to build a stadium for a group that takes $9 million dollars ($150 per person x 60,000 seats - YOU KNOW IT IS MORE) out of the city every week. Then these same 60,000 fans are hung over and tired for work on Monday. Maybe it is time for the Mayors of the U.S.A., to get creative and take the $500 million to build something like a giant boardwalk, improve the beaches or build miles of bike paths that will have the same entertainment value (for the entire family) and still keep the money in Jacksonville - and last forever bringing people from all over the United States to visit. What a novel idea!
    My last word is your lucky your Grandma (born between 1880 and 1930) isn't alive to hear you say you spent your money this way. She would slap your face and say "Shame on you for spending your money this way!" adding "You should prepare for the Kingdom of Heaven not the Kingdom of the NFL!"

  4. Here is my final solution for a blackout. Take the money you are going to spend and take your wife for two nights at a fine Jacksonville Beach hotel and buy her breakfast in bed and dinner out. She'll enjoy the break and you will still be sluggish and tired on Monday. What a win-win situation. Oh, and take the money you have left over and put it in the collection bucket at church on Sunday! Maybe if enough fans follow my suggestion, the your city's tv will be turned back on?

  5. Wow. Your article really fired up "Paul." I agree with you that blackouts are over-hyped. But, I can tell you this. I won't "mope" around about a blackout. I love the Jaguars, but unfortunately when the talk about a blackout starts just before a home game, I am more inclined to start planning my weekend around other NFL games and the beach rather than how I can purchase all the remaining tickets for the Jags. For an average family, the ticket prices are out of my league. So, I will be home no matter what. And, if I can't watch my beloved Jaguars at home (yes, I have AC and cheap hot dogs and a comfortable chair and remote) then I lose interest as the season progresses. Win or lose, I LOSE interest. GO JAGUARS. I guess I will have to depend on the media to just tell me about the next morning!

  6. Thanks for giving everyone the "lowdown" on the blackouts, Richard! It makes one wonder about the true value of having an NFL team in Jacksonville.

  7. Leave the Buffalo Bills out of your talk, we sell games out......

  8. Very weak arguement. Other cities don't have their entire season blacked out. As for performance the Jags have made the playoffs sevral times. Do your fans need to be a contender every year just to show up? The Buffalo Bills have missed the playoffs 9 seasons in a row and sell out (72,000+) almost every game, and our weather is worse later in the season. And save the "there's nothing else to do in Buffalo" jokes. There's plenty more to do there than in Jerk-sonvile. Bills fans are REAL football fans.

  9. This article is a crock. If Jacksonville had real fans that stadium would be packed. That's it, end of story.

    The author mentions "questionable weather"? Tell that to the folks in GB, CHI, BUFF.

    My chauffeur could write a better article and English is his third language.

  10. Hey, Richard. Thanks for the article. Interesting reading and it did creat a lot of discussion. Hopefully the economy will turn around, ticket prices will come down and everyone can enjoy going to the games again. Good job.

  11. Jags fans are an embarrassment. The team tarps over thousands of seats, and still has blackouts in seasons where the team does very well. Weren't there blackouts in 2007, when the team finished 11-5? What about 2005, when the team finished 12-4? That's not good enough for fans to attend the games? What a sad excuse, for lack of attendence.

    OTOH, people talk about the possibility of the Buffalo Bills moving, all the time. The Bills haven't made the playoffs this decade, and regularly sellout a stadium with a capacity of almost 74,000 seats. And they do it even though many of the games are played outside, in pretty bad weather.

    But you are right about one thing. The blackouts shouldn't give J-Ville a black eye. It should put the city in the NFL ICU and on life-support for keeping its NFL franchise.

  12. The Bills will never move to Toronto. The Toronto deal (playing one regular season a year) is exactly what will keep the Bills in Buffalo forever and the Jags in LA.

    Buy tickets or shut up.

    -A Buffalo Bills Season Ticket Holder

  13. The following teams had an average regular season attendance lower than the Jags in '08;

    Bengals, Bucs, Cardinals, Falcons, Cowboys, Vikings, Steelers, Bears, Rams, Raiders and Lions


    The overall avg attendance for an NFL game was 68,241 and the Jags avg was 65,167, the Steelers were only averaging 62,891.

    Make pre-season tickets a seperate deal from season tickets (or at least optional) and I bet you solve the whole issue. I'd buy if I didn't have to pay for two games in August.

  14. I was born in the State of New York and had to live there until I saved enough money to move to paradise here in Jacksonville. I understand what makes New Yorkers so cranky. It's that horrible weather that they must endure. Lighten up, Buffalo fans!

  15. "We got T.O!" is the cry of the Bills. After 10 years and no playoff appearances I think they are desperate. What a poor excuse of a sports figure. Richard, I think you are right. Toronto here they come!

  16. Pre-season, last season, this season, what season. I don't know about any of it. The games are really long and in FL, it's really hot. The stadium should be indoor and air-conditioned, which would bring more people out. If I wanted to get sweaty and sunburnt, I could just plant tomatoes in my backyard.

  17. Right on Richard!!!!! The Raiders have had 61 of 99 games blacked out since 1995, the Jags inaugural season. Anyone that can afford to go needs to help fill the seats. It's only ten weeks out of the year. What people need to understand is with the tarps removed the stadium is one of the largest in the league. Jacksonville has to have the number of seats for other events such as the world's largest outdoor cocktail party.......