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Florida-Georgia: A Jacksonville State of Mind

miller-article1How would the residents of Jacksonville, Florida, feel without the annual Florida-Georgia football game?

Imagine Halloween with no candies and costumes.

Thanksgiving wouldn’t feel right without a plump turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and a pumpkin pie.

Ponder a New Year’s celebration without a champagne toast or belting out Auld Lang Syne.

What if Americans celebrated the Fourth of July without fireworks, flags and a backyard cookout of hot dogs, hamburgers, baked beans and corn?

Obviously, there are some events that people look forward to each year. Partly it's because of tradition and what typically accompanies the much anticipated annual event. The same holds true of the grand Florida-Georgia game, which has been held in Jacksonville nearly every year since 1915.

Yes, the downtown area would still have the special aroma of Maxwell House coffee.

We would still have the best weather known to man.

But, there would be no party in Jacksonville during the last week of October if the Georgia-Florida game left town.

Fans with their recreational vehicles would not be lining up outside RV City the Wednesday before the game.

For five straight days, booze would not flow during the week of what once was the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.

Not having the Florida-Georgia game would be like taking the Jacksonville Suns, The Players Championship and the Jacksonville Jaguars and moving them elsewhere.

However, the Suns, TPC and the Jaguars have been in the area for a combined 98 years, while the Georgia-Florida game has called Jacksonville its home for 76 years.

I say it is still a fair trade.

Since 1933, the Florida-Georgia game has only left Jacksonville for two of the matchups.

In 1994 and 1995, the game was played in Gainesville and Athens, respectively.

Those years were needed to renovate the Gator Bowl to improve upon the soon-to-be home of the NFL’s Jaguars.

(I’ll be rotating between Florida-Georgia and Georgia-Florida so that I’m not favoring one team over the other.)

I’ll argue that the Georgia-Florida game is more about Jacksonville than about the Universities of Florida and Georgia.

The current contract for Florida-Georgia expires after the 2010 game.
And, at least for me, it wouldn’t feel right having the contest played in the Georgia Dome once every four years.

Jacksonville not only needs the approximately $25 million in revenue from the annual Georgia-Florida game, but the city thrives off the exposure.

When I travel out of town, nine times out of 10, when I say I hail from Jacksonville, the person I’m talking to will say, “Oh yeah, I’ve been to Florida-Georgia a few times.”

Like it or not, Jacksonville isn’t known for the Jaguars.

If anything, our city is notorious for the Georgia-Florida game, the nearby beaches and probably now the St. Johns Town Center.

And, I am fine with all that.

But, I have reached a point to where I ask myself every year – “Why hasn’t the city of Jacksonville signed a lifetime contract with these two schools to play the game here?”

The next extension, which looks to be signed soon, will go through 2017.

I realize I have to be logical, but holding Florida-Georgia in Gainesville or Athens is unappealing.

The event turns into another college football home game.

The neutrality of Jacksonville (Bulldog fans are surely barking at this) is what makes Georgia-Florida a true event – that and the alcohol.

So, as you enjoy a cold one either on the 30-yard-line in Jacksonville Municipal Stadium on Saturday or while listening to the broadcast crew of Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson, remember that Florida-Georgia is as much about Jacksonville as it is about orange and blue and black and red.
And, you don’t need to catch a Greyhound on the Hudson River Line to be in a Georgia-Florida state of mind.

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Richard Miller is a national broadcaster for Jacksonville Jaguars’ home games on Sporting News Radio. Additionally, he can be heard on ABC 1320 WBOB in Jacksonville at 5:45 p.m. on Wednesdays with The Jacksonville Observer Radio Show.

Richard contributes to Inside the Game with Robin Valetutto every Saturday from 12-2 p.m.

Currently, Richard is writing David Lamm’s biography entitled Lamm at Large: The David Lamm Story, which will be available in 2010.
You can e-mail Richard at Richard.Miller@jaxobserver.com

6 Responses »

  1. I cannot imagine a year without GA-FL in Jacksonville.

    Both teams should realize that this is a win-win for everyone involved; Georgia, Florida and Jacksonville.

    The person that changes this long-standing rivalry to the team stadiums will have a name that is known as a curse word long after - MUDD.

    Go Gators! Go Dogs! Bring your wallets!

  2. SO TRUE. JACKSONVILLE IS ALL ABOUT THIS GAME AND THE EVENTS SURROUNDING THIS GAME. AND, IT BRINGS IN MONEY FOR THE RETAILERS. AS MUCH AS I LOVE TO SEE THE FLORIDA GATORS WIN, THE RETAIL STORES, RESTAURANTS, ETC. PROSPER MORE WHEN THE BULL DOGS WIN. WHEN THE BULL DOGS WIN, THEY LIKE TO STICK AROUND TO TAUNT THE GATORS AND TO STRUT THEIR STUFF. SO JACKSONVILLE ACTUALLY MAKES MORE MONEY WHEN THE BULL DOGS STAY AND OPEN THEIR WALLETS. GO BULL DOGS.

  3. I think that the FLORIDA-Georgia game should always be held in Jacksonville. We have a magnificent stadium and you are right. It is the perfect neutral and centralized location for both teams. And, it really is a nice location for the tail gating and Jacksonville can provide the restaurants and hotels to support the fans attending the game as well as the folks who just want to enjoy the fun surrounding the game (party, party, party). GO Gators.

  4. When I first visited Jacksonville in 1953, two of the things that I needed to see were the Gator Bowl, where the big game was played, and the Oriental Gardens. The Oriental Gardens have long been gone, but let's hope that never happens to the FLORIDA / Georgia Game!

  5. I knew Jack Bush from Jacksonville. He retired years ago and lives in Georgia.

    Jack was a big man and had played for Georgia in the 1942 Georgia-Florida game. He said that most of Florida's team had been drafted for the war.

    He proudly remembered the score of Georgia 75 and Florida 0. Go Dogs!

  6. This is the biggest game of the year. And, it makes sense to have it played in Jacksonville. GO GATORS.