A Drive to the Hole

We have been
ragging on Jacksonville
for years now, but we had
never actually been there.  Now,
we can speak with
authority on all things Jaguar because we spent an afternoon there.  Here is an
all-too-true, hour by hour log of our day in J-Holeville.

10:00
AM
  Our family
goes to the beach for the last time. 
Demond and I spend several hours in the sun playing with
our kids and
throwing a nerf football in the ocean with official 18to88
brother-in-law
Darnell.  This is
probably not the best
idea, because I spend the rest of the day complaining of
mild sun poisoning.  I
got the shakes at one point
sitting in the shade on an 80 degree day.

3:00
PM
   We begin the hour and a half drive to Jacksonville
from the beach house we were renting in New Smyrna.  About 10 minutes in I
curse myself for forgetting
my notebook, thus forcing me to try and remember every insane detail of
the
day.  This would be
the first of about 20
times I’d get mad about forgetting it that day.

3:35
PM
   We find the Pete Prisco Show on the radio. 
Apparently, when not writing for Sportsline.com he does a daily
drive-time show in Jacksonville.  Just another sign of their awesome sports
culture.  H
ours before the
biggest home game
for the Jags in many years, most of the callers wanted to talk about
college
football.  There
were as many calls about
the Pac 10 (Yeah, Pete, what do you think about Oregon this week?) as
there were about the Jags. 
For the first of many times that day, we say to each
other, “Why does
this city have an NFL team?”

4:30
PM
   Darnell asks if we should eat first or park. 
I vote for parking arguing that there should be
someplace close to the stadium to eat. 
This proves to be
a
horrible mistake.  As
we get vaguely near
the stadium that no one even wants to name, parking lots are charging 20
and 30
bucks.  We are
confused, as we really
aren’t that close to the stadium yet. 
In Indianapolis, we usually pay five dollars to park a similar
distance from the Dome. 
We
don’t want to pay Wrigley Field prices, but don’t
have much choice.  We
get as close as we can, and shell out 20
bucks to park in a seriously ‘urban’ neighborhood.  I live in a slum in Buenos Aires,
but am still a
little shocked that the area around the stadium is so depressed.  No wonder no one wants to
go to the games.  Overhead, a billboard for a strip joint features a dancer
in jaguar-print.  Now that’s synergy.

4:40
PM
   We set off in search of Jags fans to harass with our
video camera.  This
proves largely
impossible.  There
were Colts fans
everywhere tailgating.  We
finally find
some Jags fans and begin our ambush journalism efforts. 
This is what came of it:

We
wanted to do a bunch more of these, but
it was really hard to find solid groups of
Jags fans to hassle.  They were all so. . . subdued and depressed
looking.  We
didn’t have the heart to bug
them.  We walk
around for another 20
minutes before we realize it is four hours before the game and we have nothing
to do. 
We decide we want to eat. 
Darnell had heard that a place
called The  Landing is “where it’s at in Jacksonville.” 
Darnell asks a cop for directions to The Landing.  The cop
acts like we are nuts and he proceeds to give us very lengthy directions. 
We’re concerned when he adds, “If you get to the swamp you’ve gone too far.” 
W
e start to walk.

4:50
PM
   It’s hot; it’s muggy. 
There is no food in sight.

5:00 PM  
We pass a
horrible smelling
Maxwell House factory.  Not
even a Hardees
to be found.

5:10 PM   We
can’t even
find a freaking Waffle House.

5:20 PM  
IT’S LIKE
WALKING THROUGH HELL IF NO ONE IN HELL EVER NEEDED TO EAT.

5:25 PM   We are now in what we guess to be downtown
Jacksonville, a good two miles from the stadium.  We pass an exhausted Jag
fan headed to the stadium carrying a large cooler in each hand.  All that
is missing from his brave trek is a knowledgeable Sherpa.  (Later in the
night we overhear another fan bemoan the parking situation.  He says he
hasn’t been to a game in three years and probably won’t come back for another
three years.)

5:30
PM
   We find
“The
Landing.”  By
this time, we are drenched
in sweat, having basically spent the last hour walking around in ninety degree
heat.  When we arrive at the
landing, we see a big
screen set up where people can watch the game, and a stage where a
sports talk
show is going on.  There
are also about
500 Colts fans milling around.  There
are
roughly 50 people wearing teal.  How
does
this town have an NFL team?  Oh,
and “The
Landing”?  Imagine a mall food court and you’re
in the ballpark.  I’m not kidding
you, I ate at Sbarro.  We
are so tired, we just sit and eat and talk
for the next hour and a half.  At
some
point, Darnell asks, “They seriously had a Super Bowl
here?”  Now
I know why the media was so upset by it. 
Meanwhile, I feel sick from the sun and from
Demond continually saying things like, “We’re 0-4
on NFL road trips that I’ve taken.”

5:55 PM   A fan walks past us wearing a t-shirt that says, “Jagator: 
The most dangerous animal on the planet.”  Welcome to North Florida!

6:10 PM   The sports talk radio guys are in a heated
discussion about whether or not Bobby Petrino will land the LSU job.  The
Jaguar excitement has reached a fever pitch. 

7:00  PM   One cool
thing about Jacksonville
is that they run a ferry along the river from “The
Landing” to the game.  On
the ferry, we talk to a couple of big NFL
fans wearing Chargers and Eagles gear. 
They travel to various stadiums and had been in Miami
the day before.  We
spend the entire ride laughing about why Jacksonville
has a
team.  The town
itself is pretty, but is
basically Fort Wayne with better weather. 
It reminded me of Indy before Circle center.  Or maybe
before Union Station.  Actually,
Demond compared “The Landing” to
Union Station.  Ouch.  Even with the ferry, we
are still a mile or
so away from where we park.  We
wanted to
change before the game, and Darnell still hadn’t bought a
ticket. 

7:10
PM
   Darnell manages to get a great seat at the 50 yard line for
$85 (just $30 over face).  Demond
and I
are shocked at how low the demand was. 
We didn’t think he’d get a seat anywhere near
us, but he was one section away and closer to the field.

7:30
PM
   We arrive at the car to change shirts. 
Darnell
and Demond take turns drinking bourbon
out of a bottle in the trunk.  The neighborhood might
be rough, but we manage to fit right in.  

8:00
PM
   We arrive at the stadium at last. 
There are loads of Colts fans. 
There is a HUGE ramp up to the top of the
stadium.  The Jags
are handing out foam
things to the fans.  They
are bizarre
because they don’t make noise when you hit them together, and
they aren’t as
visually cool as towels.  We
can’t figure
out what they are for:

We begin the
hike to our seats. We
march to the top, only to find out that we are on the wrong side of the
stadium, and you can’t get to our side from where we were.  We have to descend a few
levels, walk all the
way around and then go up again.  Again,
we are sweating like pigs, and irritated by having to dodge all the
drunken
Jags fans trying to start trouble. 
There
are very few kids and women at Jags games, but that might be because
of the
late start.

8:10
PM
   We find our seats.  3
rows from the top of the stadium, we settle
in to watch the pregame.  The
first thing
that strikes us are the HUGE blocks of seats that are blocked off.  The Jags ‘sell
out’ the stadium (sometimes!),
by covering up big sections and not using them. 
How is this a sell out? 
I don’t
know, I think they are just really bad at math. 

8:20 PM   Stadium announcer declares
“Jaxon De’Ville (the
Jags mascot) will now risk his life for your entertainment!”  Demond comments,
“Is that really a good
idea?”  The man in the cat costume fakes a high wire accident
with disturbing realism. 

8:25
PM
   The Jags drum corps, “The D-Line” performs.  Easily
the coolest and best part of the night. 
Also, the anthem singer was great. 
The Colts are introduced as a team.

8:29
PM
   An in-stadium commercial comes on advising people
against teen pregnancy.

8:30
PM
   At kickoff, the crowd is loudish. 
Think: 
RCA dome on a 2nd and 8 with the
Colts up 10.  Very
unintimidating.

8:35
PM
   An in-stadium
announcement promoting the “Kids Club” that gives
tickets to underprivileged
kids who do well in school.  This is followed by an
announcement saying that none of the kids are actually at the game.

8:45
PM
   A lady behind
us shouts, “Hey want to spend the night at our house instead
of in your
trailer!”.  I assume she is mocking a
nearby Colts fan.  Demond,
nudges me and says,
“She was talking to her friend.” 
Yikes.

9:15
PM
  The Colts are
up 7-0 and the life is already out of the crowd. 
My dad later informs us by phone that Garrard
was hurt.  There was
no mention of a QB
change by the PA announcer.  What
is he
doing?  Is his job really that hard?

9:45
PM
  Bob Sanders
blows up MJD and Demond and I celebrate calmly. 
As I stand up to give him a hug, my phone pops off its
holster, spins
through the air and lands in my Coke which is in a holder on the back
of the seat
next to me.  There goes $180.

10:00 PM   The halftime show is a fireworks display that fills
the whole stadium with smoke.  “I’m
not sure
that’s a good idea,” says Demond. 
Fortunately, there is a breeze so most of the smoke dissipates by the end
of half-time.  


          

10:00 PM   The musical montage is hilariously appropriate.  The
first song
they play is The Who’s  “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” 
Over the loudspeakers Roger Daltrey sings “Meet the new boss, same as the old
boss.”  The h
alf-time score:
Colts 17 – Jags 0.  Yup,
meet the new
boss.  Same as the
old boss.

10:15
PM
   While heading back to my seat from the can, I
overhear this conversation on the concourse:

Man:  Yeah, but he did
kiss you on the neck right?
Skanky woman: 
Yeah, I
guess so.
Man:  WELL
THEN YOU
LIED TO ME!

I keep walking. 
Quickly.

11:00
PM
   With 11
minutes to go in the game and the Colts up 15 points, Jags fans are
filing
out.  Wow.  That’s
commitment.

11:30
PM
   Since there are almost no fans left in the Stadium, Demond and I head down to find Darnell. 
He’s sitting next to two guys wearing peeling latex paint they bought at
Home Depot.  Uh, guys, I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to use that
stuff for body paint.


  

11:45
PM
   We joyously
exit Nameless Stadium.  They
are playing
the Jags radio team as we leave, but with the noise of all the Colts fans, for a
moment we
think it is Bob Lamey.  However, not
even the Jags are so pathetic as to play the opponents’ play by play
guy in their halls.  They considered it though.  

1:45
AM
   We stop for
Steak ‘N Shake.  Demond
gets the worst
fries of all time.  We also listen to Colts post game coverage on
1190 WOWO out of Ft. Wayne.  Gotta love AM radio at night.

8:00
AM
   The family starts the trip home. 
I listen to Jacksonville
radio.  The comments
amaze me (and no, I’m not making
them up, not even a
little):

  1. What a great crowd it was!  It really showed off
    spirit.  Too bad the
    team let us down!
     Are they nuts?  That was the
    ‘loudest crowd in Jags history’? 
    Seriously, I’ve heard more noise in the preseason
    introductions than
    that.
  1. Tony Kornheiser is a jerk!  He made fun of what a lame
    town Jacksonville
    is!  Who does he
    think he is?  He
    said this was a college football town, not an NFL town! 
    My friends from up north move here and complain about the
    city.  Why move here
    then?  Jacksonville is a lame town. 
    It has amazing weather and beaches, but it’s
    a lame-ass hole in the ground. And YES, even the show host agreed with
    him
    about it being a college town.
  1. Russell Crowe was so nice!  He said the atmosphere was
    amazing and the crowd was great!  
    I can’t even dignify this with a response.
  1. Do you know what time the
    Florida/South Carolina game starts in two weeks?

All
in all, Jacksonville
is a beautiful city with
beautiful weather.  Beyond those features it is very
lame.  The
fans are lame, the
franchise is lame.  The
only consolation
is that they’ll be in LA within five years. 
So that was our trip; it ended with a win and a firm
declaration from Demond
and me that this was the best vacation ever.  Here are some of the best pics from the game:


 

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