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. Hours 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." We 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 half-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):
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Do you know what time the Florida/South Carolina game starts in two weeks?