During the offseason, the Jacksonville Jaguars debuted many stadium amenities most NFL teams will never see. The world’s largest scoreboards, NFL Redzone on display at all times, public WIFI and of course, the fabulous end zone pools.
All of these things were designed to increase the overall entertainment value for a fan base that has stuck by the under-performing team for quite some time. But in doing so, has the organization also started alienating the followers that they once coveted?
As a long standing season ticket holder, after this past Sunday, I’m starting to smell smoke where I don’t want to see a fire.
Steelers Fans Were In Droves
Everyone knows Steelers fans take pride in attending as many games as they can across the nation. And while the Jags have had their fair share of opposing fans show up – due in part to the large capacity of EverBank Field – Sunday’s matchup felt as if we were outnumbered.
So much so that a former marketing executive for the Jaguars went on a (now-deleted) Facebook rant about how the team’s last owner, Wayne Weaver, made sure that any extra tickets for sale would go to Jaguars fans, thus limiting the secondary broker market.
I doubt whether a franchise can control a specific fan base’s purchasing ability, but if so the team should 100% try to limit opposing fans. It should never feel like an away game when you’re playing at home.
The “Do Not Stand” Rule
Earlier this season, the Jaguars sent out a letter to season ticket holders asking that they only stand during appropriate times – such as defensive stops, interceptions and touchdowns (heh). How annoying to receive a notification on when to cheer from a team that has two home wins since 2012. Even worse, most fans took the letter to mean they can’t stand at all during the games.
If there’s something to cheer about, let the fans stand and yell. And if you can’t stand, or simply don’t want to, look to your left or to your right at the largest HD video boards in the world.
Apologizing For Jaxson DeVille’s Ebola Sign
The best mascot in the nation, Jaxson DeVille, is well-known for his game day antics. He’s put out on the field to entertain the fans and, yes, sometimes he may take it a bit far. But it’s never mean-spirited.
Such was also the case when Jaxson held up a sign during the 4th quarter of Sunday’s Steelers-Jaguars game that read “Towels Have Ebola.” I saw it and laughed. But it raised the eyebrows of a few sites around the web (even this one), and the Jaguars organization felt it needed to address the mascot’s actions by issuing an apology.
“Improvisation and humor have both been key elements to the character of Jaxson DeVille, especially when he performs at home games,” Jaguars President Mark Lamping said. “On Sunday, the person who has played Jaxson DeVille over the past 20 seasons made an extremely poor decision in that regard. The team was unaware of this inappropriate sign, which was hand-made by Jaxson during the fourth quarter of yesterday’s game, until after it had been displayed. We are handling the matter internally and taking it very seriously. We extend our sincerest apologies to anyone who was offended.”
Now, someone dying from a deadly disease is obviously nothing to laugh at. But what about Saturday Night Livemaking a joke about it? Are we as a society THAT politically correct when a mascot, whose job is to entertain, can’t make a joke? Ebola affects a minute amount of the population, would the Jaguars be issuing such a stern apology if the sign had said “Towels Have the Flu?”
I’ll chalk this apology up as the Jags’ PR strategy of “getting ahead of a controversy.” Except there was no controversy to be had. Easily offended people will always be just that: easily offended.
The Clevelander Deck Needs A Reality Check
The Clevelander is a Miami hotel and entertainment company that has branched off into the sports world by securing partnerships – first with the Miami Marlins, and now the Jaguars as sponsor of the pool/cabana area in EverBank Field. As someone who’s been in the pools, it’s an incredible experience that you really have to experience to believe.
But what isn’t incredible is having out of town “talent” trying to cater to a fan base they clearly know nothing about.
The night before the Steelers faced the Jaguars, a party was held at the pool area for the Roar – the Jaguars cheerleaders – to celebrate their calendar release. During the party, three DJ’s were in attendance: one local, the other two a part of The Clevelander entertainment group. These out of town DJ’s proceeded to give Steelers fans in attendance a “shout out” and then started playing their “Black and Yellow” song. Remember: this party was a Jaguars event, inside the Jaguars’ stadium.
In what stadium, in any sport, would this be acceptable? If this happened at Heinz Field, the fans would riot.
In addition to that, during the final two minutes of the game the following day, these same DJ’s were shown on the scoreboards smiling and laughing, trying to “pump up the crowd” as the Steelers were about to win the game. The hype men were reminding the crowd to “Come to the Clevelander Deck to party two hours after game time,” in one of the most eye-rolling charades I’ve ever witnessed at my own home stadium.
Look, I know as a business the NFL must cater to a lot of different fan segments. And I’ve been one of the biggest proponents of game day entertainment. But what I absolutely detest is seeing an area of my home stadium turned into a South Florida night club, complete with Vegas-type show girls walking around on stilts … at a football game.
At the end of the day, we are fans attending a home football game – something we only get seven times a year. Out of town talent that brings in cultural aspects having zero to do with Jacksonville, or its team, becomes a sore spot to the 40k fans who were already buying season tickets well before The Clevelander crowd.
The Jaguars organization needs to step in immediately to ensure that this company caters to its fans first and foremost, or else they will continue to face backlash.
Winning Cures All?
It could be a fair assessment that if the Jaguars had a winning record, instead of an 0-5 start, that none of these things would matter.
But the team isn’t winning. And it puts a glaring focus on aspects that, in the past, the Jaguars organization had been very, very good at. They’ve partnered with local fan groups, publications and have genuinely listen to the feedback from the fans to provide a better game day experience.
Now I just hope that all of this isn’t falling on deaf ears for the sake of added revenue and the bottom line. Because at the end of the day, all the fans want is something to cheer about on the field and entertainment off the field that appeals to our market.