The relationship between Jacksonville and the Georgia-Florida game has been one of debate and consternation for nearly 30 years. In the 70s and 80s, Florida fans decried the decrepit stadium, mayhem in the stadium and the dangerous neighborhood around it when whispers that maybe a home and home arrangement made more sense. The (name that shall not be spoken) game WAS played at a decrepit old stadium that literally swayed with the masses of humanity, piled red and black to orange and blue section to section. The neighborhood was shady (as a side note, in 94, the last game before the old Gator Bowl was torn down, my folk’s tour bus got shot up and their window was shot out on Duval). In the days before Veterans Memorial Arena, the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, and the parking venues that have been built to accommodate an NFL team, Jacksonville Memorial Coluseum and Sam Wolfson Park were surrounded by old houses and the Maxwell House Plant. It was, to put it nicely, not a good part of town.
While Georgia fans saw the same conditions, it was different for us. We enjoyed the trip to Jacksonville. Munson’s comments after the Run, Lindsay, Run! call were dead on. All those Dawg people with all those places in Saint Simons, Jekyll, and all those other places for the weekend were there for the party. Jacksonville was a red and black town. The largest Bulldog club outside of the state was (and still is) there. My, how losing changes the perspecitve.
Paul Westerdawg lays out the best arguments for keeping the game in Jacksonville, succinctly summing the situation up as “We’re chicken shit if we leave”.
Orson at EDSBS has a more sarcastic and dead on reason: the Dome would be like Jacksonville was in 94.
As a native of Southeast Georgia, there was something comforting as a child about all the cars with students wearing red and black making the trek down Hwy 15 to Jacksonville. I remember the Red Coats’ annual trek through Southeast Georgia, making stops in places such as Vidalia, Jesup and Waycross, playing impromptu concerts as crowds gathered. As a junior in high school, I resolved to go to Georgia and only apply there after seeing a car with freshman girls unload at the Oak Plaza Restaurant in Blackshear on Wednesday before that year’s game (the Bell to Nattiel game). Although I had firmly been a Dawg fan my whole life, I figured any place with girls that pretty traveling to a football game on Wednesday was perfect for me. I was right.
I do want to give a hat tip to Kyle at Dawg Sports. Kyle lays out another good reason to keep the game in Jacksonville. If we leave, we are ceding the whole of South Georgia to Florida and FSU. I don’t live there now and haven’t since I graduated from high school. However, there are no telling how many students that only consider Georgia would consider other options if they don’t have the shared experiences of over half the student body and many, many fans making the trip to Jacksonville. How many Albany, Valdosta, Tifton, Camden, Charlton, Ware and Glynn County kids go elsewhere because they won’t get to play close to home? I just think it is short sighted reasoning and a puss out move.
From a business perspective, the state does benefit from a game in Jacksonville. Think gas taxes. Think hotel rooms and restaurants in the Golden Isles. Think tour groups running eleventeen hundred buses from the Golden Isles to the game. Yeah, if the (name that shall not be spoken) game were in the ATL, the state gets more of that money, but you cannot have the discussion of moving it without discussing the loss of revenue in Southeast Georgia resulting from moving it.
With the discussion recently being brought up, I hope this is all posturing to help get a favorable deal out of Jacksonville. The most recent comments from Damon and Coach Richt do indicate that this is a fishing story on the part of the AJC (what Dawg fans have long been rankled?) or a trial balloon by the Atlanta Sports Council. Just as we played good cop in the 80’s in keeping the game there, here’s hoping the rolls have reversed, with Jeremy Foley playing the good cop and Damon (or his proxies) playing bad cop.
Besides, if we play in Atlanta every year (or even every fourth year), doesn’t it take away from the excitement of making the SEC championship game (or at least taunts involving playing in Atlanta the first weekend in December)?