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The habit has to be changed

Join Senior Editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Mike from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
I've written before about this and I have been a season ticket holder since day one. You're dead wrong about the heat at one o'clock games in September and early October as being an excuse. Every year, I'm absolutely miserable at those games and pray when the schedule comes out that it will have changed. Going to winter games in sub-zero temperatures is much easier than the heat we endure because you can prepare for that. If the hardcore fans are that miserable, how would anyone expect a less passionate fan from showing up? In my opinion, it's a huge issue that keeps potential season ticket buyers on the sidelines.

Vic: Mike, I know it's hot. That's not the issue. The issue is: Does it keep people from buying tickets? You wanna check attendance figures for those "sub-zero" games? Would you like me to do a comparison of attendance figures for games in the heat vs. games in cool temperatures? I'll do it if you want but I can already tell you what the result will be: no difference. It was 40 degrees on Dec. 26, 2004, when the Jaguars hosted the Texans with the playoffs on the line. Do you remember what the stadium looked like that day? The game was blacked out. I went back through attendance figures for games in every month of the season and there is no perceptible difference. In fact, the majority of Jaguars home games that have been blacked out have been played late in the season, when heat was not an issue. Nineteen games have been blacked out in Jaguars history. The breakdown of blacked out games by month is: four in September, five in October, four in November and six in December. We have to get away from excuses. They won't help anything. The heat has no impact on ticket sales. That's what the numbers say. Would fans rather sit in cool temperatures than in hot temperatures? Sure they would, but the numbers don't support the theory that hot weather is causing people not to buy tickets. In my opinion, if the Jaguars played in a climate-controlled dome, ticket sales would be unchanged.

Daniel from Jacksonville:
These constant excuses people manage to create to avoid supporting the Jaguars in the most meaningful way possible have moved from being annoying to being downright unacceptable. The heat bothers you? It bothers me, too, but it would bother me more to see the Jaguars playing their home games in another city, to a new group of fans. There's no time left for excuses.

Vic: I swear, I didn't write this.

Lee from Stuart, FL:
I know you're going to take this as another lame excuse, but don't you think the two things that have really hurt ticket sales this decade are: 1.) Being in a division with the Colts' dominance and not having a chance at a division title? 2.) Being in a division of retread franchises from the middle of the country? Any other division with east coast teams and their fans would have helped sell tickets. The Jags can't even sell out against their division opponents, which should be the biggest games every year.

Vic: I think one of the things that has really hurt Jacksonville, as it pertains to buying tickets, is the football lifestyle college football created. I'm talking about the habit of football games being played in your town in front of fans not from Jacksonville. That's what the Florida-Georgia game and the Gator Bowl have done. Those two games gave Jacksonville a football reputation it wore with pride, but the simple fact of the matter is that the tickets for those games were purchased by out-of-town fans, allowing Jacksonville to play host and sit back and watch the game on TV. I think the TV ratings clearly reflect that habit. The Jaguars have consistently had strong TV ratings. Ratings have never been a problem, but ticket sales almost always have been. Why? Because fans in Jacksonville have grown accustomed to watching football on TV. That's the football experience for Jacksonville football fans. Let somebody else buy the tickets, I'll watch the game at home on TV. The problem is the Jaguars play 10 times a year and buying tickets for those games is nearly the sole responsibility of Jaguars fans. The habit has to be changed. Strong TV ratings alone won't secure the future of this franchise.

Rob from Jacksonville:
Wayne Weaver calls you today and tells you that you can make one change at any price or consequence to the organization. What is it?

Vic: I would establish an ironclad blackout philosophy on which the team will not compromise. I don't say this to be mean, I say this because that's what it's going to take to establish the habit of buying tickets. It's tough love and it's overdue.

Mark from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
I have never seen a more succinct explanation of why blackouts must occur than the one Ryan from Vacaville gave (with the exception of the typo). Don't you think you support the team by buying tickets, but you support the league by watching on TV?

Vic: I think you've just made my point. People around here think watching games on TV is virtuous.

Bruce from Jacksonville:
Gee, I really am dumb. I didn't get that missing "d." I was trying to figure out why people were fighting crows, too. Wonder if I was the only one?

Vic: You're the only one who's admitted it.

Lobo from Miller Place, NY:
I 'm going through a difficult time at work and with an illness in the family. Your response on the "crows" made me laugh out loud and feel a lot better.

Vic: And you just made me feel a lot better.

Catherine from Jacksonville:
I have to say that the heat in August and early September is an issue for us older fans, however, my way of dealing with it is to give my tickets to my nephews or other younger people if the game is not blacked out. If the game is blacked out, I try to hydrate a bunch, dress appropriately, and go sit in the ladies room if I start getting sick.

Vic: That's a great idea. You know, I'm thinking that maybe there should be cool-off areas for people such as yourself. How about putting some of those cooling units they have on the sidelines in shaded areas so fans that need a break from the heat can cool off?

Rob from Jacksonville:
What in the world would you know about the heat at Jaguars games? You're sitting up there eating your hot dogs in the air-conditioning. Man, it's really hot out there at some of those games.

Vic: Hey, it gets chilly in the press box. Last year, I forgot to bring a sweater and the cold air just kept falling on me and I could feel myself getting a sinus infection from it.

Tim from Jacksonville:
What's your opinion of Gruden landing a seat on the "Monday Night Football" crew? I am excited to have another person who understands the game in the booth.

Vic: He could be good or, if he falls into the same trap that everyone else seemingly has, he could be bad. I'm talking about the trap of trying too hard. They should make those guys watch tapes of old MNF games, so they can appreciate the spontaneity and personality Howard Cosell and Don Meredith brought to the booth. I can't think of anything easier than doing a Monday night game. Just say it. Say something funny. Don't worry about saying something smart, just make sure you say something. For starters, MNF is over-produced. Everything about it is over the top, including the way the guys in the booth are treated. When you ride to the game in a limousine, the tendency will be to talk like somebody who rides in a limousine. The dialogue is stiff. It sounds almost scripted.

Jason from Jacksonville:
The franchise does offer rewards for purchasing season tickets. I just saved $70 on a set of tires at Tire Kingdom. They also assign priority to the relocation event based on your tenure as a ticket holder. The longer you've been supplying cash, the closer to the front of the line you are. Personally, I cannot envision anywhere else I would rather be for 10 days per year.

Vic: I have to replace some flooring in my house. Can they get me a deal on new carpet?

Justin from Orange Park, FL:
I don't think that moving the game times back is a terrible idea. Not so much because of the heat (give me a break, you live in Florida!), but because of church. I only make it out to four o'clock kickoffs or night games because of it.

Vic: My priest told me to just say three Our Fathers and three Hail Marys, and drop the envelope in the mail.

Ryan from Jacksonville:
I've been reading your column for about six months or so now and just love it. This weekend a couple of friends and I got into a heated discussion about Michael Vick. They want the Jaguars to pick him up and I told them it would never happen and would be a mistake.

Vic: My dogs would never watch another Jaguars game.

Jonathan from Jacksonville:
I have one year left in college and then I will upgrade from two to four seats. Tell them to hold on, we're coming.

Vic: Do not go to graduate school.

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