Watching Tony Boselli as he led Tuesday night's pep rally caused me to reflect on a night 15 years ago, when Wayne Weaver's jet transported Boselli back to the Jaguars' training camp in Stevens Point, Wisc., following knee surgery in Jacksonville.
I had just turned out the first-ever edition of the now-defunct team newspaper, "Jaguars Inside Report," and was hitching a ride back to camp on "Air Weaver." Boselli stretched his damaged leg across the aisle and we talked. I liked that about the kid; he liked to talk.
Anyhow, I remember that at some point in the flight, maybe it was over Ohio or Michigan, I thought to myself, "I hope this kid can play." It didn't take long to find out he could.
Fifteen years later, the kid was trying to save the franchise he helped build. He stood in front of 500 or so diehard fans, energizing them in a movement that is being grossly underrated. This could be it, folks. This could be the whole ball of wax.
Yeah, the kid could play and he could talk, too, and last night he took his ability to talk to a higher level. I was impressed. He commands people. I'm honestly beginning to think that one day he really will be mayor of Jacksonville.
The façade on the west side of the stadium bears his name. Boselli put it there by the quality of his play. If the movement he's leading now succeeds, I'll lead a movement to put his name on the east side of the stadium, too.
Do you understand, folks, what's at stake? Yeah, I know, Weaver keeps saying the Jaguars are here to stay, but Weaver has also said the franchise will not be viable should last year's attendance woes continue. The message is clear: We gotta start buying tickets, or else.
Boselli's myteamteal.com is a metaphor for save the franchise. As with all save campaigns – save the whale, save the polar bear, etc. – the or else is understood. Save them or they'll die.
Again, I ask, do we truly understand what's at stake with this save the Jaguars campaign? There won't be another one of these. This is the one and only save the Jaguars movement and it will likely determine the future of professional football in Jacksonville.
Tuesday night's speakers were a distinguished lot. Carl Cannon is the former publisher of "The Florida Times-Union" and one of the original "Touchdown Jacksonville!" organizers. Weaver, of course, is the team's owner. Gene Smith is the team's general manager. Boselli is the face of the franchise. John Peyton is Jacksonville's mayor, which means the mayor has spoken twice in one month at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium on behalf of the movement.
Clearly, this is important stuff.
A certain editorial writer will tell you that life in Jacksonville would go on without the Jaguars, and he's right, it would, but there isn't a sensible person in this city that won't warn you of the devastating retraction this city would face in such a life.
This is it. This may be the most important offseason in the history of this franchise, possibly in the history of Jacksonville sports. Don't delude yourself into thinking there'll be another save the Jaguars. This is the one and only. Even the mayor issued a not-so-veiled warning.
"We have a history of overcoming in this city and we are at one of those moments again. The measuring stick of viability is ticket sales," he said.
It was not political rhetoric. It's the truth.