Jacksonville is one of 34 cities being considered as a host for the 2026 World Cup, the Super Bowl of soccer. The last time it was held in 2014 in Brazil, 200 teams played a total of 853 matches in 30 days and scored a total of three points.
For most Americans, watching turnips boil is more exciting than soccer. And now that the U.S. has been eliminated from the 2018 World Cup competition I can’t imagine folks pouring into the Halftime Sports Bar & Grill or any other sports bar hereabouts to watch Togo play Belize or any other match.
That why I find it odd that anyone would think they can generate revenue in the U.S. with a soccer team. Robert Palmer, a wealthy 37-year-old mortgage company owner and central Florida resident, bought Jacksonville’s North American Soccer League (NASL) kickballers — the Armada. He says he expects advertising and broadcast agreements for the team to boost viewership and drive customers to his mortgage company. Good luck with that Mr. Palmer.
Armada games will be broadcast on two area FM radio stations. If you think watching soccer in person is deadly boring, listening to it on the radio is a cure for insomnia.
Mr. Palmer is either delusional or one of those rabid fans who gets up at 3 a.m. to sit in his den to watch a team from Morocco play a team from Bulgaria on a TV channel, broadcasting in Spanish from Madrid.
The only reason people here watch soccer is because they think it’s cool or they are from countries that don’t have baseball or basketball. There is absolutely nothing cool about soccer. Americans don’t like it regardless of how much the kickball fanatics try to jam it down our throats.
In baseball, basketball and American football turnovers and errors are costly mistakes. In soccer, that’s all there is. It’s a miracle when you don’t see a turnover every 10 seconds as 22 players run up and down a field, as though they are on crack, missing goals at either end by 20-30 feet. A goal in soccer is such a rare occurrence that announcers talk about the ones they witnessed in games five to ten years ago.
Do you have to be in excellent physical shape to play soccer? Yep! Do you have to have great skills to keep the ball in play? Yep! Does anybody here want to sit through a 0-0 game? Nope.
Watching soccer fans watch a soccer match is far more exciting than watching the match itself. When I lived in Atlanta I would occasionally frequent a joint in the Buckhead district called Fado’s, an Irish pub.
Expatriate Irish and British soccer fans were welcomed into this place to watch some European, African or South American teams kick a ball around a field for several hours in a mind-numbing, turnip-boiling frenzy of tedium that normally ended with a score of 1-0, 1-1 or a 0-0 slugfest. The fans at Fado were usually drunk by 10 a.m. And they sang. A few were still there in a semi conscious state when I arrived around lunchtime. The fans were far more fun to watch than any soccer game on one of Fado’s TVs.
I checked out the attendance figures for the NASL games. After seeing the numbers I’m thinking there are probably more players, family members and sports writers watching than fans.
Statistics from the NASL say that the Armada, which plays its games at the University of North Florida’s Hodges Stadium, is averaging 2,806 people a match, about the same number that tune into MSNBC’s nightly news. The league average attendance in 2016 was 4,684, a number that MSNBC can only dream about.
Even new owner Palmer admits that those dismal numbers are inflated and that the actual average attendance is probably under 2,000 as some 1,000 folks wouldn’t even show up with a free ticket in hand. A game played there against Miami in early August drew just 1,186 while a few weeks ago a Puerto Rican team attracted an all-time low of just 780 folks, probably family members, sports writers, and a few UNF students looking for a quiet place to study.
I worked for American firms that did business internationally and lived in France and Belgium for a number of years in the 1980s and 1990s. While there I attended soccer matches in villages where I lived and watched as every person in town jammed into the local arena to scream encouragement at the locals and heap abuse on the visiting villagers. The most points I ever saw scored in a match was two.
I also watched owners of cafes in my local village set up chairs theater style prior to a European match as locals poured in to watch a nationally televised game, sort of like a sports bar Sunday football in the U.S. except without any scoring, cheerleaders or excitement. But it wasn’t the game, but the bawls in the stadium and in the streets after the game that made the 6 o’clock news across Europe. In some South American countries disgruntled fans even kill the referees.
Before the dimwitted NFL players decided to disrespect the flag, the national anthem, the police, and the veterans, I used to prefer American football where the violence is on the field, not in the stands or the streets. I also like to see a goal scored occasionally. If the folks who run soccer gave the players clubs or allowed them to grab the ball and run into the goal once they got within 10 yards of it, or allowed tackling, they could make the game a contact sport on the field rather than in the stadium. But until they start putting more spectators in the seats here there’s not even enough folks near the stadium to start a decent brawl.
I also wonder how many new mortgage customers Mr. Palmer will recruit with his new purchase. And will the sellers and buyers put up a good fight during their closings?
Fernandina Airport Update: When I went to the Fernandina Beach Airport to pickup and return a rental car recently it was teeming with passengers who were just hanging out, watching planes take off and land, reading magazines, using the vending machines, etc. Nah, just kidding, the only people I saw the three times I was there were three airport employees and Jordan, the Hertz Rental Car guy. The pilots and their passengers had all skedaddled, most without even bothering to step inside the terminal. Tell me again Mr. City Manager why we need a $4.2 million airport terminal building with wings?
A Forum “Fore” Candidates: Folks that missed the last public forums for candidates running for seats on the Fernandina Beach City Commission can catch one next Thursday, October 26, sponsored by the Fernandina Beach Men’s Golf Association (FBMGA) and the Fernandina Beach Women’s Golf Association (FBWGA) at 6 p.m. at the Fernandina Beach Golf Course
All five candidates have been invited including Timothy M. Poynter, Group 2; Philip A. Chapman, Group 2; Orlando Jose Avila, Group 3; Medardo Monzon, Group 3 and Ronald Joseph “Chip” Ross, Group 3.
If you want to provide a question about the future of the City of Fernandina Beach and of course any questions about the future of the Fernandina Beach Golf Course and the Amelia River Golf Course send them to Steve Murphy, General Manager of the Fernandina Beach Golf Course at email@example.com
The two groups also are encouraging people to attend, even if they are not city residents.
The Look And Smell Of Money: Linda and I recently traveled to Texas to celebrate her high school reunion and when we arrived in La Porte, (City motto: If you think this is ugly wait until you see Beaumont), we were greeted by a city teeming with oil refineries, petroleum storage facilities and distribution centers. It’s so flat you can stand on a chair and see Mexico from this bay area town, about 35 minutes outside of Houston. Our hotel was located in the center of a prairie, bristling with refineries and similar scenic views. Despite the dreary landscape, we were impressed with the fact that the economy there is thriving. These folks keep America moving and if you need a job and are willing to work, there are plenty of employment opportunities to be had here where the medium household income is $71,067. Linda actually attended high school in La Marque (City motto: If you like La Porte, you’ll love La Marque), but the reunion staff had connections at the Houston Yacht Club, located in La Porte, and that was the site of their celebratory events. I was surprised to learn that this yacht club is not only in La Porte, but that that it is the oldest yacht club in Texas, established in 1897 with its first commodore a former Texas Ranger. Where was I going with all this? Oh yeh, appearances can be deceiving. La Porte is like the girl your friend’s mother in high school was always trying to fix you up with when she said: “She may not be very attractive, but she’s nice and very funny.” Despite the bleak landscape, I met some terrific people and had a fun time, especially at the Neon Moon Saloon, a not very attractive but fun biker bar close to our hotel, but that’s another story for another time.
Cops 855, NFL 0: NFL players have been arrested 855 times since 2000 including 215 DUI charges, 99 drug charges, 96 domestic violence cases and 71 assaults and even two murders according to statistics compiled by USA Today. That works out to a little more than 50 arrests a year with the Houston Texans mostly staying out of trouble with just 13 arrests and the Minnesota Vikings with the longest rap sheet, compiling 49 arrests. The Jaguars didn’t fare much better with 35 arrests. Maybe those taking a knee during the national anthem to object to police brutality are protesting the cops that arrested them.
More Dim Bulbs: Five cheerleaders at a college in Kennesaw, Georgia are vowing to kneel in the stadium tunnel when the national anthem is played at Saturday’s homecoming game. The five were moved off the field by their university after an earlier protest. The so-called Kennesaw Five will kneel outside the view of fans in the tunnel of the 8,300-seat Fifth Third Bank Stadium, cheerleader Shlondra Young said Monday. The fans aren’t happy and even the DeKalb County Sheriff expressed his outrage. I lived in DeKalb County at one time and if these loopy gals want to protest something they should demonstrate a county so corrupt that barely a month goes by that one of its appointed or elected officials isn’t charged with a crime.
Economical Power Play: Kudos to Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, for announcing his plan to dismantle the Obama-era “Clean Power Plan” rule. As the Georgia Public Policy Foundation pointed out in 2015, “This nation has never been sold a bigger, costlier bill of goods” than the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan (climate action plan) to reduce carbon emissions, which the administration had fervently tried to re-label as carbon ‘pollution.’ Did you know we have a nephew of a well-known island resident who is now responsible for making key environmental decisions at the EPA? Well, we do!
Things I Wish I Had Said: “I could have been a Rhodes Scholar except for my grades.” — Duffy Daugherty, Michigan State.
Drinking, Dining & Dancing: I was told recently that the now shuttered Dog Star bar on North 2nd Street will see new life as a restaurant/bar, possibly a fish and chips type eatery but wasn’t given a date when it may open. I hear that the Sheffield’s Kelly Manus managed Decantery in the old Centre Street Sheffield’s location next to the The Palace will boast well over 1,000 bottles of wine, a full bar, and a cheese and meat style charcuterie. It will also feature liquor for sale by the bottle and glass, craft and other beers and feature an engraver on site for gifts for special occasions. Ladies will love it as there will be no TVs blaring sports, loud rock music, or dogs to trip over, just a classy, relaxing economically priced downtown get-a-way. Look for an opening in late December. I indulged in one of Joey Ledet’s muffuletta’s last Saturday at The Surf and can continue to say that this is the best sandwich on the island. Get a pie-sized one for $19 and a half for $11. One is a meal for two adults and a kid. The recently opened Down Under on the Intracoastal waterway under Shave Bride is attracting a generous crowd of folks and it’s rare to find someone who has a negative word to say about it. However, its popularity has obviously become a problem for VFW Post 4351 on Wade Place Road, the only route to and from the restaurant and bar that goes past the VFW location as they’ve seen fit to post the sign pictured here.