“I do not take a single newspaper, not read one a month, and I feel myself infinitely happier for it.” — Thomas Jefferson.
If Thomas Jefferson lived in Jacksonville he’d probably be an even stronger opponent of newspapers than he was in the 18th Century once he got a look at the Florida Times-Union.
The Jacksonville-based Times-Union, jettisoned its BS detector when it adopted a “There’s nothing to see here” approach to the NFL and Jaguars team activities it prefers to ignore.
The local team is experiencing one of its most successful seasons in a decade and may end up with its first winning record since 2008. However, they have soiled their success by displaying the league’s most egregious disrespect for the nation’s military, its veterans, and police. While players from many of the NFL teams knelt during the national anthem to protest what they claim is excessive force by police against blacks, the Jaguars took that disgusting protest to its lowest level in London September 24, where they embarrassed themselves and the city on the world stage.
Despite residing in an area heavily populated by military families, a dozen or so disrespectful Jaguars jumped on the misguided “we won’t stand for the national anthem” movement at a game in London, where they took a knee for the U.S. anthem and stood for the British one.
The team president issued a written apology to the city for the team’s actions that was as lame as the player’s insolence.
The T-U down plays all of this, instead enthusiastically peppering its pages with features, columns, profiles and editorials praising the local team.
The Jaguar and other NFL players are dimmer than a barrel of hair if they think their offensive contempt for their country is going to make a change in the cause they are espousing, a cause that they even have difficulty explaining. Their actions have triggered some changes alright, just not the ones players expected, and ones ignored by the Times-Union.
The public attitude adjustment these and other NFL protestors have created includes: empty seats at stadiums with attendance down throughout the league; dissension among team owners; exposing a bumbling and confused commissioner; the threatened loss of one of the league’s largest advertisers, Papa John’s Pizza, that claims the protests have caused it to lose money; the contempt of the general public; TV ratings that continue to fall weekly; social media forums showing former fans burning team paraphernalia and season tickets; fans turning their attention to hockey, baseball, and Sunday afternoon family outings with destinations that don’t include NFL football stadiums or sports bars; signs popping up on bar and restaurant marquees around the country boasting: “No NFL here”; and even the iconic and former L.A. Dodgers baseball announcer, Vin Scully, who may be the least controversial person in sports, saying that he will “never watch another NFL game.” By the end of the season former fans will have decided that it was a better use of their time to train their cat to do the backstroke than watch NFL games. Oh, and this Veterans Day weekend, disgruntled and disgusted fans are calling for a total national boycott of TV, radio and stadium NFL games.
So how does the Times-Union handle all of this? Two Section A lead editorials in the Wednesday, November 1 paper headlined “Jags earn respect” and “The Washington Post says our Jags are no joke” are a good place to start. These slavish, slobbering pieces pathetically pleaded with readers to support the home team, with one ending by saying: “So let’s wear our teal colors and enjoy the Jaguars newfound respect.” The other was a reprint of a Post sports editorial exclaiming that the Jaguars have emerged from “a perennial NFL punch line to “the Jaguars look like a playoff team.” Nowhere in these two fawning pieces were the kneeling Jags or the national anthem controversy mentioned. It’s like post-war World War II newspapers reporting on that conflict and omitting references to the victors, kamikazes, the atomic bomb, D-Day or the Holocaust.
The paper’s excessive evangelical team worship was blatantly obvious when half of the Saturday, November 4 Page 1A featured a profile and photo of the Jaguars’ Chief Legal Officer Megha Parekh and her admirable accomplishments. Since the story was about the head of the team’s legal department readers might expect that the reporter would ask Ms. Parekh about the anthem controversy. They’d be wrong. It wasn’t mentioned.
What’s next: articles on the grounds keepers at Everbank Stadium providing gardening tips; hot dog vendors offering their favorite recipes; cheerleader makeup and wardrobe suggestions?
The sports pages are continually buried in Jaguar puffery making it difficult to find room for any extensive reporting on other sports.
Sports columnist Gene Frenette is a prime example of the attitude of those living in the insulated T-U /Jaguar bubble. Frenette suggested the Jaguars pick up Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco quarterback, who started all the kneeling nonsense, and in subsequent columns expressed disgust because other teams won’t sign him. Kaepernick would be toxic to any team that touches him and even those desperate for a signal caller would rather search for one on eBay than go anywhere near this guy.
I suppose when you live in a city that is ranked the most crime-ridden in the state, number one in homicides, the most dangerous for pedestrians in the entire country, and buried in debt, a winning football team is a welcome diversion, warts and all. As the President would say: “Sad.”
While the Jaguars may experience their most successful season in years, they’ll do it with a stain that deserves an asterisk in the record books. As for the Times-Union, I paid $582.13 for a 2017 subscription to a publication that appears to be a joint venture between the NFL and Jaguars public relations departments. It’s a decision I will certainly rethink next year.
He’ll Be Listening & We’ll Be Watching: Phil Chapman, whose campaign platform as far as I could tell consisted of saying “I’ll listen” and not much more, defeated one of the best commissioners Fernandina Beach had when folks voted for him over incumbent Tim Poynter this past Tuesday. Despite his misguided support of the $4.2 million waste-of-money winged airport terminal and his inaccurate statement that the money isn’t tax money (grant money comes from tax payers somewhere), Poynter was the sharpest knife in that city’s drawer. In the other race none of the candidates received the required percentage necessary to win, thus forcing a runoff between the litigious Ronald “Chip” Ross and local businessman and community volunteer Orlando Avila on December 12, giving voters another opportunity to make a decision that will benefit all city residents by voting for Avila. To see a recent example of how much Ross’s actions can harm city residents go to www.fernandinaobserver.com http://ow.ly/syhL30gtIIy and read Legal Analyst Adam Kaufman’s excellent November 9 analysis of Administrative Law Judge Suzanne Van Wyk’s decision — rejecting without merit and basis — Ross’s recent legal actions against the city. Hopefully those that voted for third place candidate Medardo Monzon will support Avila. Why in the world would a voter living in the city vote for Ross under any circumstances? As of this writing the local print newspaper, the News-Leader, which blindly endorsed Ross, ignored the judge’s ruling, but did publish an almost full page article Wednesday about a local kid who grew a 21.6 pound cabbage. For a publication that calls itself a newspaper, it reads more like a poorly written church bulletin, a true dereliction of journalistic duty. A straw vote for mayor gave that job once again to Johnny Miller, providing him another shot at chasing TV cameras and news photographers, an area in which he excels.
Fee Or Flee: Members of the Amelia Cruisers, who have been putting on antique car shows in downtown Fernandina Beach for the past 21 years, drive here in everything from 1938 Packards to 1964 Mustangs but may leave in a “2017 huff” due to a 800 percent increase in city fees for them next year.
The Cruisers, who put on a popular and free car show downtown each October and donate their net entry fees to local scholarships, have been told that starting next year they will be charged $100 for each city block they use to display their antique cars. So, instead of the $100 fee paid this year, the club will pay at least $800 more next year if they decide to return and use the eight blocks they required last month to display their unique automobiles.
The City Commission approved the fee increase and I’m told that it will cover the cost of cleanup, which appears to be minimal since the streets look as clean after they leave as they did before they arrived. In addition these car buffs also print and post their own signs alerting the community about parking restrictions, prior to the event.
I’ve been told by many downtown merchants that the event drives business into their shops, restaurants and bars and they are anxious to have the Cruisers back.
The automobile buffs aren’t the only ones complaining. The Historic Fernandina Business Association’s (HFBA) popular Sounds on Centre event will also be hit with the new fee and they have expressed displeasure as well, saying they should be grandfathered in.
But the Fernandina Beach Main Street organization says it’s in agreement with fee hikes. Or at least its former Executive Director Jeff Kurtz, who recently resigned, said he agreed with the fee increase in a letter to City Public Information Officer Mary Hamburg dated October 25.
In the letter Kurtz said: “These fees will eliminate the haphazard way in which some (not all) event organizers closed huge sections of the downtown for events that then did not utilize those streets. It will also, I believe, help ensure that events that occur in the downtown are solid, quality events intent on adding to the business climate in downtown Fernandina Beach. Special events that utilize city right of ways and highly sought after, prime downtown parking should be equipped to work with what I believe to be a very reasonable fee structure…”
On the other hand local banjo-playing businessman Chuck Hall, responding on behalf of the HFBA, says that while his group is not supportive of unlimited closings, the HFBA is a solid supporter of quality, regulated street closings for a limited number of events per year. He says “There is a problem, however, as we see it, with the current broad-brush fees that the City seems to now apply.”
Hall says “… the City has determined that just ‘applying a fee across the board’ will solve all their problems, and these events will just go away. We do not agree with this method for a variety of reasons. Our mission as the HFBA is to bring trade and traffic downtown. If the City decides that it is an all-or-nothing solution, we disagree.
“Events (for examples only) such as our own Sounds On Centre concerts, The Shrimp Festival, The Farmers Market, annual car show, Dickens on Centre, (among others) are already providing entertainment, traffic, and visitors to downtown. These might not provide vast sales to our businesses the day ‘of the event’, but we know that people come back again to visit the stores, once they have discovered our shopping area.
“We think the City should exempt these traditional and known events, while restricting and charging for NEW EVENTS. There are expenses for the City that should be met, and these current events are already paying permit fees and police services.
“Perhaps the City has erred in this approach, and we would hope that they apply a bit more thought to this issue, rather than a knee-jerk response of taxing the problem away.”
An alert reader pointed out to me that the local airport charges no landing fees but $4.2 million is being sunk into a winged terminal there to attract “customers” while the city drives away a group that actually brings in customers and donates to local student scholarships. “Some call that ironic; I call it asinine,” added the local citizen. I agree.
Clink, Clank, Clunk Department: The country’s largest petanque competition, the Pétanque Amelia Island Open (Nov. 10-12),which attracts players from the 50 states and more than 19 countries, including Mongolia and New Zealand will be held here this weekend. There is no admission charge to the competition and related festivities, which will take place at the waterfront courts at the Fernandina Harbor marina from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 11, and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 12. Highlights of the activities can be found at http://bit.ly/petanqueamelia. The event is free to spectators and will feature food trucks, live music at lunchtime, and artisan cocktails from Amelia Island distillery, Marlin & Barrel and more. Petanque is a non-strenuous French-inspired activity that involves tossing a small metal ball with one hand at a tiny colored wooden ball, leaving the other hand free to hold beer, wine or other alcoholic beverage, while a cigarette — preferably a Gauloises or Gitanes — dangles from the mouth.
Plink, Plank, Plunk Department: Vitaly Makukin, one of the most unusual and talented guitar players I have ever heard this side of Les Paul and Chet Atkins performed at PJD’s South 2nd Street Beer & Wine Garden this past Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. Not exactly a household name hereabouts, the tall stocky Mr. Makukin, who hails from Ukraine, looks more like a football linebacker than a musician and coaxes more incredible music out of the neck of his guitar than most musicians can do using the entire instrument with a technique called tapping, almost like playing a piano. He doesn’t speak a word of English, and doesn’t have to since his music eliminates the language barrier, as the numerous rounds of enthusiastic applause indicated. He’ll be around for the Petanque tournament and tonight will perform at The Green Turtle with Dan Voll. Go see this guy, you’ll thank me.
Not So Free Speech: The University of Florida and the University of California at Berkeley spent $600,000 each in security expenses for white national Richard Spencer’s and author Ben Shapiro’s visits respectively to their campuses recently. I find it ironic that the schools are paying to protect their property and attendees from their own students. Why not arrest, press charges and then expel the trouble makers to set an example of what happens to those who attempt to stifle free speech no matter how disagreeable they may find it.
Is It Just Me Or…Whenever a photo of disgraced Hollywood film company executive Harvey Weinstein appears I see a fat, jowly, unshaven slob who looks like he got dressed in the dark during a wind storm after sleeping under an Interstate overpass. No wonder he couldn’t get to first base without force.
Driving Them Out? California saw a big jump in the price of fuel last week. The diesel excise tax went from 16 cents per gallon to 36 cents, and the sales tax rate went from 9 percent to 13 percent. Gasoline prices went up 12 cents per gallon. The money generated will fund transportation projects, such as rebuilding roads and bridges, for anyone still there. Source: Overdrive via Georgia Public Policy Foundation.
Tom McEwen and Bob Chick (St. Pete Independent) were friends. Good scribes. I was a sophomore at SPJC and watched maybe 1/2 dozen practices on that awful field. Hot. No shade. I’m thinking George Mira but I think I’m confusing the QB with the Miami Hurricanes and the Dolphins? Wahoo McDaniel was more famous as a wrestler then a football player. I vaguely remember that actor Danny Thomas was a part owner. Team stayed at The Happy Dolphin Inn across the street. Had a girlfriend working their and she said things often got crazy around the pool and bar. Imagine that.
FYI…I grew up in St. Pete reading David Scott’s sport columns. Tampa Tribune. My friends, that was a long time ago and in the inaugural season in 1966 of the Miami Dolphins training in a sandspur patch of field across from The Happy Dolphin Inn on St. Pete Beach.
WOW! Tom, that was a long time ago… 51 years. I’m impressed and flattered you remember those days when I worked for the best sports editor in America at that time –Tom McEwen, for a starting salary of $92.50 a week. Remember the Dolphins first coach, George Wilson? And who was its first QB? I’ll buy you a beer for the answer to that one. Also on that team were Wahoo McDaniel, Rick Casseres, Cookie Gilchrist, and Gene Mingo, all notorious characters….what a fascinating time for me to cover a pro football team’s camp, most of them cast offs. Thanks for bringing back some fond memories.
Cancelled my TU subscription 15 years ago and haven’t looked back. Almost no Nassau County coverage and the rest, I discovered, was not relevant to me.
Ditto for the Jaguars. I haven’t been much of a sports fan since I left high school. Last time I visited EverBank Field (Alltel Stadium?) was to see a Monster Truck Rally. Much more exciting.
I think the T-U is right in covering its team, but should also make sure it takes a strong and very visible position on the National Anthem issue. Can’t fault them for covering the team. Can fault them for putting their collective heads in the sand.
You are spot on in your post on the Florida Times Union and Jacksonville Jaguars. Because of the disrespect by the over priced NFL Teams I no longer watch or attend any NFL games. I canceled my FTU subscription almost 2 years ago when they were provided information on the number of deaths of employees at a local healthcare facility but refused to move forward with the story. Liberal mouthpieces like Mike Williams and Ron Littlepage are nothing short of vomit city with the BS printed. Littlepage, who is blind to anything good a Repblician politician does in Florida, is simply a poor excuse for a writer. I automatically support any public official or cause based on him coming out of the closet aganist.
I have mixed thoughts on your Jacksonville story as it is my home town.Way back when it was good place to grow up,just an over grown small town.Then the leaders thought it was a good idea to merge the city and county governments creating the largest city by area in the country.That was a great idea that went sour as Jax was never the same.Big yes good no too much crime and urban sprawl.I have no connection to it any longer as all my family is moved on.
I don’t get the NFL. Look, if a young server at a restaurant or any other business I might own dished up his or her political views with each customer interaction we would have a talk like this; “Charlie, I admire the fact that you are passionately involved in the issues of the day. But pitching your point of view is not why you work here. There are lots of other place to make your opinions known. So I am going to have to ask you to stop telling our clients what you think about political matters And if you don’t stop I will have to replace you.” Why should it be any more complicated for NFL management and owners?