Musings, opinions, observations, questions, and random thoughts on island life, Fernandina Beach and more

Musings, opinions, observations, questions, and random thoughts on island life, Fernandina Beach and more

Soccer Or Turnips Boiling! What’s More Exciting?

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

The two groups also are encouraging people to attend, even if they are not city residents.


Neon Moon Saloon

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.


Amelia Island’s Sliders expressing the sentiment of many.

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.

  • Comment (14)
  • 2 things – The first is a Homer Simpson quote while attending a soccer game in Springfield – “Geez, no wonder they riot in Europe.”
    The second is – enough with the muffulettas,

  • Many decades ago I read a short story about soccer. It seems that the game wasn’t generating enough income for the owners. One day they noticed that the real action was in the stands (as you pointed out). They decided to score the fans activities instead. As the game was played on the field, judges awarded points to the opposing fans based on who started a fight, who won the fight, how many fans were killed, who did the most damage to the stadium (and surrounding town), etc. Maybe it’s a concept whose time has come?

  • Children the world over grow up playing futbol or soccer because all they need is a ball and a little space, a dirt street not too crowded will suffice. Of course in the USA our kids play on grassy soccer fields with goals that have nets and stands full of supportive parents. I enjoyed coaching my kids for ten years and have a collection of doodads and trophies to show for it. As always I enjoy your witty metaphors, but I must defend “the beautiful game”.
    Data from 2014 shows soccer in a virtual tie with basketball for the lead in youth sports participation at just over 9.5 million each, and both well ahead of football and baseball (the soccer numbers combine indoor, 2 million, with outdoor, 7.5 mil.)
    Other sources show 25 million people in the US play soccer at some level. Nearly 20,000 paid attendees is the average attendance at NASL games (don’t know about Jax). And 70,000 attended a game recently at the new stadium in Atlanta.
    In Africa, the beautiful game is credited with changing the culture on the continent and even raising GDP among nations while helping put past differences in the past. See this beautiful game documentary vid (4:46):

    And there’s even a musical about soccer (NFL?!?). Wiki: ” The Beautiful Game is a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Ben Elton about a group of teenagers growing up during The Troubles in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1969….The title of the musical (The Beautiful Game) is taken from Pelé’s autobiography My Life and the Beautiful Game. The plot, which is centred on a local football (soccer) team, focuses on the attempt to overcome the violence that has engulfed their community.”
    To me, it’s the individual skills and the beautiful connections that come from selfless teamwork that makes it the beautiful game. That and memories of wonderful times with my boys and their friends.

  • Dave, I share your views on soccer although Arthur Blank’s soccer team is drawing a lot of fans in the new Atlanta stadium.

    I always thought that soccer and ice hockey shared the same problem, namely not enough scoring, and that the solution for both sports was to eliminate off sides which would encourage more breakaways which is one of the attractions of basketball.

  • Gees Dave, Sounds to me like LaPort Texas is your kinda town ( “The look and smell of money”)
    Sorry Amelia Island is so Economically challenged, and Environmentally backwards. We have the potential, if we only use La port as a Template. The Quality of life sounds stunning in LaPort. ” Oil Refineries, Storage Facilities, and Distribution Terminals. But hey, the economy is booming. and to-boot a Biker Bar. Sounds like a Alt-Right republican Shangri -La to me. So have you got your For Sale sign in your front lawn yet.? I personally don’t know any folks on Amelia Island that would trade the Quality of Life to that extent for a $20,000/year increase in their income. You may, you and I travel in different circles. While I was working, I spent time in Baytown and Beaumont Tex. Both of these places are totally off my Bucket List for places to retire to.

  • If one can enjoy professional baseball with its wasting of time via the spitting, rearranging of private parts and just standing around; more power to you. In soccer there is none of that disgusting, distracting and wasteful activity. When the whistle blows, the game is on. You need to have understood this game as a child or the parent of a child soccer player to see the finesse, the skills and tactical play. Sit with a true team fan sometime. They might be willing to share the phenomenon of the game. Eyes wide open.

  • I quite agree with you about soccer being narcoleptic. Jacksonville needs professional soccer like Custer needed more Indians.
    Years ago I worked with an assistant editor who had gone to school up nawth and had played college soccer (though he was a blue-eyed, white-bread gringo). He was always trying to interest me in the game. He would tell me things like, “More people play soccer than any other sport in the world.” I would counter with, “Yea, they play it so they don’t have to watch it.” One day after work, while the World Cup was on, we repaired to a local sports bar for a restorative. Every seat in the place was taken by someone watching soccer on the big TV sets. My friend said, “See, I told you Americans like soccer.” I said, “Yea, watch this.” Then I yelled, “INMAGRACION!!” In 15 seconds we had the place to ourselves.
    Soccer is a favorite of Lexus liberals who visited Europe once and probably should have stayed there. It’s the metric system of sports. If soccer is Europe’s favorite sport, it’s no wonder they started two world wars. It was to break the boredom. (They drink warm beer too.) If all I had to do all afternoon and evening was watch soccer, I’d send armored divisions through the Ardennes too.

  • Dave once again I think you missed the net. Over 42 million people play soccer in the United States. It’s the fastest growing sport. . Soccer fields out number baseball fields and football fields. . It is also a Global sport. Why would you be opposed to something that would bring Revenue into our town and help to create jobs? More importantly why would you be against any sport that helps to show the youth of Jacksonville that there’s more to life then video games. Re think this one Dave you definitely got a penalty flag on this

  • The Harris Poll ranks America’s favorite sports every year. Among adults who follow one or more sports, pro football led in 2016 with 33%. Baseball 15, men’s college football 10, auto racing 6, men’s pro basketball 5, ice hockey 5, men’s soccer 4, men’s college basketball 4, men’s golf 3, boxing 3, swimming 2, track & field 2, horse racing 1, women’s soccer 1, both women’s college and pro basketball 1, men’s tennis 1, everything else less than half a percent, and 3% not sure. So anyway that’s a surprise even to me, a soccer fan, that soccer is as popular as college basketball, more popular than boxing, and just a point less popular than pro basketball and hockey.

    More casuals would pack Halftime etc. if America were in it this year, but soccer fans will still pile in for the big games between the big teams later in the tournament (Germany, England, Italy, Brazil, Argentina, etc.). Lots of people in soccer-poor nations have a favorite national team not their own. Mine’s England for example. It just seems like they should win but it’s always a disappointment and I do care less once both they and the USA inevitably bow out, but I’m definitely still in for the final. People won’t pack Halftime for Togo vs Belize in the first round at 11 am on a Tuesday, but if prior Cups are any guide they’ll pack it like sardines for the final no matter who is in it and it’ll be hard to elbow your way to the bar for a beer or cajole one out of that surly barmaid out on the floor, a tough task on a good day.

    No one likes 0-0 games, it’s true, even amongst soccer fans. But just as boxing devotees call their sport the sweet science, soccer fans echo Pele in calling theirs the beautiful game. Boxing puts me to sleep and I only care (slightly? idly?) about the few seconds of knockout highlight reel they show on the news, assuming there is one. I take nothing away from their effort and skill but I just could not care less. But when I see the best people in the world play soccer, even their simplest fundamentals of ball control and crisp, accurate passing are beautiful, especially when compared to the US team’s long history of sloppy, inelegant play. Even when they’re not doing anything exciting, just trying to set something up from behind the midfield line, what they do is beautiful. I get it that non-soccer fans can’t see that, just like boxing fans would tell me I’m not paying attention to what I’ll assume is the artistry of good boxing technique. I’ll echo what others have said here in pointing out baseball’s extensive periods of not much action. I love a day at the ballpark anyway, just for the atmosphere.

    Whether it could generate an impact on the Jax economy, I couldn’t say. Wikipedia says the final game in L.A. in 1994 made a $623 million impact on that economy over a month while the Superbowl that year only did $182 million in the same time. That same blurb has another guy saying the 1994 Cup cost the US $5.6 billion though, so I guess it depends on how you count the beans and what agenda you might have. From what I’ve read, economists have said that things like the Olympics don’t actually have a real lasting change on economic activity, and that ultimately it’s more about people just liking hosting these things in their city. As for soccer’s profitability in the US overall, it must be profitable enough for the MLS to have lasted for almost 22 years now. I’ve seen some NASL coverage on the other hand and attendance is truly dire, so we’ll see if they can make it to their tenth birthday in 2021. But otherwise soccer looks like it’s here to stay this time, unlike prior attempts.

    If it was just our local and national soccer fan base buying tickets and showing up, I don’t know how worth it would be in Jax, but that’s moot because people will come from all over the world to every game no matter where it’s hosted because it’s the world’s most popular sport. If there was a game in Jax, even between the worst two teams in the Cup, I’d definitely still buy tickets just to be a part of the overall experience and see the excited fans from all over the world.

  • I’m surprised anyone would attempt a fish and chips place within a stone’s throw of Timoti’s. It’s not like we don’t have two similar Mexican places within a tee shot of each other downtown, but still. It seems like you’d want to pick something we don’t already have in order to differentiate and have the best chance. What cuisines are we missing down there? I vote for Thai. Come on, give me Thai. Nice sit-down Thai or medium sit-down Thai or quickish-service order at the counter Thai like at Timoti’s, Tasty’s, or Moon River. But give me Thai. Don’t make me cross the bridge for Thai.


    Let’s see, what else. Hey maybe an actual, real, dedicated, nice, sit-down place that specializes in fresh seafood straight off the boats. I’ve never understood why we don’t really have that. Marina, eh. Crab Trab, kind of chain-like and kitschy/casual. Cedar River, come on. Timoti’s, more of a casual quickish service place despite being good. We have other restaurants that have seafood of course, but it’s not exactly the main focus. Would all the decently-heeled visitors who come and stay downtown at the Hampton and B&Bs like to go to a really nice seafood place here in the birthplace of the shrimping industry? We’re an island for crying out loud, why isn’t this already our specialty?! We ought to be able to brag about it, to draw people in from Jax and Waycross and the rest, just for the seafood.


    How about Indian? Nicer Japanese? How about tacos of the world, a fusion concept where they take the Mexican concept global in terms of ingredients. How about soul food? Is downtown too cute and quaint for that? A good ol’ Jewish deli? Korean BBQ? Peruvian ceviche etc? Something hazily regional-African? Pho, or something more broadly Vietnamese? Caribbean or Hawaiian or Filipino? Vegan? A breakfast place? Whatever cuisine the original island resident Timucua Indians ate? A multi-ethnic noodle bowl place? A place that makes use of the still-good food that other restaurants and grocery stores would otherwise throw out?


    I always want more pizza, more tacos, more burgers, more barbecue, but I think we’re all stocked up on those even just downtown, and we have the classic Mexican, French, Italian, and even Spanish covered downtown also, with Chinese and sushi scattered around elsewhere. Vote your choice in the comments, everybody. Let’s convince these people to do something other than replicate fish and chips so close to fish and chips.

  • I went to Down Under the other day and was pleasantly surprised. I had seen a concerning review or two but our meal was enjoyable. Perfectly seared scallops are my favorite thing, but they’re so often mis-cooked and you usually either get like three big scallops, which isn’t enough for an entree, or you get a little pile of the mini-marshmallow sized ones that are unsatisfying to eat in any number. I’m happy to report that the scallops at Down Under are wonderful. They’re not the biggest I’ve seen but they’re big enough to qualify as the big kind, and we got seven in our order, which I think isn’t unreasonable. They were expertly seared, tender and luscious in side, and coated in a truly delicious thin glaze/sauce. I had a shrimp po-boy that definitely could have used better bread (it was a cheapo dry sub bun) but the innards were fine. I’d probably just order fried shrimp with remoulade next time and tell them to keep the bread. The setting is a fun one. I’ve wanted for that place to be back in operation for years and it’s nice that it’s finally back on the list of places to go. I wish we could install a lift under that place and jack it up onto 10 foot stilts so it would stop getting damaged by flooding repeatedly. That has to be basically the worst location we’ve got for flood risk and they’re only about four or five feet above the water, tides depending.

  • Dave Scott’s affection for Scott Pruitt, now head of Trump’s version of the EPA is informative. Flows over to his credibility on other issues, like world class soccer.

  • Hey Dave – Soccer’s a little slow and boring for you? Well, I’ve got just the thing – Professional Fencing. That’s right Dave, I’m thinking of putting together a group of couch potato investors to get this exciting sport right here in Nassau County and we could use some seed $$$$$ -interested?. We’re concentrating on Epee rather than Foil or Sabre because that’s where the action is requiring a large amount of concentration, accuracy and speed.

    If you thought Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs had something going in their Battle of the Sexes just wait till you watch the Battle of the Sexes with Epee where two people are trying to make shish kabob of each other. Make’s one breathless just thinking about it!


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