Friday, February 04, 2005

J'ville blues

As predicted here earlier, Jacksonville is getting bad reviews as a Super Bowl venue.
John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, during his regular show on Sportsradio610, says J'ville is "one and done" as far as a Super Bowl host city. "We won't be back."
Rainy weather and colder-than-normal temperatures have contributed greatly to the glum reviews, says he. He didn't want to say more, he said, because he felt bad for the city.

Over on "The Sports Animal," 790 AM, the new sports talker in town, Charlie Pallilo had an ESPN writer on the horn who said there aren't enough taxis in town to accommodate the demand. The writer said he called for a cab and was told by the dispatcher that one might be available in an hour and a half. The cab company apparently only 25 vehicles, he said.

Here are some other disparaging views of Jacksonville:
Fox Sports:

Last year it was Houston, which offered stunning views of petrochemical plants and is blessed with the dual charms of Los Angeles traffic and Calcutta's climate.

This year it's Jacksonville, certainly not an offensive place, but a sleepy, nondescript, sprawled city which is about as suitable a venue for a major sporting event as, say, Port Lincoln in South Australia.

Next year, the National Football League hits the trifecta of places where no one in their right mind would want to spend a week during winter: Detroit. Actually, Detroit's repulsion isn't limited to any single season.

Jacksonville, which has had to berth five cruise ships in the river in order to accommodate the 100,000 people who have come to this great American ritual, has countered the critics by boasting that it has more golf courses than any other city in the US.

Except that it has rained all week, and even the strippers - who, by the way, are not allowed to actually strip, the law requiring them to wear bikinis which include full coverage of buttocks - are wearing fleece jumpers, earmuffs and mittens.

Jacksonville has taken a beating in the American media, though it must be said the ever-present volunteers, with their friendliness and fixed smiles, reflect a community that is determined to make this event the success it can't be.

"The local spirit of volunteerism will melt the most cynical soul," wrote the Boston Globe's curmudgeonly columnist Dan Shaughnessy, "But it's still a yahoo town with no apparent borders.

"Bringing the biggest event on the US sporting calendar to Jacksonville was akin to giving the Olympics to Havana or the World Fair to Tikrit."

Prior to this, the most famous thing to come out of Jacksonville was the 1970s rock band, Lynard Skynard. Yet, significantly, their famous anthem was Sweet Home, Alabama.

"As a kid, (Jacksonville) was a little podunk town that people passed through going to Orlando and Miami," said the band's singer, Johnny Van Zant.

"It was kind of in the same category as Two Egg, if you've ever heard of that."

Two Egg turns out not to be a redneck breakfast snack but in fact a rural hamlet in the north of Florida.

USA Today:
...Jacksonville is the smallest market ever to host the game. The metro area has only 35,000 hotel rooms for the more than 100,000 people expected to invade the Jacksonville area. The area is even using docked cruise ships to add rooms.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
Anticipating a bashing by out-of-town media, a Super Bowl tradition that goes back at least as far as cocktails at 7 a.m., the Florida Times-Union has run several columns and features by its writers making fun of J-town, apparently an attempt to deflect attacks from wise-guy outlanders by beating them to the knife.

A sampling:

Yes, that's an ocean 15 miles east of here. But they built the city on a river. Go figure.

There are two kinds of homeowners in Jacksonville: Those who say they have cockroaches, and those who are liars.

The city recently chose a new slogan: Where Florida Begins. Runner-up slogan? The City That Sleeps.

Can't find a cab? Don't feel bad. Jacksonville natives have never seen one, either. "That's one o' them yeller cars, right?"

These journalists appear to know their town. Right outside the hotel door was a pedi-cab driver named Roger, who had come from New York with his company's wheels expecting to cash in.

"If I had known it was like this, I never would have come," said Roger, who charges a modest $6 per person for short trips downtown (there are only short trips downtown).

"People in New York think nothing of paying $20, $25, $30. These people down here don't tip."

Miami Herald:
Jacksonville is inspired beyond its station as the last of Florida's Southern cities, a big town looking to shed its vintage reputation as a backwater, a bit smelly from now-shuttered paper mills and racially uneasy. With so much at stake, city leaders are now working to reconcile Old South traditions and New South ideals.

As part of the Super Bowl makeover, the city has commissioned public art, and ordered a $3.5 million lighting overhaul of four downtown bridges -- though the sparkle has been dimmed off and on by fog -- a brand-new Riverwalk on the north riverbank and dozens of road improvements...
It's hard to say if all that will quiet the naysayers. Critics have boisterously questioned the locale, the appeal, the sense of grandeur.

''It doesn't bother me because we are not trying to be anything more than what we are,'' (Mayor) Peyton said. ``I just want to send the message that we are a clean city and a friendly city.''

Still, it isn't easy to hear your city get bulldozed.

''People are really giving us a hard time. But a lot of those people have never even been here or even plan to come. It's not fair,'' said Steven Pye, who spent the week giving massages to visitors at The Landing, a waterside complex of restaurants and shops.

``It's going to be interesting how people react to us. We are definitely going to be on the national map now. I just hope it's for all the right reasons.''

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