If the Jaguars can't roar, we will!
Week 8 was a big week for the Gridiron Gentlemen. Firstly our web designer, technical guru and podcast editor got married (huzzah and congratulations Russ). Secondly, the Gridiron Gentlemen made it into the heady world of media access to the teams. To put this into perspective, this was like gaining close access and interviews with a English Premiership football (fitba in Scotland) club. And we only started in July. For me, this shows how we have grown and where we can go from here. Throughout the week upto the Sunday game, the Gentlemen were present at the media events surrounding the 49ers and Jaguars. Here I recap my own experience and where the future of a London franchise might lie.
To cut a long story short, I am going to say the Jaguars should not be the London franchise, if one were to ever happen. If you want my reasons, read on, but it is a long story.
On Friday 25th October I turned into the tree lined driveway of the Pennyhill Park Hotel and Spa. I was early and so had to explain my presence until I could obtain my media pass and once obtained, was ushered in to the bar and lounge area. Thankfully there was coffee on hand as well as orange juice. Around 11:30am we were ushered out to the practice field, a rugby pitch converted for the week to a gridiron practice field. I must have missed the bit about when to start taking pictures as I started as soon as I got on the sidelines, watching the offense practice a snap (Henne managed to complete a pass), and was soon told off for taking pictures. So the warm up began with music being blasted out across the field and soon lines of players were stretching legs backs and arms, that was somewhat comical to watch. Ball catching was shortly followed by kickoff return practice.
If I could have written a quick report on Friday I would have said Todmann did not look as comfortable catching the ball as Sanders, I believe this was evident in the game on Sunday. I was really impressed with Ace Sanders and think he had quite a good game, showing positive play. On the practice field he reminded me of Ireland rugby international Peter Stringer for his agility and to wriggle through a defensive pack.
Kickoff and punt return practice
We were then lead back inside to await the press conference. Alas not all of my recordings are up to standard but I was deeply impressed by Gus Bradley. The guy is a rock, an anchor for the team and has so much energy and passion that it is infectious and must be able to keep the team going and shows an understanding of the game that any team should be grateful to have. The look of disappointment on his face during the game was so sad after experiencing his press conference, especially when Chad Henne on 4th and goal completely failed to connect an open pass to Mike Brown. But he must have energised the team in the second half and there were pockets of inspired play that show the slight glimmer that this is a team that can greatly improve. I like the fact that they did not go for a punt at the 4th down always and it paid off, with a few visits to the red zone and also lead to their only touchdown.
However on Friday, the team were leaving for London, for the Grosvenor Hotel, so the opportunity to corner some of the players was limited. A special pod cast of our week with the 49ers and Jaguars will include my interviews with Sen Derrick Marks, Will Blackmon and my new favourite Ace Sanders. They all play Xbox and GTA 5 is very popular though Sen Derrick is looking forward to Call of Duty.
All loved London and really enjoyed their visit (including the best ground beef Will had ever tasted). They are and probably will be for at least another season, plucky underdogs, they are owned by the same owner as Fulham and do have a lovely kit. So why are they the wrong team for a London franchise? Is it because they are not so well known and recently have played football which in the most part is painful to watch though with a few gem plays? No, because of what they actually mean to Jacksonville itself. Before Bradley came to the rostrum, I got chatting to one of the Jags film team. I did not record this as I was just being friendly, but it turned out she was from Jacksonville. She painted a picture of a town that did not have a major sports team, where college football was incredibly huge and rivalled the Jaguars in terms of supporters. Having a NFL team is important to Jacksonville, it gave the place a lift in 1995 and actually seems to act as a source of pride for the place, a focal point for the military town. The team matters and yes this season is pretty heartbreaking but they are pragmatic and know that there are up seasons and down seasons.The closest comparison I can come to is when Wimbledon FC was moved to Milton Keynes and became the MK Dons. Or when Inverness and Caledonian Thistle merged, was a big upheaval for teams so important in small towns.
This is why the Jaguars should not become the London franchise. They are a relatively new team but they are important to the predominantly military, northern Florida town of Jacksonville. In London, they would not matter nearly as much and more than likely would fade. A team with a broader home fan base maybe a better option, with the option of splitting the number of home games between the US and London. The Jaguars are not this team, they need support that the UK just cannot provide.
A solution maybe to encourage a greater number of teams to play here each year (say 8 games) helping to grow the existing fan base.
And this is what the Gridiron Gentlemen aim to do, help you folk get into and enjoy this marvellous sport. This is what we have been trying to do since July and will continue to do. So thank you for your support so far, we will keep on providing indepth perspectives on the Gridiron with a typical British understated twist. Keep on spending your time visiting our Facebook page and our twitter feed (@GridironGents) to stay abrest of random news and to ask us your questions.