Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Happy 17th Birthday Jacksonville Jaguars...will you see many more?

The Crew at the Hyatt Bar-Dan flew back w/team
A good friend of mine reminded me what the folks in Jacksonville, Florida celebrate at this time every year. It's something I probably should forget, if for the simple fact that I was in the room when it happened.

That "it" was the announcement on November 30th, 1993 at the Hyatt O'Hare Airport hotel. That announcement was that the city of Jacksonville was getting an NFL football team.

At the time, I was still a struggling relative youngster in the TV business, and the story about the city of Jacksonville trying to get a team pretty much consumed my life for oh...a good six months or so. A non-stop slew of stories, most with Investigative reporter/football fan Michael Dillin on the group trying to get the team and at the time, how badly they were bungling the attempt.

They eventually, got the money man they needed, Wayne Weaver, to take control and they figured out how to get sentiment on their side with a creative marketing plan that tapped hard into the local media.

Still, they were on the outside looking in.

The 1st expansion meeting took place in early October. That's when Charlotte got their team. The owner's could come to an agreement on the other, due to the fact that all the remaining cities and groups had some holes in their presentations. Yes, we were there. And we left wondering if or what would happen.

We went back. Seven of us. Me, Jeff Imperial, Michael, Sports Dude Dan Hicken, Field Producer Mo Gordon...Rex Wells and Merle Metts drove up the Satellite Truck.

We knew something might be up the minute we walked into the hotel. A few of the reporters recognized us and said something to the extent of "Good Luck, we hear this may be a good trip for you". We all looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders.

A little later, we got an opportunity to interview the potential ownership group and someone from the NFL and we knew something was up. We didn't know what, but things were different than our last visit.

That next morning, the day of the meeting and vote was a blur. From Jeff finding the NFL Properties guy walking with a helmet to Michael and I finding both a Jacksonville and St. Louis background in the press announcement room...something was up.

It was around 1 or 1:30 in the afternoon when we knew. Dan was live on TV, turned and saw the Jacksonville group heading into the announcement room. He yelled at them "Did we get it?". Deron Cherry, a minority owner and the others, turned slightly, gave a "Thumbs Up" and walked into the room. From there it was on.

6 hours later, we finally shut the cameras down for the day. 6 hours later, we didn't realize what had happened. We finally got to sleep around 1am. We were on a plane out of O'Hare at 6am that morning and were carted directly to a rally with 40,000 people at the football stadium. Again...all a blur.

We wish the Jaguars a happy 17th birthday. We hope for the city and area's sake, that they have many, many more.

Here is a story that I did on the 1st Anniversary of the announcement. Yes, I shot an interview with a really old and somewhat scary version of myself too.


roadglide said...

Great story and great memories. But do you remember how close we came to NOT getting the team. The night the city council, in their infinite wisdom(yeah right) decided they didn't like the terms of the agreement and turned down Mr Weavers proposal. He stormed out of the meeting and around 1:30am he called a press conference to announce they were done. It took a lot more community effort and support but eventually they got the council turned around and the rest, as they say, is history.

phil cantor said...

I do. Was at the presser. They bottomed out that day. There was a meeting of community business types, they came up with the ticket commitment drive and we think they made some promises in order to get 'em back into it.

But they were serious that if the drive didn't work, they were done. Was a crazy time...