Dave Reardon

Points East

By Dave Reardon

Monday, September 13, 1999

Jacksonville got
the win, but Jags
are all they have

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. --You can't blame this city for having an identity crisis. It's sprawling, but has little culture, tradition or personality -- and that's what the inhabitants say.

It's urban, but not urbane.

I don't go as far as my colleague John Hollis, however, who calls Jacksonville "the armpit of America." Sure, there are some smelly areas, and many neighborhoods where you can get yourself into a hairy situation. But that's true with any city.

Part of Jacksonville's problem is location. It is just north of the oldest city in America (St. Augustine), and the most famous beach east of Waikiki and racetrack south of Indy (both at Daytona).

Gainesville, once called by Money Magazine "The Most Livable City in America," is to the southwest. Savannah, so quaint and cuddly that Sherman spared it in his march to the sea, is a few miles to the north.

Until 1995, Jacksonville was known mostly for its paper mills and its huge naval base. It's also where Lynyrd Skynyrd grew up; but you'd never know it -- one of their most famous songs is "Sweet Home Alabama."


BUT now this metropolitan area of over a million has a rallying point. It's AllTel Stadium, where the Jaguars play football. They play it so well, they might be able to fight off the Sports Illustrated jinx -- SI, and many others, pick the Jaguars to go to the Super Bowl this season.

They certainly got a good start yesterday afternoon, manhandling the 49ers, 41-3. This will be remembered as the game where Mark Brunell stopped being a young Steve Young, and Steve Young became an old Mark Brunell.

And is it just me, or does Carnell Lake play a lot like old No. 42, Ronnie Lott, did for those great San Francisco teams?

Running back Fred Taylor didn't break off a long one last night, but maybe you'll get to see him do so -- in the 2000 Pro Bowl.

Teams have taken over cities before, but not like here -- probably because there was little to take the population away from in the first place.

Jane Inouye is a freelance publicist who has lived in Jacksonville the past three years after moving from Hawaii. I asked her to characterize the city in one sentence.

She frowned.

"Nothing town. ... No, sports town. ... No, Jaguars town."

Even if the 49ers become the worst team in the NFL, San Francisco will still have Fisherman's Wharf, the Golden Gate Bridge and cable cars.

That's not much consolation to you Niners fans in Hawaii.

Maybe it would help if you thought of it this way:

Even if the Jags win the Super Bowl, no one will ever say "Lucky You Live Jacksonville."

Dave Reardon, who covered sports in Hawaii
from 1977 to 1998, is a sportswriter at the
Gainesville Sun. E-mail

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