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What's A Big Deal Anymore In Jax?

Commentary By Channel 4 Sports Director Sam Kouvaris

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – What?s a big deal anymore?

Jacksonville has grown from a town of 200,000 in 1980 to a sprawling city of nearly 1.4 million in the last 30 years. Yet, it?s hard to pin down just what is a big deal to the people who live here.

Is it because we?re so diverse?

Westsiders almost never go to the beach. If you live on the Northside, you rarely venture south of the St. Johns River. Beach people never come over ?the ditch.? And if you?re south of town, everything you ?need? is right there.

So why is it so hard for everybody to make a ?big deal? about something?

Even the recent city election failed to capture anybody?s attention as less than 29 percent of voters turned out. Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver called that apathy by the community ?shameful.?

I often get asked, ?What in the world did you cover before the Jaguars came here?? Well, believe it or not, there were plenty of things to capture our attention, and many of them were considered a ?big deal.?

College football in Gainesville, Tallahassee and Athens (and even in Miami) was and still the thing that captures everybody?s attention. Every weekend in the fall was some kind of celebration, some bigger than others.

When the Florida-Georgia game rolls around, the city has a spark not seen any other week. The Gator Bowl is fun, but as far as the locals go, they think it?s an excursion for the two teams? fans.

Super Bowl XXXIX was a big deal, but there were a lot of people who decided, ?I?m not going downtown into that mess? and just stayed home. That was a shame. It was well-run, well-organized, and starting on that Thursday, the weather made the experience nearly perfect. Fans from New England and Philadelphia thought so, as nearly 90 percent of they city?s visitors didn?t arrive until Thursday night.

The Players Championship is a fun week, but honestly, as the Greater Jacksonville Open, it was a bigger deal to the locals. I don?t know if it?s because of the corporate aspect of the tournament or it?s isolation in Ponte Vedra (it was played at Selva Marina, Deerwood and Hidden Hills as the GJO), but it?s a little removed from even golfers on the Northside and Westside, that?s for sure.

We used to have gymnastics competitions, national bowling meetings and kart races that seemed to be a big deal.

When The Jackson Five opened here, that was a big deal. The Rolling Stones in 1989 -- very big. U2, Garth Brooks? All seemed to envelope just about everybody in the city in some way. Honest.

The Jaguars are a big deal. No matter whether they sell out or not, they?re a big deal. We?re one of only 31 cities (two in New York) with an NFL franchise, so when you?re in that kind of elite company, you?re a big deal.

Now our population is exploding, the geography of the city is split by the river and roads (Interstate 95 and Interstate 10), and everybody has their own thing to do. Maybe it?s just growing pains, but I liked it when everybody thought something was a big deal.

So what now makes it a big deal? If it?s a big deal to you?