In the newspapers that the Baltimore Jaguar...

IT SAID

December 06, 1993|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

IT SAID in the newspapers that the Baltimore Jaguar dealership is moving to Cockeysville. Could have been worse. It could be moving to Jacksonville.

Of all the so-called mysteries of the National Football League's expansion decisions, the only one hard for me to understand is the naming of Jacksonville's new team: "Jaguars." I never heard of a sports team named after a car. In this case, a foreign car at that.

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One mystery to me is the harsh attacks on Jacksonville by some of my friends and colleagues. I like Jacksonville. Of course, I'm prejudiced. Old home town. I lived there a long time ago. How long? Well, my mother, father and I lived in a hotel which advertised "A Room and a Bath for a Dollar and a Half."

We only lived there a few months, but I continued the relationship. Growing up in a small town in Georgia 70 miles away, I was taken to Jacksonville's stores every August for school clothes. Vacationed a lot at Jacksonville Beach and Fernandina Beach after moving to Atlanta -- over 300 miles away. Honeymooned in Ponte Vedra.

All of this was and is typical, which is why it is no mystery to me that the NFL picked Jacksonville over Baltimore. It is a regional center as much as or more than we are.

Though Jacksonville is a less populous city and metropolitan area than we are, consider this: The population in the south Georgia and north Florida cities and counties is closer to Jacksonville than to any other NFL city -- Tampa, Atlanta, Miami and Charlotte -- and is about the same as the population that is closer to Baltimore than to Washington, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. So is the buying power. And they're growing a lot faster than we are.

Another thing I like about Jacksonville is explained in this lead of an old news item from The Evening Sun files:

"Jacksonville, Fla. (AP) -- Jacksonville and Duval County voters voted Tuesday to adopt a new charter consolidating their two governments."

Mutual annexation. That was in 1967. The vote resulted in more than doubling the city's population and providing it with room for its rapidly growing middle class to settle and develop. The story said the "overwhelming approval" of the consolidation was due to "discontent" with public schools and a rising crime rate. Sound familiar?

Coincidentally, the day the NFL awarded Jacksonville its franchise, urban expert David Rusk was in Baltimore to lecture at Johns Hopkins Downtown on his theory of "elastic" and "inelastic" cities. The former have room to grow, the latter don't. So the former prosper and the latter stagnate. Jacksonville is a "high elasticity" city, Baltimore is a "zero elasticity" city, he said.

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By the way, a fellow I know who has owned Jags, says Jacksonville better have two teams, because one of them is always going to be in the shop.

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