The swanky Pro Football Hall of Fame celebration party last week for Jaguars legend Tony Boselli — attended by 300 friends/family at a large country-style home about 15 minutes away from the Canton, Ohio induction ceremony — took a massive amount of planning and money to pull off.
Boselli landed the venue because a friend knew the owner, USC alumnus Johnny Sirpilla, who recently purchased the house and spacious property. He rented it out to the Jaguars and owner Shad Khan, whose daughter, Shanna, had a large role in turning the outdoor venue into a festive party environment.
The Jaguars contracted with PRI, a Jacksonville-based events production company, to ship everything from restrooms, staging, sound system, lighting and food stations to Ohio in big trucks.
PRI placed a putting green with a flagstick in the middle of a large pond near the property entrance, as well as laid an acre of sod to make everything look pristine for Boselli’s shindig.
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“It was sort of a blank canvas, but everybody was happy the way it turned out,” said Jaguars president Mark Lamping. “It was a lot more work than we envisioned, but it was a labor of love.”
In this case, the labor and all the amenities didn’t come cheap.
Between food, decorations, sound/lighting setups, all the challenges of venue transformation, as well as bringing in Jacksonville Beach-based group “The Band Be Easy” for musical entertainment and arranging flights and accommodations for dozens of Jaguars employees, the tab went north of $400,000. Just the purchase of the sod and the labor to lay it down cost over $60,000.
Since Boselli was the first Jaguar to make the Hall of Fame, no expense was spared for the festive occasion.
If Fred Taylor makes it to Canton, it’ll be interesting to see if the celebration party lives up to the Boselli gold standard.
Playing Deshaun Watson is out of bounds
With quarterback Deshaun Watson starting Friday night’s preseason game against the Jaguars, it serves as a reminder as to why the Cleveland Browns have had the NFL’s worst record (124-247-1, .334) since returning to the league in 1999.
The Browns have a knack for not doing things the right way, and their decision to play Watson, who was 1-of-5 passing for 7 yards in three series without a first down, in the preseason is about as misguided as it gets.
Unless Cleveland changes its mind about letting Watson get on the field, it’s a head-scratcher why they would play him in these meaningless contests.
Since he can’t play until Week 7 — and possibly not at all if the NFL is successful in its appeal to extend his six-game suspension for violating the league personal conduct policy to a full season — there’s no benefit to him getting in games now.
Watson is practically a league pariah outside of Cleveland after settling 23 of 24 civil lawsuits against him for sexual misconduct with female massage therapists.
What exactly is the upside of letting him play a few series against the Jaguars or other preseason opponents?
Just let Watson get his reps in practice and keep him out of the public eye until he returns.
Give all the playing time to Jacoby Brissett, Joshua Dobbs and Josh Rosen, especially since Watson may be sidelined for the entire year if the NFL gets its way.
No matter how he performs, the Browns messed up royally by not keeping Watson off the field.
Chasing baseball history
Jacksonville city councilman Ron Salem, who is orchestrating the $10 million renovation of J.P. Small Memorial Stadium on Myrtle Avenue, has a grand vision: the park eventually hosting a major league game as part of MLB’s “Field of Dreams” event.
Once the renovation with artificial turf, lighting and other upgrades is complete in 2025 or possibly sooner, Salem is hopeful MLB will consent to have the Atlanta Braves play a regular-season game in the 4,000-seat venue. On Thursday night, the Chicago Cubs beat the Cincinnati Reds 4-2 in the second annual “Field of Dreams” game near a cornfield where the movie was filmed in Dyersville, Iowa.
“It’s now Henry L. Aaron Field [at J.P. Small Stadium], so I’d like to get the park in the hopper down the road for the Field of Dreams game,” said Salem. “I think it’d be neat to have a major league game there with the Atlanta Braves wearing Negro League uniforms.”
Edward Waters University and Stanton High already play games at the J.P. Small venue. What a memorable event it’d be to have a MLB game at a century-old park with so much rich baseball history.
Orioles need healthy Austin Hays
Former Jacksonville University outfielder Austin Hays was on track for his best season, but his bat went quiet in July (hitting .202) and last week he missed five consecutive games with an oblique issue on his left side.
Hays’ production is one of many reasons the Baltimore Orioles have climbed out of a perpetual abyss to get into AL wild-card contention.
The former JU star was a daily fixture in the Orioles’ lineup, hitting six home runs with 23 RBIs in the month of June.
With Hays back in the lineup Monday, he had two hits, including his 13th home run in a 7-4 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.
If he can stay healthy, which has been a significant issue the last three seasons, Hays could make the difference in Baltimore returning to postseason play for the first time since 2016.
Lawsuit by LIV Golf players went too far
The acrimony between the PGA Tour and LIV reached an embarrassing low this week when three players from the Saudi Arabian Golf Series — Matt Jones, Taylor Gooch and Hudson Swafford — tried to sue the Tour and get an injunction to compete in the FedEx Cup Playoffs.
Fortunately, the strategy didn’t work as judge Beth Labson Freeman ruled against the former Tour trio, saying they didn’t establish their “irreparable harm” claim.
All of them knew they’d be suspended for joining LIV, where they can make more money for playing less, but decided to sue anyway.
If players want to leave the Tour because the money is too enticing, despite Saudi Arabia’s atrocious human rights record, that's their prerogative. But to then attempt to use the court system to gain entry into the lucrative FedEx Playoffs — suing the Tour that gave them initial access to reach their financial dreams — was a bush league move.
Once LIV golfers made the choice to take life-changing money, they don’t deserve to double back and chase the Tour’s most lucrative prize package.
If Ponte Vedra Beach resident Cam Smith joins LIV as expected, the Open champion and world’s No. 2-ranked player has to know there may never be any turning back.
This open wound in the golf world just keeps festering. It sure doesn’t look like it will heal any time soon.
Quick parting shots
• Going into Friday's matchup against Cleveland, the Jaguars have lost seven of their past eight preseason games. In their only win, 34-14 last year over the Dallas Cowboys, quarterback Trevor Lawrence led two early touchdown drives against Cowboys' backups.
• So if the reports are true that the NCAA will allow both Georgia and Florida to host recruits at their annual neutral-site game at TIAA Bank Field, will Alabama's Nick Saban and other SEC coaches complain it's not fair since they can only host recruits at home games? The logical solution is to simply let only the home team at the Florida-Georgia game to host recruits, making it an equal playing field.
• Nobody outside the Tampa Bay Buccaneers organization knows why Tom Brady is on an 11-day hiatus in the middle of training camp. It's apparently not health-related, but it's incredibly weird, especially since head coach Todd Bowles said he expects Brady to be on the field for the Week 1 opener. That cryptic response is going to have everybody guessing. It's certainly not because Brady needs that long to celebrate his 45th birthday.
• Retired New England Patriots running back James White, who scored the game-winning touchdown in the Super Bowl overtime win over the Atlanta Falcons, touched the ball a combined 795 times in his eight-year career between the regular season and playoffs. Amazingly, he never lost a fumble.
• Going into Friday’s second round of the FedEx Cup playoff, Tony Finau was on a wicked hot streak. Over his previous 10 rounds, Finau won back-to-back tournaments and went a combined 55-under-par.
Gene Frenette Sports columnist at Florida Times-Union, follow him on Twitter @genefrenette
This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Jaguars, Shad Khan run up big tab for Tony Boselli HOF celebration