Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com


I’m with Wayne Weaver on this one. The NFL owners should have blown the whole thing up and started over. Even Weaver’s idea of 16 teams in each conference playing one game against everybody else and one game against the other conference sounded intriguing.

Wild, but intriguing.

Instead, the owners opted for the “old” rivalries, ones that have been around, in some cases, since the league started. With the league’s current parity and the salary cap, rivalries aren’t a real part of the game for very long anyway. Everybody’s going to be average, with one or two road wins determining what teams get into the playoffs.

I brought this up to my friend Tom, the Redskins fan, who scoffed at the idea of leaving Washington in the East and moving Dallas to the West, where they belong.

“You guys won’t want to play the Cowboys. For a while, they’re going to stink,” I explained. “And that’s just how we like it,” Tom quickly responded with glee.

There are some divisions that make perfect sense. The new AFC North has Cleveland, Cincinnati, Baltimore and Pittsburgh. They can all lament about bad weather, how they get a bad rap, how they play real football, blah, blah, blah.

The NFC South has a real regional flair. Tampa Bay, Atlanta, New Orleans and Carolina. I like that division. They can all drive to each other’s towns and say how much better they are then each other (behind their backs of course).

The rest seem fine except for the AFC South, where the Jaguars have been placed. Tennessee is a real rival, on the field and geographically. Houston could turn out to be a glamour team. New owner, Dom Capers as their coach, expensive stadium, large television market. As an expansion team, they have to go somewhere, and it’s a non-stop plane ride from Jacksonville.

Indianapolis? I mean Indy? What are they doing in a division with Jacksonville? Indianapolis has as much in common with Nashville, Houston and Jacksonville as, well as just about nothing. Domed stadium, not really Midwest, not really Northeast, it’s not a good fit for the division in any way. The only factor for Indy’s placement was the Irsays’ refusal to be in the same division with the Ravens, saying they didn’t want to have a trip to Baltimore every year. Talk about weenies. They moved out of Baltimore, Baltimore didn’t throw them out. If they wanted a real rivalry, they’d have demanded to be in a division with the Ravens.

New rivalries will develop quickly and fans will get to see all kinds of teams come through their towns every year. The preseason games will spice up the schedules and everybody will make money. They had a chance though. A chance to really excite a lot of people, but instead, stayed the course.

Occasionally, I wish they would stray off course.

Just a little.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Owners Profits

It must be the biggest secret since we cracked the Nazi code in WWII. NFL owners and administrators were aghast when their profit and loss statements were made public, a product of Al Davis’ suit against the league. “We’re not making that kind of money,” they collectively screamed from offices mostly paid for by the cities they’re in and the fans who support them. “It’s a complicated accounting process,” they yelled.

Of course it is.

When you have money being thrown at you from so many different directions, you need a fleet of full-time accountants to keep track of it. From club seats to concession, parking, sky suites and television money, not to speak of the average ticket going above $50 dollars, the accounting takes a while.

Actually, there’s nothing the matter with making money. The NFL is not a charitable endeavor. The owners didn’t get involved as owners to lose money, and they shouldn’t. They should make money. They’re taking the risk, they’re running the operation, they’re coming up with the short and long range plans, so making money is part of the equation.

When the Jaguars were just a twinkle in Wayne Weaver’s eye, he knew they wouldn’t turn an actual profit until eight years of operation. Certainly they started in debt, as any $140 million outlay will do to most people, but they’ve been recouping the initial cost at a breakneck pace and will move into the black.

The difference between owners who have a profit and owners who are losing money could be creative accounting, or it could be good business acumen vs. bad. In most cases it’s a better stadium deal, more club seats and more sky boxes. The way the NFL counts their money, the club seats and sky boxes only count for the owner who operates in that stadium. They don’t count in the overall picture. The more club seats and sky suites, the more money directly to the bottom line. The better the stadium deal, the better opportunity to make money.

Paying players less money is not part of the deal. A little know byproduct of the salary cap is the salary floor. The percentage of revenue that’s allocated to the players has a maximum, this year totaling just under $64 million. The owners have to pay a minimum to their 53 players on the roster, about 3 percentage points less than the maximum. This keeps some rogue owner from stripping his team to the bare bones and hoarding the money. It’s supposed to keep some parity in the league and keep it competitive.

The television money guarantees that every team can make money. Before even one seat is sold, one beer poured, one T-shirt sold or one car parked, each team gets over $70 million from the television contract. Take the players salaries out of that and factor in an operating cost, and you can see where the league is set up to make money. Sweetheart stadium deals, higher concession prices and lucrative parking contracts will have an effect on every owners bottom line.

The fans are willing to pay for a quality product, if they believe the owner is trying to win. In fact, in it’s current cycle, the NFL almost ensures that if a team is just slightly better than .500, they look competitive. Doubling the cost of a sky suite in 5 years puts a burden on corporations, but they can make a decision on their client entertainment budget and their tax write off status. The owners are pushing the envelope with the everyday fan though.

As the seat prices go up, and the concession prices squeeze their last disposable dollar, fans will only ask; How much is enough?

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com


Stories about how Moms have influenced careers, made great athletes what they are, and pushed through adversity are plentiful. That’s the story about my Mom too. We didn’t grow up poor, but we weren’t close to rich either. (I never heard any discussions about money when I was a kid, but I did think liver was steak until I was 18.)

My Mother is the toughest, kindest person I know, all at the same time. The oldest of four children, her Father died when she was 17. The charge of helping out with her sister and brothers fell to her. She’s raised four children, prodded and cajoled and put all of us through college, saved three people from drowning once at a North Carolina beach while on vacation, stayed married to my Father for 49 years, and beat cancer. All while working with Special Ed kids, helping out charities and being the best cook on earth.

Pretty good huh?

Of course, she’s my Mom, so I think she’s perfect. Well, most of the time I think she’s perfect.

Who else in your life knows most of your secrets, even if you haven’t told them? Who else lets you make mistakes hoping you’ll learn from them, and praying you won’t get hurt while it happens? Who else made things easy for you, and you didn’t even know it. You just thought you were brilliant.

And your Mom let you feel that way. Because she’s your Mom.

My Mom has the most famous Mom-isms of all time. Ones you’ve heard. “We’re not air conditioning the entire neighborhood,” she’s said to me a million times as she closed the door behind me.

“Go outside and play. Don’t come back ’till it’s dark,” I heard daily after I finished my paper route.

“No bouncing the ball in the house. Do it in the basement if you can’t go outside,” was a regular staple during basketball season.

My favorite of all time though is, “when you have children of your own, I hope they jump on your couch, a lot.” I usually heard that one while practicing some trampoline routine in the living room.

Most of the Mom-isms came from the kitchen while I was somewhere else in the house. How did she know what I was doing? Eyes in the back of her head? Probably. (although when I was nine I looked and didn’t find any.)

My Mom, like a lot of moms, spent a good part of her time finding my various uniforms and driving me around. Some sports practice, a band practice, a speech competition, and even my first date to the Jr. High dance.

“Buckle up,” was a common refrain well before seat belts were even part of our collective consciousness.

When I was in High School, my Mom never discouraged me from anything I wanted to do. In college, she told me to finish. When I did she said “eventually you’ll end this Bohemian lifestyle (I was a bartender) and get on with your life.” (Bohemian? Who uses Bohemian in a sentence not including the words “Queen” or “Rhapsody?”)

I drove a school bus for a while at my Mom’s suggestion while trying to get into broadcasting. “Stay active, something good will happen,” was her sage advice, “and don’t mope, count your blessings!”

I’ve looked to her for inspiration during my career, drawing it from some of our most general conversations. “You’re most creative when nothing’s going on,” she told me one night when I had no idea what I’d put in the 11 o’clock news.

She’s kept me close to my faith, reminding me it’s a foundation for life. She’s kept an oral history of our family going, explaining who my Aunt Annie Brannan was and what kind of job my Uncle Will had (he was a carnival barker. Really).

I tell groups I speak to that all of the good things about me, I got from my Mom, the rest I acquired myself. That usually gets a laugh, but I know it’s the truth.

I’ve always thought my mother has beauty that rivals anybody. Not just anybody’s mom, but anybody.

I’ve never had any problem telling my Mom I love her. It’s always been easy. But on this Mother’s Day I wanted to say something I haven’t said enough.


Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

The Fight Game!

Boxing has always been considered shady. Promoters are depicted in the movies wearing heavy pinstriped suits, black shirts, white ties and fedoras. The reason they’re portrayed that way, is because it’s not that far from the truth.

Boxing is shady. Even at the highest levels there’s infighting, back-biting, double-dealing and outright theft.

I can remember Muhammad Ali telling me he was really hoping his next fight would actually happen. I looked at him like he was crazy! He said, “No, really, I hope it does.” And this was a fight scheduled against Leon Spinks! A heavyweight title fight! Not some run of the mill fight, a chance for Ali to regain the title. Big money, big publicity, and Ali is actually worried about the fight happening. “Too many cooks in the kitchen,” the soon-to-be-champ-again said.

There is a lot of money at stake in a heavyweight championship bout, and everybody wants a piece of it. There are a lot of hangers-on. An “entourage” is how a fighter’s camp is described. Some have legitimate jobs, others are looking for the bucks that might spill over the top. That’s why when a fighter ascends to the Heavyweight Championship, he’s judged on how he handles it while he’s there, not necessarily how he got there.

There’s much more to being the Heavyweight Champ than just being the toughest guy in the ring. It is a moniker that denotes greatness. Social status, political influence. A model of athletic ability, toughness, and guile. At least that what you hope the Heavyweight Champ carries with him.

This is the division of the greats: John L. Sullivan, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Jack Dempsey, Ali, Larry Holmes and yes, Mike Tyson. It is also the division of one-fight wonders like Primo Carnera, Pinklon Thomas, Buster Douglas. Michael Moorer.

I’m always curious how a guy will react when he wins the championship. The greats act like it is a pre-ordained mission in life. They’re supposed to be the Heavyweight Champion of the World. Others, like Moorer, have no idea how to act. When Moorer won the title, he grabbed the three belts in the next day press conference, stood up and shouted “now I’m the @#%&*’ing man!” (He subsequently was smacked down by a gracious George Forman)

Louis fought just about everybody, spawning the “Bum of the Month” name for his opponents. Marciano is the only champ to retire undefeated. Ali showed how a black man in American could be a force for social change. Holmes (the Holmes who was the legitimate champ, not the current blockhead who keeps fighting for some unknown reason) showed how to grind away to keep the title. Tyson brought true fear and violence to the ring and early on had a reverence for the game itself and its history.

I was trying to fit Lennox Lewis into a category but couldn’t come up with one. A natural heavyweight, Lewis is a big man, 6’5″ and fighting most effectively at 235 lbs. He has a cautionary manner in the ring and a big right hand. Both make him dangerous. He’s smart and his British accent puts a touch of style on his personality. Thoughtful and genuinely pleasant, Lewis was the perfect heavyweight champ. That’s what’s so disappointing about his recent fifth round knockout loss to Hasim Rahman. It’s not that he got beat, but rather how casually he too the role as Heavyweight Champion of the World!

I guess beating Evander Holyfield, David Tua, Michael Grant and others with ease makes you feel invincible. Showing up a mere 12 days before the fight in South Africa, Lewis showed a disrespect for the sport itself and now must pay a big price. The loss probably cost him $100 million, but perhaps as, or more importantly, history will no longer judge Lewis on his reign as Heavyweight Champ, but rather he’ll be defined by the two knockout losses he’s suffered. (Oliver McCall KO’d Lewis in the second round in 1994)

How could he do that?

How could he throw away his place in history with such utter disregard? Believe it or not the fighter in the last 20 years who had the best chance to really fulfill the role of Heavyweight Champ is Tyson. Training with Cus D’Mato and Jimmy Jacobs, Tyson constantly reviewed tapes of old championship fights and eventually amassed the largest library of fight films in the world. He respected the game and it’s history. He learned from the mistakes of the past. Then he fell off the edge of the world, into an abyss of the dark side of the game.

I saw Rahman on late night television the other night and he seemed like a good guy. Not the presence you want in the Heavyweight Champ, but perhaps we can’t have that anymore. His only sin is he’s not Ali, or Marciano or Louis.

Too bad.