Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Ryder Cup, Tyger Cup

A team competition in a uniquely individual sport should reveal something about the players involved. The Ryder Cup certainly does that. Once again, the Europeans beat the American, this time handing the US their worst loss in the 77 year history of the event. All this with a distinct advantage in the rankings among their players and major championships galore on their resumes compared to low world rankings and exactly zero majors for the Europeans.

So what happened?

The Euros trounced the Americans, figuring out how to play as a team. For your basic amateur, team golf is the norm. Me and my partner against you and yours. When I’m out of the hole, I’m rooting for my partner to keep me in it. The Europeans do exactly that. When one guy is AWOL, the other grinds harder to keep him in it. The Americans don’t seem to be able to figure that out, instead sticking to the “I’ll play my game and that’ll be good enough” mentality.

I don’t know who came up with the Tiger Woods/Phil Mickelson pairing, but it was the American problem in microcosm. “History demanded it, the fans demanded it,” American captain Hal Sutton said of the match up. I have a hard time believing that Sutton forced this on either one of those guys. One of them had to make the suggestion that it would be a good pairing. But it didn’t work. Even their body language early in the opening match on Friday showed that it was an uncomfortable start. I hate to lay the whole thing at Tiger’s feet, but he is America’s best player (no matter the world rankings) and his demeanor sets the tone for the rest of the team.

He’s never seemed comfortable in the team format, except when he’s played with David Duval. (They won the World Cup together.) You never hear a “what do you think” or some idle chatter about conditions or the matches or whatever. He’s the guy everybody’s looking to for a cue, and it’s not happening. There’s a theory that Tiger doesn’t want the other players too comfortable with him because he wants that air of invincibility to stay around when he faces them on the American tour and in the majors. There’s another that Tiger is best when paired with a player clearly his junior in stature who will show Tiger the deference he’s accustomed to. But who knows? The litmus test is his record in team competition in the Ryder Cup, and it’s not good.

Tiger’s taking a beating in the media right now for his comments comparing his record to Jack Nicklaus’ in Ryder Cup play, and rightly so. Tiger has lost twice as many matches in team play than he’s won. Nicklaus, on the other hand, was 17-8-3. And nobody was more dominant or intimidating than Nicklaus in his heyday. So what’s the answer? You don’t sit Tiger Woods, do you? His succession of partners has gone from his best friend, Mark O’Meara, to his biggest rival, Phil Mickelson, with virtually the same results: losses. Justin Leonard, Tom Lehman, David Duval, David Toms, Davis Love, Chris Riley, Paul Azinger and Mark Calcavecchia have all be paired with Woods and all have come back with a loss or two.. He did win back to back matches with Davis in 2002, but lost with him this time around.

For the ’06 matches at the K Club in Ireland, the American captain, (Azinger, Larry Nelson) should first ask Tiger if he wants to play. As in, “Do you want to be a part of this team?” Azinger is feisty enough to do it, and Nelson has no relationship with Tiger so he won’t have a problem either. Then he should ask Tiger who he wants to play with. Let him pick his partners and tell him that they’re his partners. Finally, talk to the rest of the team and tell them to get over the whole Tiger thing. They’re professionals, so go make it happen.

Isn’t everybody else sick of losing to the Euros?

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Chris Rix, Forgettable Legacy

If there was ever any question that quarterback in football is the most important position in any team sport, the case was closed on Friday night in the FSU/Miami game. Neither Chris Rix nor Brock Berlin were stellar but Berlin did just enough to not lose the game for his team. The same can’t be said for Chris Rix.

Two interceptions and two fumbles are in the box score for the senior quarterback for the Seminoles. OK throwing interceptions is part of any quarterback’s stats line and the occasional fumble is also part of the position where you handle the ball on every offensive play. But with the game on the line in overtime, and his team needing a big play, Chris Rix didn’t give them a play at all. Third down and in the shotgun, Rix fumbled the shotgun snap that was admittedly a little low and left. A freshman, even a sophomore and perhaps a junior quarterback could be possibly excused for not coming up with the ball. But a senior quarterback who’s already played three years as the starter has to know in that situation that the most important thing is to catch the ball from center and get the play going.

Simple as that. Whatever you do, don’t fumble.

But that’s the MO for Rix throughout his entire career. He’ll make the occasional spectacular play, and then the most routine thing gets away from him. His personal history has been well documented, from missing a major bowl game for not taking an exam to parking in handicapped spots on the FSU campus. His self-centeredness is the stuff of legend in Tallahassee. And while that’s kind of fun to chuckle about, how it carries over onto the football field is not anything to laugh about.

Rix seems to become so enamored with his own place in history, either by what he did on the last play or what he imagines he’ll do on the next one that he forgets to just get the job done. It’s not all about the glory; it’s about making the engine go. It’s about driving the car within the speed limit sometimes so you have enough gas to go full throttle at some other time.

Rix seems to always be thinking, “What can I do to win this game,” instead of “what do we have to do to win this game and how do I fit into that.”

Maybe it’s just Miami. He does seem to be a little afraid back there against the Hurricanes. It’s not that he throws off his back foot against them, because he does that against Florida and any other team with a little pass rush. He just sees guys coming from all angles against Miami and gets paralyzed in the process. He might have some big games against Wake Forest, but it’s the contests against Miami that he’ll be remembered for.

Some of the responsibility has to be put on Bobby Bowden’s shoulders. For some reason, he hasn’t been able to impart a certain kind of confidence to Rix without it turning into a full blown swagger. And Mickey Andrews seemed to be playing not to lose while they were up 10-3 rather than going all out for the win. A lead late in the game is not something to protect in college football. It’s something to build on.

And make an important kick once in a while. The field goal block in the 4th quarter was one of those little things that adds up in a game and lets it go to overtime.

But Chris Rix could have done something about it.

FSU has good players. They’re a good team that will still be in the top ten and probably play in a major bowl at the end of the year. But they’ll still have lost to Miami. Again.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Hugh Douglas, Sign Of The Times

I had a private chuckle when the Jaguars released Hugh Douglas as they got their roster down to 65 players. Douglas tried to make a big splash when he arrived in Jacksonville last year, and failing that, left with a hardly a whimper. In the locker room on the day of his arrival, Douglas was trumpeted as the player the Jaguars needed to change directions on the defensive line. He was one of Jack Del Rio’s first coups, a veteran, name defensive player willing to commit to Del Rio’s new team.

Douglas was brash, and defiant in his first interview, chastising the media for asking about his knee (which was hurt) and his motivation (which turned out to be lacking.) But it was obvious Hugh Douglas was a big personality, and he wanted to be just that. He was “Big City” and he was going to bring that to this town. But if you’re going to be big city, you can’t play like little village, and Douglas barely qualified for a spot on the map based on his performance.

He was in a funk, not because he wasn’t playing well, (and he wasn’t) but because nobody was making a big deal about him. He complained that nobody knew him on the street and in the clubs here, that the lifestyle wasn’t what suited him. How that translates into poor performance on the field, I guess only Douglas knows, but the extra 20 lbs or so he was carrying around certainly didn’t help. So with the spare tire on his waist and the chip on his shoulder, Douglas took millions of dollars from the Jaguars and complained about it. He did produce 3 ½ sacks for his effort (or lack thereof).

I’m not sure where guys like Hugh Douglas get their personality from. He’s not going to the Hall of Fame. He was a very good player among some very good defensive players in Philadelphia. As media outlets discover parts of the country heretofore unknown to them (i.e. anything not NY, LA, Chicago, Miami or Dallas) players find it acceptable to go to those places, figuring they’ll drag the poor unwashed masses into the 21st century when it comes to “the high life.” But what happened to Douglas here is a good example of how things have changed.

The celebrity aspect of athletes is waning. Despite desperate efforts by MTV, the NBA and the NFL networks, people don’t really care what the players are doing outside of the field of play. We don’t care where they’re partying, what their “cribs” look like, what kind of car they drive or what clothes they’re wearing. Sure, players can have an impact in their communities by getting involved, setting good examples and doing charity work. But just hanging around showing off their “bling-bling” doesn’t cut it any more.

Douglas used to try and run the press conferences he was involved in, telling the media to physically “back off” or that they could “kiss my a__!” Eventually as his play diminished, he stopped talking to the media and we stopped asking. At training camp this year, Douglas met with the media, holding his thumb and forefinger about a half inch apart saying he had a “little bit more respect for the media” after his stint with NFL network as a reporter. That’s OK, I had a “little bit more respect for Hugh Douglas” after he actually did some work in the off season. His comment how people here were “learning the game” was so arrogant and off-base it was laughable.

Douglas cut and run (or what he calls running these days) when his skills were questioned this year, just like most cowards do. It won’t surprise anybody if he doesn’t get much of a reception in Philadelphia either.