Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Summer Starts

For most Americans, Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer. School’s either out or just about done, the weather has turned and everybody seems to exhale and look forward to the slower rhythm of summer.

The two races, the Indy 500 and the 600 miles NASCAR race in Charlotte are two of the biggest spectacles in all of sport. This summer, sports fans have some things to look forward to and some decisions to make.

Hard to believe but the NHL season is still going on. The Stanley Cup finals between Anaheim and Ottawa have drawn a collective yawn from more sports fans. Actually the NHL and Gary Bettman would be thrilled with a yawn because it would mean that people noticed that the games were still going on.

Two months into the baseball season the story has been as much about how the Yankees are not contending as it has about the Red Sox or Brewers playing well. As an Oriole fan, I’ve kept a cursory eye on the Birds, but they still don’t have any pitching and at 11 ½ games behind Boston, and under .500, it’s about what I expected.

As Barry Bonds edges closer to Hand Aaron’s all time home run record, are we going to pay attention? Are we going to celebrate the breaking of the most recognizable records in sports or will we just ignore it?

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig hasn’t said what he’s going to do. Henry Aaron says he won’t be there. Bonds is a polarizing figure with most fans saying he cheated with steroids to get where he is while others say that doesn’t matter. The fact that Bonds is well known as a not nice guy only adds to his stature as talk show fodder.

I’ve never been a Bonds fan, I think he cheated and I don’t care if he hits a million home runs. Aaron is the home run champ. It’ll be interesting when Bonds’ career is over and he’s eligible for the Hall of Fame, will the writers keep him out like they did with Mark McGwire because of the controversy surrounding steroids?


Golf has the US Open in front of it, but the anticipation of a rival for Tiger Woods in Phil Mickelson will be the story. Mickelson’s win at The Players and his work with Butch Harmon has golf fans waiting for that day when Phil and Tiger are in the final group of a major.

Tennis? Anybody seen tennis lately?

Roger Federer has dominated for so long and unless he’s playing Rafael Nadal nobody notices. Their final in Europe two weeks ago was relegated to the Tennis Channel. Nobody gets that and consequently, nobody cares.

The NBA will finish sometime in June. A San Antonio/Detroit final would be competitive, but nobody’s sitting around waiting for that match up.

I know a lot of people are waiting for football season, but the way the NFL works, it never really ends. After this week, the teams, including the Jaguars, will be back on the field three days a week, practicing and ramping up for training camp. It’s just 8 weeks away.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Major Players?

Good weather, a perfect golf course, a somewhat dramatic ending and a star as the champion. The Players, 2007 had all of the ingredients of a very significant sporting event. A big-time golf tournament. So the question still is getting asked: Is it a Major?

The latest answer?

It doesn’t matter.

The Players move to May gives it a stand-alone quality that it didn’t have when it was scheduled 2 weeks before the Masters. It was a tune-up for Augusta and the players, at least the top players, were focused on the first “major” of the year. Winning The Players would be nice; a nice exemption a lot of money but The Masters is what they were pointing at to have their games in shape.

Now, The Players fills a spot in the schedule between Augusta and the US Open where, if truth be told, Jack Nicklaus hoped his Memorial Tournament would eventually reach Major status. But the tour has done everything right when it comes to running this tournament. They accommodate the fans, the media and the players with the best of everything. Any new innovation that comes along, The Players incorporates it into the tournament, making it possibly the best run sporting event in the world.

A major?

It has a quality of it’s own. Remember that the Western Open was once considered “a major.” When Bobby Jones won his Grand Slam, the Majors were the US Open and Amateur and the British Open and Amateur. The Masters wasn’t around; the PGA was for club pros. So achieving “major” status means it’s a significant week on tour, and is a tournament that the players especially want to win.

Tom Kite considered it a major when he won in 1989, saying it was a big week and the best field in golf. Current winners like Tiger Woods and Adam Scott, and this year’s contender, Sean O’Hair grew up in golf knowing that The Players was an important event. Not just a regular tour stop but a tournament to focus on.

What the tournament needs is a succession of winners who are stars on tour. That’s why it was important for Phil Mickelson to win this year. The move to may, a redone golf course and extended television coverage, the tournament needed a bona fide star to win it. No disrespect to Sean O’Hair, or Stephen Ames or Craig Perks, but if a tournament wants to raise it’s status and become more high profile, the list of winners has to be the dominant players of the era.

The tournament needs some drama at the finish to take the next step. Phil winning was great, but it would have only been surpassed by a shootout between Phil, Tiger, Sergio, Ernie and a couple of other big stars. Then it becomes memorable for the way a guy got to the championship instead of some competitors falling by the wayside.

There are some national media members who deride The Players and Ponte Vedra as a tour stop on steroids. It is a regular tour stop, times ten. And part of the PGA Tour week in and week out is the atmosphere surrounding the events. They’re not the Masters or the British Open. They’re not the US Open; they’re PGA Tour stops that include corporate hospitality and a party, fun atmosphere. That’s part of it. It that means never becoming a so-called “major” it doesn’t matter. The tournament stands by itself.