Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

It’s in His (Sergio’s) Blood

I was sitting at an outdoor restaurant in Athens, Greece when a woman walked by and heard me speaking my limited Greek to the waiter. She noted that I was an American and asked where I was from. “Jacksonville,” I said as she laughed. “No, not in the States, I mean where are you from here,” she explained. “My family is from Ikaria, but I’m half Greek. The other half’s Irish,” I said. “Me too,” she said with a smile. “So you’re incredibly sentimental with a short fuse,” and laughed. “Pretty much,” I said, laughing as she walked away.

My fuse is a bit longer than it used to be, in fact, I don’t much get upset any longer, I just remember.

I tell that story because I believe there’s a bit of truth to the different personalities you can find in different parts of the world. I’m pretty proud of my heritage, and I know it shapes who I am and always will. Kind of a round about way to talk about Sergio Garcia and the British Open Championship.

I was watching some of the post-round wrap up and just laughed out loud when several of the Golf Channel announcers chastised Garcia for his comments after his runner up finish. “I’m playing against a bunch of guys out there. Probably more than the field,” Sergio said referring to his own ‘bad luck.’ The announcers intoned that Garcia had some growing up to do and that we got a look into the “window of his soul” with those comments.

Tim Rosaforte is an American, but has traveled the world covering golf. Brandel Chamblee is a former PGA Tour player and Peter Oosterhuis is English, so for them to comment on a Spaniard’s comments moments after he lost the Open, should have had a bit of perspective, but none of them figured it out.

If you or I drive down the street and our car starts smoking and stops, we figure, “Well, I should have changed the oil,” or something like that. At least my American sensibilities tell me that’s how I should act. A Spaniard, (or an Italian, or a Greek or many other Europeans) have a completely different reaction. If their car stops on the side of the road, they jump out, hit the fender and say, “My car, it hates me!” And that’s how Sergio was reacting.

He was looking for that one break, that one good bounce that he thought he had earned through his stellar play over the first three rounds. It’s no reflection on anything but his sensibilities. That’s how Sergio thinks. That’s how Seve thought as well. There’s a fire there, a belief that there’s a little bit of magic going on in the world, not just a bunch of plodding strikes of the ball. It can help you, or it can hurt you, but you can’t harness it.

If you think that’s a bunch of bull, that’s ok, and if you think it’s a lack of accountability for your actions, that’s ok too. But when Sergio hits the ball at the hole and the next time it hits the stick and goes in, just chuckle a little bit and give thanks for the little bit of magic that was involved. And when Sergio gets a couple of those breaks and he believes they’re going in his favor, he’ll win. A lot.

All congrats to Padraig Harrington as well. He took the breaks he got, the little bounces toward the hole instead of into the rough and he made himself a champion.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Vick’s In Trouble

Michael Vick is in trouble. After months of investigation, the federal government handed down an indictment charging Vick and several others with running and engaging in a dog-fighting venture. Vick has claimed innocence all along, saying he owned the house where this activity was going on, but it was his relatives taking advantage of his generosity.

The Feds say differently.

They say Vick was not only involved, but he was a ring leader, even so much as buying t-shirts and headbands for his “crew” that said “Bad Newz Kennels” and wearing them to the fights.

How did they get this information?

Obviously they spent a lot of time with a search warrant at the house in Virginia but they also found some of the other people who were involved with the fighting and told them they’d be going to jail if they didn’t give up some information. So the information is very specific.

Sixty-six dogs were found when the feds raided the house originally, 55 of them pit bulls. They were chained to car axles and kept from eating to make them more agitated. Witnesses say the losing dogs were killed, if they didn’t die in the ring, with a vote being taken whether they should be electrocuted, shot or beaten to death.

What kinds of people do this stuff?

I’ve heard the arguments that it’s part of the culture, that they’re just following tradition. That’s ridiculous. It’s against the law and everybody knows it. Dogs don’t have a mind of their own and using them to fight is wrong.

That’s where Michael Vick is in trouble. If you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, maybe a strip club where a fight breaks out, you can beg off and even if you’re convicted of a crime, people really don’t care. But cruelty to animals and abuse is an unforgivable offense in the court of public opinion.

Plus, this is the federal government involved. It’s not some county prosecutor trying to make a name for himself. These are the guys who sent Martha Stewart to jail. If they can get past her army of lawyers, they can put Vick in jail, and they will.

That leaves NFL commissioner Roger Godell with a bit of a dilemma. With his actions against Chris Henry and Adam Jones, Godell has set a precedent of “no tolerance” when it comes to running afoul of the law. I don’t know how he can look at Vick, under a federal indictment, any differently.

Again, this is the feds we’re talking about and they’re not going to make a case, and make it so public without feeling like they have plenty of evidence.

Being a somewhat public figure, I asked my boss if they’d suspend me if I were under a federal indictment. Probably not, they said, but they’d take me off the air. Vick is the face of the Falcons, and in many respects (including the cover of Madden) the face of the league. Can they allow him to play with the indictment hanging over his head? The Players Association will have something to say about this but I don’t think Vick can play for now.

And if things go wrong, we might have seen the last of Michael Vick in the NFL.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Cheatin’ Ain’t Right

“If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.” Somehow that phrase became acceptable in competitive sports with rule makers, athletes and even fans turning a blind eye to those who were trying to get around the rules.

“I knew he was cheatin”, Richard Petty said on Thursday at Daytona referring to David Pearson. “’Cause I was cheatin’ trying to keep up with him.”

Everybody laughed at the King’s comments but it struck me as strange. I don’t want to know that Richard Petty was cheating. I want to think of him as a great, dominating driver of his era. Getting around the rules though, was part of the game. That was the culture of NASCAR and it hasn’t changed much in the last 50 years.

This year the sport’s governing body has tried to crack down on cheating, trying to bring a higher level of credibility to the sport. Jeff Gordon and Jimmy Johnson, two of the sport’s biggest stars, have incurred big fines and suspensions because their cars didn’t conform to standards.

Is that attitude around everywhere else?

For most sports it’s not the equipment that can be tinkered with, it’s the athletes themselves. And that’s where the line is blurred.

Putting jet fuel in a car to make it go faster is one thing. Putting jet fuel ‘in your body to go faster is something else. But at the highest levels, where the money is the greatest, athletes and competitors seem to be willing to try anything, even if it might kill them, to get an advantage.

Cycling has a culture of cheating that has nearly wrecked the sport. Cyclists used to ingest just enough strychnine, a poison that also apparently made them go faster, before races even though the wrong amount would kill them. Cycling is paying a big price, right now, for looking the other way for decades while their competitors put all kinds of things in their bodies looking for an advantage.

I guess we have to remember that top-flight athletes are also young and generally think they’re invincible and immortal. Baseball and football players jumped on the “cheating” bandwagon within the last three decades, taking anabolic steroids to give them that slight advantage or that one more year in the league. Have you seen pictures of either game from the ‘70’s? The players look like Baseball players can also tinker with the equipment, corking bats to make the ball jump off a little farther.

But where does the blame lie, if there is any blame at all?

NASCAR signed a big-money television deal a few years ago and knew they’d have to clean up the sport if they were going to withstand the spotlight that would inevitably come with increased exposure.

Football instituted a steroid policy in the ‘90’s, knowing fans would turn away if the game was only played by a bunch of juiced up freaks.

Baseball finally created a drug abuse policy when long-held records started to fall and people started to ask the simple question: Why?

8 So how do we break out of this culture of cheating? If the governing bodies won’t come up with a strict enough testing policy, it’s up to the fans, the paying public to demand it. Not by writing letters to the editor or calling sports talk radio but by not supporting it. Don’t buy tickets, don’t buy merchandise and don’t watch it on television. The powers that be get the message very quickly.