Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Lambeau Experience

I’ve wanted to make the trip to Lambeau Field for a long time and it seemed a natural to take in the Jaguars/Packers game in August to accomplish that. I know it’s not the entire “experience” of the “frozen tundra” but it was special nonetheless.

I flew to Milwaukee and drove the two hours up to Green Bay. All interstate, it’s a pretty easy drive and I was a few hours early so traffic wasn’t much of a problem. I did stop on the way for a few minutes at a Holiday Inn and was pretty amazed to see a bunch of people milling around the lobby wearing their Packer green and gold. Obviously they were headed to the game.

Once in Green Bay I was surprised at the size of the town. Although it is an outpost along the shore of the lake, it’s not a one-horse town by any means. But it wasn’t hard to find the stadium. It looms in the distance as a true landmark. I was traveling with my friends Rob and Keith so as we got closer we were all pretty surprised at all of the fans hanging around the stadium and all of the homeowners near Lambeau who were parking cars in their front yard.

It was clean with wide parkways and neatly trimmed lawns, something you’d see out of a Rockwell painting if he’d ever attended an NFL game. We parked and looked for a place to get something to eat. The atmosphere around the game was much like Florida/Georgia at home with out the majority of people being over-served. But it was festive with bands playing and people really enjoying themselves. All of this for an exhibition game! We ate across the street, ordering the local fare, butter burgers and cheese curds.

Lambeau was renovated in 2000, so the structure itself is new-looking brick and glass. It seats over 70,000 but there’s no upper deck. It’s all in the lower bowl with great sight lines from every seat and the luxury boxes and press box perched above the seats. The vibe was excited and friendly with people milling everywhere, just about everybody in some kind of Packer jersey. If you weren’t wearing green and gold, you stood out like a sore thumb.

One end of the stadium has an expanded building, housing the Packer Hall of Fame. If you’re any kind of NFL fan, it’s great, starting with a 12-minute video chronicling the history of the team followed by memorabilia from Packer greats over the years. If you played in the NFL and were lucky enough to play for Green Bay you’re a hero forever in that town.

They also have an Atrium at the end of the stadium where they have a variety of eateries and drink carts adding to the overall experience. We ordered Bloody Mary’s’ and I saw the most complete condiment cart for Bloodies I’ve ever seen! You name it as a possible add-on for your drink it was there. You could have virtually a whole salad in with the vodka and the mix. They had some of the best horseradish ever on that cart as well.

We took in the view from a variety of seats around the stadium and even though we found three together in the club section the stadium was virtually full. One thing the club section had was a flip card roster for every seat, something the Jaguars could add to their repertoire.

Packer fans were, as expected, very knowledgeable and had high expectations. They weren’t disappointed by their first team (as opposed to the Jaguars fans at the game) and knew what they were looking for when the back-ups got in the game.

If you have a chance to ever go to a Packer game, go. It’s well worth the trip. Maybe my next one will be in December when they say the real “experience” happens.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Ed Seay 1938-2007

His friends from Jax Beach called him “Poogie” an endearing name from his childhood and high school days at Fletcher. Around the world he was know as Ed or Mr. Seay and as Arnold Palmer’s golf course design partner. Today, Ed Seay died after a long illness at his home here in town. He was 69 years old.

Ed joined with Arnold in 1971 and formed the Palmer Course Design Company in 1972. He has been involved in the design of over 300 golf courses all over the world. From Japan, China, Russia, Europe, Ireland, his ideas have been involved with some of the world’s most famous courses, including the K Club, which recently hosted the Ryder Cup and Tralee, Old Tabby Links in South Carolina and Aviara in California.

After I had a chance to play Old Tabby Links a while back, I mentioned to Ed that I had been there and that it was fabulous. “Why didn’t you call me?” was his typical response, looking for a way to make my day there even more enjoyable. “Nice work there Ed,” I said. “You liked it? Oh, yeah, that’s pretty good there,” he finished, obviously happy with his work there.

Ed sent me to a course called “The Oasis” about an hour outside of Las Vegas a few years back. “They’re not running the place right,” he lamented. “But you won’t see a more spectacular place.” And of course he was right. I drove to the middle of nowhere to get to “The Oasis” but the memories of that day still linger.

Locally, Ed crafted Sawgrass Country Club, the Plantation and Marsh Landing in Ponte Vedra. Ed served as a Past President of the American Society of Golf Course architects and was honored with their lifetime achievement award two years ago. He also was a member of the American Society of Landscape architects.

Although Palmer resides in Orlando and Pennsylvania, his design company was, until about 1 year ago, always here in town, on Ponte Vedra Blvd across the street from the Lodge.

Having spent hours and hours both personally and professionally with Ed, I can tell you he was gracious, generous, sometimes hilariously profane and loyal to a fault. Ed was dedicated to his family, friends, Arnold, whom he always called “Boss,” the Florida Gators and the United States Marine Corps. He was an expert at liar’s poker. His holiday parties are the stuff of legend.

To say the least, Ed cut a large swath wherever he went, and he made sure you were part of the “inside” crowd. His office in Ponte Vedra was like a museum, but it was also a comfortable and welcoming place to just spend a few hours in conversation, or should I say listening to Ed. There might have even been a cocktail or two shared there among friends.

I could go on and on, and I’m sure outlets like the Golf Channel will have long retrospectives on Ed’s life and career. But I’ll echo the words of Erik Larsen, the Exec. VP of PCD who said, “He’s one of the greatest people I’ve ever known.”

Ed is survived by his wife Lynn, his son Mason and Daughter Tracy and two grandchildren. The funeral is Saturday at 10AM at Christ church in Ponte Vedra with a reception following at PVIC.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

300; 3,000; 500

I was driving the other day flipping through the stations when I came across Jim Rome talking with Bob Costas. Obviously much of the conversation centered on Barry Bonds with Rome giving Costas a chance to rebut some things Jon Miller had said the week before.

“I like Jon,” Costas said, “but he does work for the Giants so perhaps in this case he should recuse himself.”

Rome spent two segments with Bob, giving him a forum to get into the whole situation with Bonds, the Giants fans, steroids, Bonds’ denials (or not) and baseball’s position on the whole thing. Costas was able to distill much of every fan’s feelings down to their essence: Bonds cheated.

But it was a very solid argument, noting that Bonds was a great player through his career up until 1998-99 when his alleged performance enhancing drug use started. But that his numbers since then are somewhat artificial and that perhaps his “cheating” has allowed him to extend his career to this point.

Whether it’s on his nationally syndicated radio show or his current “Costas Now” on HBO, Bob has always had a long-form outlet for his ideas and opinions, and they’re usually well thought out and insightful. In this case, he filleted both Miller and Bonds (who had called Costas a “midget who never played the game”), leaving anybody with a logical thought with a very convincing argument.

As Bonds “takes” (Costas’ characterization) instead of breaks Hank Aaron’s home run record it comes at the same time as Alex Rodriguez hits a milestone at 500 home runs and Tom Glavine wins his 300th game. Is it just the time we’re living in that allows us to see such monumental feats in baseball? Is it how the game is played now? Are the players just better?

It’s actually all of those things.

The careers are longer, the players are better trained, some naturally, and in fact, it’s the time we live in. I’m sure you’ve seen the stat regarding the time frame for 300 game winners. Eleven before 1925, a couple in the next 57 years and eight since 1982. There won’t be a bunch in the near future based on the players currently in the game.

The three real milestones in baseball are 300 wins, 3,000 hits and 500 home runs. Of the three, 300 wins only comes from a long career, solid performances and playing on some good teams. Three thousand hits means you played a long time and stayed healthy. You had to be a solid player but a long career is part of 3,000 hits. Twenty years, 150 hits a year and you’re there.

Five hundred home runs are all you. Nobody’s got to make great defensive plays, and you have to have that pop in your bat that gets the ball over the fence.

At 32 years old, ARod is at 500 and could easily eclipse wherever Bonds sets the bar at some point in his career. Eight hundred? Absolutely attainable if he stays healthy and wants to get there.

I did the play-by-play for the Florida High School association baseball championships for about six years and I remember doing the title game when ARod’s team played in it. He pitched and played short. (Same with Chipper Jones). You could see he was a special player right away and he’s fulfilled that potential five-fold.

Without the steroid era, that’s one of the things I like about baseball, the stats hold up from decade to decade, century to century. The players, the fields, the agronomy, the bats, the balls, they’ve all gotten better, but it’s all relative. The numbers match and they matter.

Just think about this one fact that continues to amaze me.

Despite all of the changes, one constant is 90-feet between bases. Ninety feet from home to first. And every play seems to be bang-bang. If it’s 91, everybody’s out. If it’s 89, everybody’s safe. But it’s not. It’s 90 and perfect.

Hopefully we’ll figure out where to put Bonds in the context of his numbers versus the history of the game. For me, I’ll stay a baseball fan, Barry or not.