Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Beach Boys Encounter

“Man, I have that same shirt,” Mike Love said to me as we were introduced and he pulled on my sleeve. “Really?” I responded. “No really man, I have that exact same shirt,” he offered again. “Well I was hoping you’d wear it tonight,” I told him, ” I was told it was a Beach Boys concert!” Luckily, Love laughed and I felt better about my half smart-aleck remark.

I had gotten an email from Paul Witkowski, the PR director of the Symphony that was pretty simple: “Hey Sam, wanna sing with the Beach Boys?” That sounded intriguing so I replied, “sure.” Paul and I have tried to cook up something with the symphony for a while. I’ve done some things with them in the past and we’re always looking to add to that total, especially a chance to sing.

A couple of days and a couple of emails later I found out the “singing” with the Beach Boys was a little less than I expected. I’d get a chance to sing along on “Barbara Ann,” you know the “Ba ba ba, Barbara Ann” part. Fair enough, I thought. The Beach Boys are an American icon in their own right and their music is a big part of our historical sound track. My personal one too. I think I had an 8-Track of their songs. Anyway, to stand on the stage with them in any form or fashion sounded like one of those experiences you never thought you have a chance to do.

I got there early (stop laughing) and grabbed a seat in the back for the first set. I wanted to see what the set up was in the Theatre. Four guys across the front, a drummer and bassist behind and the Symphony tucked behind them, behind plexiglass. That’s a pretty standard thing in this kind of “cross-media” performance. Voices and guitars could get lost in the full force of violins, trumpets, xylophones and tubas.

The vocals sounded good, perhaps surprising me a little bit. Love is 63-years old and his son stands next to him, singing and playing guitar. Bruce Johnston is the front keyboard player and he’s about the same age as Love. The other guys are fill-ins. Brian Wilson didn’t make this gig. They do make constant jokes about their age, but it is remarkable to think that some of their hits were written and recorded in 1963 yet they’re still timeless, still being performed and have some of the best vocal harmonies ever.

Showing their ability to still sing those harmonies, they borrowed “California Dreamin'” from the Mammas and the Pappas in the first set. Love and Johnston have a running show about each song in the run-up, pretty well choreographed, complete with sounds of creaking bones. Sometimes Johnston’s actions and attempts at audience involvement seem a little forced but it’s all about the fun and the songs anyway. Love does provide some background about the songs, (“Only song written about a car”, or “this song is actually very patriotic. It’s about cheerleaders.”)

At the break I ran into Paul who took me backstage to introduce me to the stage manager so I could help give a car away and understand how I fit into the whole singing with the Beach Boys thing. Problem was, nobody knows what the guys on stage are going to do. That whole laid-back California thing isn’t an act. We were looking for answers when Love happened to walk by so Paul introduced me and asked how it was going to work. After the short exchange, Love, who’s bigger than you’d think and wears about 8 rings, said “Just stand over there off-stage next to Bruce and we’ll figure it out.”

Then he went on to ask if I thought the Omni bar would be showing the UCLA game that night. “My nephew plays for the Bruins you know,” he added. I assured him that it’d be available and we chatted about the team and their chances. Then he drifted off, saying we should listen to the Symphony’s version of “In My Room.” “It’s really pretty,” he added.

So I hung around, looking at the set list and figured out it’d be about 40 minutes before they got to “Barbara Ann” the third to the last song of the night. I made it over to stage left, right by Johnston’s keyboard, under 10 feet off stage. “Help Me Rhonda” got the crowd going and Barbara Ann was just two away.

Except they skipped the song in between and went right into, “Ba ba ba, Ba Barbara Ann.”

That’s when Johnston walked off stage toward me and I figured this was it. Except he walked past me like I was invisible, circled around the curtain and the plexiglass and headed for a young, blonde violinist in the Symphony. This kind of thing has happened to me before so, although disappointed, I took it in stride.

That’s when I looked up to see Love motioning me on stage and pointing at Johnston’s microphone. I figured I’d take my chance and jumped on stage.

They were at the part in the song right after the “So I thought I’d take a chance on Barbara Ann.”

So I joined in with “Barbara Ann, take my hand, Barbara Ann, you got me rockin and a rolling rockin and a rollin Barbara Ann” in the best falsetto I could muster.

I guess it took Mike Love by surprise and I can’t figure out if he was shocked I was actually doing it or I was singing his part! Either way he was laughing, feigning shock and pointing at me.

In the next verse Johnston showed up with the violinist so I backed off and “exited stage left!”

It was great fun, I think one of those once in a lifetime experiences, I actually could hear myself, got to meet Mike Love and sang in front of the Symphony.

And I guess I have at least one cool shirt.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

John Daly’s Ok?

I know it’s become very popular to just bash John Daly. Say he’s tormented, he’s full of demons, and he’s a drunk and a disgrace to the game. You could make a case for all of those based on his actions, but as much as I think he’s responsible for a lot of his own problems, jumping on the “Daly’s a loser” bandwagon is just flat out wrong.

I’ve spent some time with Daly in professional situations and he’s been up front, professional, polite, sober and on time. It’s very vogue to call him a “functioning alcoholic” but that’s a very clinical term and the fact is, we just don’t know. I’ve been around plenty of people in my personal life and in my career that were loaded but still getting the job done.

And I knew it.

There are signs, and if you’re paying attention, they’re pretty easy to detect. I understand that alcoholism is an insidious and tragic problem and some people have a very difficult time beating it. But stop making the blanket statement that “Daly’s an alcoholic.”

We don’t know.

We know that he likes to have a good time. That in public he occasionally drinks too much. That he likes to drink. And gamble. That he’s been drunk. And he’s lost millions at the tables. By society standards, he’s out there, a failure. A two-time major winner, no question Daly has talent. And he has squandered it to the point where we can now ask: What might have been?

When he first burst on the scene Pat Summerall and Frank Chirkinian both told me that he’d win a half dozen Masters or so. “It’s the perfect golf course for him,” was the consensus. Shortly thereafter he was drinking with a few friends of mine at the Freebird Café in Jax Beach and the next thing you know he was tearing up his hotel room at the Marriott at Sawgrass.

“The boy’s got issues,” Fuzzy Zoeller whispered to me after he was summoned in the middle of the night to get Daly straight. Since then Daly has won, and lost on the PGA Tour. Remember the great sand shot he hit at 18 in San Diego to seal the win? Also remember the 3-foot comebacker he missed to lose in a playoff to Tiger at a WGC event? He smacked a ball while it was moving in a major championship. He turned toward the audience once during a clinic and hit a driver over their heads from about 15-yards away.

He’s been on both sides of the spectrum. He has problems, no doubt. But on one level he could be a regular guy who likes having a good time and goes over the edge occasionally. Anytime he does that it’s pretty public and he pays a price. When he was drinking in the Hooter’s tent in Tampa on Sunday during the tournament he was vilified by much of the media. The CBSSportsline writer, Steve Elling, (who I’ve never heard of) absolutely destroyed Daly for his actions and said he was disgracing the game.

What a sanctimonious position! Elling got his information secondhand (he admitted he wasn’t there) and even recounted a conversation between a fan and Daly about drinking a beer together. What’s that got to do with anything? One of the highlights of my career was beers with Arnold Palmer on a Wednesday night before the Players Championship. And Arnie had an early tee time the next day.

Butch Harmon’s announcement that he was “firing” Daly as a client was ludicrous. I know Harmon is from a storied golf family and he has a lot of respect for the game and is in turn respected for it. But that was just grandstanding. Harmon could have easily just said to Daly, “Hey John, this isn’t working so let’s call it a day.” Instead he made a bunch of public pronouncements about how Daly’s top priority was “getting drunk” instead of golf. Even Daly said he just wished that Harmon would have called him and called it off. We all know that Harmon is a publicity hound, just ask Tiger, right before he fired him as his swing coach.

When Daly missed his Pro-Am tee time at the Arnold Palmer Invitational the reaction was “told you so!” It’s not like he turned up on the first tee wearing yesterday’s clothes, stumbling to the ball and carrying a beer. He says he got the wrong tee time when he called the tournament office the day before, receiving his Thursday time instead of his Pro-Am time. He knows he should have done more investigating than one phone call but that was his story.

Pretty believable.

Somewhere in there is the truth but I really think we don’t know what it is. I hope John can get his life together and keep it there. A lot of people have tried to help John but haven’t been successful. Remember, professional golf is full of country club, silver spoon types who have a big holier than thou attitude. Daly’s always been an outsider and remains so.

We’ll see where this goes but for now, I’m withholding judgment.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Man and Myth

Before you get all over me, let me say I like Brett Favre.

He’s in my top 7 or 8 quarterbacks of all time that if you said he was going to be my starter, I’d be happy. And he’s going to the Hall of Fame as one of the all-time greats. And yes, I’m voting for him (just like everybody else.)

I do have one “but” and it’s not a big one but I do think it’s important to point out that he’s not flawless and certainly had his ups and downs in his professional career.

I first saw him play in ’89 against FSU while he was still at Southern Mississippi. He pretty much single-handedly won the game in the Gator bowl throwing it all over the place, running all over the place, making off-balance throws and getting the job done. And that’s ultimately what quarterbacks are judged on, wins and losses, getting the job done.

He was drafted by the Falcons and sat on their bench one year until Ron Wolf became the General Manager of the Packers and traded for him with about his first official act as GM. “We don’t really care who we get in the first round of the draft,” Wolf said at the time, “we’ve already got Brett Favre.”

It was a great trade for the Packers and another in a line of boneheaded moves for the Falcons. Favre turned out to be one of the pieces of the puzzle along with Reggie White and others that lead the Pack back to greatness. Along the way, Favre earned a reputation as a fearless gunslinger, a quarterback who would throw it into small spaces and as a very tough guy. He virtually never missed a game. He had a drug problem, he played on a Monday Night right after his dad died.

Over his career he went nearly 16 consecutive seasons without missing a start! He set all kinds of career records this year and got his team to the NFC Championship game. And maybe that had something to do with his retirement announcement. So quick, and actually a voice mail to a reporter.

He got his team to the NFC Championship game, took the game to overtime, at home, and threw an interception that gave the Giants a chance to win the game. Of course New York did just that and went on to win the Super Bowl. Favre’s interception can’t be pointed to as the single reason and Packers got beat but you can look at it as a microcosm of his career. He was able to take his team to great heights. He was entertaining to watch, made great throws, strong-armed and strong willed stuff. But occasionally that wildness and that streak of confidence in his personality cost his team games.

Plain and simple. You can easily say he won more games than he lost with his style because he did. But in some crucial situations, Favre’s gambling ways kept the Packers from winning. Again, I’m not bashing Favre and I’d take him on my team, but I’m just trying to separate man from myth.

He was and is very popular with many influential media types. Sports Illustrated, ESPN and others used his storyline to promote games. He’s a likeable guy, accessible and quotable. And he’s a three-time league MVP. So nobody ever questions his game.

The retirement question has been hanging around for several years for Favre with him hinting that he’d make a decision once he was back home. This time the decision was made and nobody with the Packers seemed to try and talk him out of it. They’re moving on. It’ll be interesting to see if the Pack can play a different style of offense without Favre at the controls.