Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Lance and Tom State Their Case…

In one day, the two guys who I was rooting for in the two events I love to watch both imploded. I’ve learned not to get to emotionally invested in what’s going on at a sporting event. I did that as a kid, and experienced both euphoria and despair following what my teams did.

In this job, I’m a “professional observer” and don’t really have any favorites. Too often guys I wanted to see do well turned out to be jerks when I went to talk with them. They could care less what you think. They’re not invested in you in the least. They’re invested in themselves.

Somehow though, I got involved with both Lance Armstrong and Tom Watson.

I’ve met both. Armstrong is a very focused, guarded guy who is smart and sharp. He has a reputation as a bad guy, but I haven’t seen it. Watson is friendly and glib, but always detached. He has people he’s close to but it’s always been obvious that while he’s a great player and a great champion, there’s a lot more to Tom Watson than just who he is as a golfer.

While Watson’s quest is over, Armstrong’s continues. Watson had a chance. In the middle of the 18th fairway on the final hole of the tournament with an 8 iron in his hand, a simple par makes him the oldest tournament winner in history. The fact that it was The Open championship made the story even bigger.

And it’s not as if Watson snuck up on anybody.

He shot an opening round 65 and was the leader at the end of each day. He openly said he thought he could win and wanted to. And he backed it up with solid play and some big putts. But with the Claret Jug sitting there, ready for his name for a 6th time, he couldn’t close the door.

I don’t have any problem with any shot he hit on 18. Except the last putt that could have won it. I know he’s Tom Watson and I know he’s won Majors in the past and might not need any advice. But his caddy needed to go over there and say something to him. Remind him that he is Tom Watson and go over there and make that putt. Give it a run, Knock it right in.

He could have used that, but it wasn’t to be found.

Regardless of the outcome, it’s a fantastic accomplishment and a story for the ages. Keep working, pick your spots, stay sharp and you can stay competitive, especially in a sport like golf. Watson shouldn’t feel anything but that he came up a bit short. He played 72 holes and was tied for the lead.

Yes he had a chance to win it and yes he really waved at that final putt. But that’s the only one EVERYBODY saw. He made and missed plenty others over 71 holes that one a few people saw.

Because he’s so competitive, Watson will beat himself up for a while. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t be the great champion that he is. No matter the outcome, his legacy is secure. Paul Azinger said the win means more to Stewart Cink than it would to Watson. Maybe so but if he had won, the historical context would have been tough to gauge. The biggest accomplishment of the year? Of the decade? Of the last 40 years? It certainly would be part of that discussion. Certainly the biggest accomplishment in golf in recent memory.

Lance’s situation is a bit different.

Alberto Contador might have shown that he was the strongest climber in that stage. The Tour, over three weeks, usually identifies the strongest rider. And up to this point, it’s Contador, no question. That doesn’t mean it’s over for Lance. A fall, a mechanical problem, an indifferent climbing day and all of the sudden, Armstrong is part of the equation regarding the winner of “Le Tour.”

But it’s a fantastic accomplishment no matter what happens.

Armstrong, day after day, is legitimizing his seven Tour wins and is showing again, that age is just a number. He’s said he’ll probably be back for next year’s Tour but the fact that he’s competitive for this year is just amazing. He only decided to return a year ago. He’s at least 10 years older than just about every other competitor in the race. And yet he’s in second place.

His surge on Tuesday showed he’s still got some gas in the tank and could be a factor in the last couple of stages No matter. He again is showing that age is just a number.

Which make me want to go hit some balls.

And ride my bike

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Nearly Perfect Day Fishing

Any chance I have a chance to go fishing, I usually jump at it.

After about a five-year hiatus, the Greater Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament resurrected the “media” fishing day leaving from Sister’s Creek Marina just off the St. Johns River. Luckily I drew my friend Randy Nader as the boat captain so with Matt Kingston from Channel 4 and my son Cole along, we hit the water at 7:30.

“This is great,” I hollered to Cole over the roar of the twin 250’s pounding us over the small swells. “Shame it has to happen at 7 in the morning,” I mused. It is something that you never know when the fish are going to hit, but it’s important to get out there at “first light.”

We were lucky to draw Randy as our captain. I’ve fished with Randy before and not only does he always have the top equipment, but he’s an expert and can find the fish. And if they’re not around, he’ll call somebody and find some. And besides that, he’s about the nicest and best guy you’ve ever met.

As soon as we cleared the jetties, we shot right to the beach looking for bait. From 100 yards away I could see the “pogies” popping on the water so over the side the net went. I’ve looked for bait in the past for half the day and sometimes find a few, just enough to fish with. (BTW, a “pogie” is actually a menhaden fish. Small, swims in big schools and lives near the shore. It’s the right size to use for bait on bigger fish in deeper water.)

When the two mates, Malcolm and Kevin started to pull the net up, it was so heavy they couldn’t get it over the side. At first I thought it was stuck on something but when I went to help, I could tell it was just overflowing. I mean there were pogies everywhere. Never have I seen any one throw of the net grab so many baitfish. Over 1000. Honest.

So with bait onboard we went about 20 miles off shore to start. It was glassy so we were there in a flash. With lines in the water, two sharks were our first catch. Small, and just enough to make everybody on the boat want to head elsewhere. So we did! And fast! Randy punched in the coordinates and off we went. With the stereo blasting, easily the best on-board sound and DVD system I’ve ever seen, we were in a new spot with lines in the water almost immediately.

Right away, a king mackerel hit one of the lines. You could tell the difference in how it took out line. After about a 7 minute fight, our first 15-pounder was in the boat. Then it dried up again. No surprise, but we did boat a small king, cutting it off at the boat looking for, as the saying goes, “bigger fish to fry!” Off to another spot and with lines in the water, you could feel something about to happen.

One by one, the two outriggers and the flat line behind the boat took off, three strikes at once! We hooked all three up and fought them for about 10 minutes. What was interesting was as we were fighting those three, about four other kings where jumping (skyrocketing) around the boat. It was your typical “hair on fire moment” trying to maneuver the boat, catch the fish and stay on board!

We brought all three to the boat, cut two off because they were small and threw the third in the fish box. That’s when we got two more strikes on either side of the boat. I was fighting one fish while Matt had a pretty big one on the other side. As we were brining them in, the biggest barracuda I’ve ever seen started cruising around the boat. I got my fish close enough to see he was small and cut him off while Matt was fighting a big kind pretty hard.

That’s when the barracuda cruised around in a circle and “boom” hit the back of the kind and sheered its tail off. Another circle and “boom” the body of the fish was taken away. I know it sounds like a fish story, but that barracuda was more than 4 feet long! It looked like Wild Kingdom out there!

We fished for a while, and caught a few trash fish but the kings had turned off and there’s nothing you can do about it when they’re night biting. That’s why they call it fishing and not catching.

Lets see: on the water, with my son and good friends, having fun, fishing, listening to good music and funny videos, actually catching fish?

Nearly a perfect day!

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Armstrong’s Already a Winner

I don’t care if Lance Armstrong wins the Tour de France.


I’m happy with what he’s already done and if he falls apart and doesn’t finish, (which won’t happen by the way) I won’t care.

Armstrong’s performance, both on and off the bike in the first third of the tour has be nothing short of amazing. His 10th place finish in the opening individual time trial seemed to be an expected result. Wait a minute! The guy is 38 years old, he’s been off the bike, drinking beer and having fun for more than three years. He decideds to return, sheds about 20 pounds, trains like a maniac and goes back to the highest level of competition and finishes tenth?


I mean it was possible for him to finish 100th and it still be a great accomplishment. But 10th shows that he’s fully committed and in the right form. He hangs with his team through the first few stages then whips them through the team time trial, crushing everybody else. Remember, this guy is 8, 10 , 12, 15 years older than everybody else out there. Even he admitted that the 7th stage, the first mountain stage into the Pyrenees would be the first “real” stage of Le Tour. And as we’ve come to expect, Lance sat at the front with the leaders, crusing to the top.

It was some effort, but it’s not like he was cross-eyed when he crossed the line. Armstrong says “the team is not going to be the problem” which I interpreted as saying, “I’m going to have to beat one of these guys on my own team if I want to win the Tour.” And it’s possible that Alberto Contador, Levi Leipheimer and Andres Kloden present the biggest hurdle to Lance taking the yellow jersey.

But I’m not sure that’s even what his goal is.

As competitive as he is, if he’s near the lead, he’ll try to win, but I really think he’s about the team and the cause.

Raising awareness for cancer research is what this comeback is all about. “It’s been tougher than I thought,” he said after stage 4, but if anybody can be focused on what needs to be done, Armstrong has shown he’s the guy. His updates on Twitter.com have given us insight regarding the day to day life of a professional cyclist, particulary the most famous one in the world.

“Doping control today,” Lance noted on Friday. “And that’s a good thing,” he added. Armstrong has been dogged by so many accusations of illegal doping throughout his career that submitting to some kind of testing is somewhat liberating for him.

I don’t care if he wins the Tour.
No matter where he finishes.
He’ll be in front.