Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

The Ever Expanding “Season”

With the announcement that the NFL draft will move to early May in 2014, the league continue to take steps toward year-’round awareness. Citing a “scheduling conflict” with Radio City Music Hall, next year’s draft will be May 8-10 (yes, the Thursday, Friday, Saturday of The Players.)

It’s not that they want to play games in the spring (which would still be a good idea for another league) but rather they want to be in the front of your mind all the time.


Because they’ll have shirts and hats on sale all year long, and you might buy one. In fact, you will buy one if they make enough noise and make sure you’re thinking about NFL Football in mid-May. While there’s nothing wrong with that, the expansion of all of the professional sports leagues has made the overlap of seasons full time.

One of the great trivia questions is “Which two days of the year are there no professional sports scheduled?” The answer now is only the day before and the day after the Major League Baseball All-star game.

There used to be a variety of days during the year when there was only one sport per season but now with everybody playing all the time, those are the only two days. So every other day of the year you will be exposed to some kind of marketing by some professional sport.

How much do you spend on “gear” that has some kind of logo on it? Whether it’s your favorite sports team or some manufacture with stripes or a swoosh, it’s amazing how much money is spent to get you to advertise their stuff. Watch any of the networks owned by the different leagues. In any of the commercial breaks there’s an advertisement encouraging you to “support your team” buy their stuff!

Expansion of the “season” is across the board in professional sports. MLB has a “Mr. October” but soon might need a “Mr. November” if the World Series continues to move into colder weather. The NBA starts up in October and it’s mid-June before they crown a champion. The NHL seems to only have about a month off between the Stanley Cup Finals and when camp starts.

While a lot of these decisions are based on television and the money it generates, it never hurts that you might buy a Red Wings sweater in July, or a Celtics jersey in August.

Looking back at the early Super Bowls, they were played in mid-January at the latest. Now the first weekend of February is nearly a national holiday to celebrate the game.

Just imagine when the NFL expands to 18 regular season games.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com


As always happens this time of year, the debate gets stirred up as to where The Players stands among golf tournaments.

Is it just another tournament?

Is it a Major?

The answer to both of those questions right now is no.

It’s far from just another tournament.

With all due respect to the volunteer forces around the country who put on weekly PGA Tour events, The Players is a couple of notches above any of those.

Being the showcase for the PGA Tour, in it’s backyard, they spare no expense to make it the marquee event on Tour. It’s their time to shine and they take advantage of it. I’ve said several times before and still believe it: this tournament isn’t only the best run golf tournament, it’s one of the best run sporting events in the world. It needs some tweaking, no doubt, but it’s way up there on the list of what a big event feels like.

But it’s not a major either, at least not yet. What it is is the championship of the PGA Tour.

Each of the four Majors has it’s on cachet.

The Masters is about the reverence for the game, the traditions of the game and the southern hospitality they consistently show at Augusta National. It’s very much about the game of golf.

The US Open is our national championship. If you think you’re good enough you can sign up somewhere in your town and have a chance to win the national title. Through qualifying and competition, anybody can get there.

The Open Championship honors the beginnings of the game, the elements and in some respects the way the game was invented to be played: through the elements. It also serves as the world championship for many, having been around (the game that is) before some countries were even formed.

The PGA Championship was a math play event as invented, mimicking the game most of us play among our “friends.” It also honors the nearly 30,000 professionals who keep the game alive in public and private clubs and continually try to grow the game.

The Players is none of those.

It’s about the fans, corporate hospitality, charity, television and a performance by the players as entertainment for the fans with a large amount of money on the line.

I heard several analysts last week say the 17th hole “holds the tournament back.”

From what?

The Tour itself is mirrored by the 17th hole. It’s difficult, corporate tents surround it, fans are everywhere and television has installed a dozen or so cameras to catch every angle of what happens.

Some have suggested it would be a better hole if it was somewhere else on the golf course so you might have a chance to recoup any lost strokes that might happen there. Actually it’s perfect where it is. It’s a lonely shot when you play there by yourself, standing out on that peninsula with nothing but water and the green in front of you. As the 71st hole in a championship, it should define the decision-making, the nerves and the execution it takes go finish the job.

Hit it or don’t. It’s that simple.

Seventeen isn’t holding the tournament back.

It defines what The Players is all about.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com


“Its about the angles and that makes it tough.”

And with that, Tiger Woods explained why the TPC Stadium course is so difficult for the best players in the world.

Pete Dye intended that way, and Tiger acknowledged that in his annual pre-tournament press conference.

“It’s pretty typical Pete. There aren’t many holes where you can just let out the driver. You have to find the right angles. And if you miss on the greens, you have some of the funkiest chips and lies you’ll ever see,” he explained.

Woods’ average finish is 21st at The Players at the Stadium Course. He won in 2001 but doesn’t see the course in it’s current form favoring any type of player.

“You have to hit it straight,” Tiger added to no one’s surprise.

“But you also have to have it in the right spot to come in to the green from the right angle.”

The change to Bermuda greens has also made the course more difficult according to the world’s number one player.

“Since the change to Bermuda it’s made some of these greets hot. It’s tough to get it close. And if you miss, you need a little luck.”

After his appearance at the Masters, Tiger said he took a week off and did nothing to do with golf and got back to training and working on his game about a week and a half ago. He’s a bit trimmer than he was a year ago, probably attributed to his ability to work out at the level he wants to without being injured.

When asked about his game after playing only 4 holes and going to the range, Tiger said he’s “very pleased,” with his game, which of course, is bad news for the rest of the field.

He’s part of the afternoon/morning tee grouping on Thursday and Friday at this year’s Players.

Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Jaguars Needs: Everything

What a difference a year makes when it comes to the Jaguars draft. Obviously the people inside the draft room are different but the whole situation has changed when it comes to acquiring players.

Last year in Shad Khan’s first draft as an NFL owner, the Jaguars were trying to fill some holes to be competitive. “I was told last year that we were just a few players away from competing for the playoffs. We got some players but didn’t get there,” Khan said when making some moves at the top of the football hierarchy at the end of the 2012 season.

Prior to the 2013 draft Khan had no trouble admitting the Jaguars were in a rebuilding year. “It makes me think that we should have started this process a year earlier. But we’re on our way.”

Standing in the middle of the Jaguars locker room two weeks ago it was eerily empty. With the number of cuts made by the team since the first of the year, the roster was under 60 players. “Not only isn’t there anybody in here,” one veteran player told me, “I don’t know anybody’s name!”

Which means an entirely different mind-set was in place for the Jaguars to begin anew in acquiring players: Get the best ones available.

Most teams go into the draft with specific needs, holes they’re trying to fill or looking for players who can shore up one side of the ball or the other.

In 2012 they were looking for a wide receiver and jumped up to get Justin Blackmon. They dabbled in free-agency to keep Jeremy Mincey, and sign Aaron Ross, filling immediate needs.

In 2013 in a stated rebuilding process the draft process and consequently the free-agent process as well were simple: figure out who you think the next best player is on the board and pick him.

Taking Luke Joeckel was simple in 2013. He was the best player available in that spot, so they picked him. “When best player available and need matchup,” Gus Bradley said on Day Two of the NFL draft, “You’re on to something special.”

That’s where the Jaguars were with their second and third round picks. It just so happened that Johnathan Cyprien and Dwayne Gratz were the next best players available AND they played positions of need for the Jaguars.

Easy picks.

And those two, along with Joeckel, will be expected to start in 2013.

No projects here.

Picking Ace Sanders in the 4th round is another “best and need” situation for the Jaguars. Their woeful return game gets somebody who is expected to contribute immediately and without using a high pick to fill that spot. Taking Dennard Robinson is a bit of a novelty choice but he has something the Jaguars lacked last year: speed. He instantly makes them faster no matter when he ends up on the roster.

The rest of the draft, Josh Evans, Jeremy Harris and Demetrius McCray, are special teams additions or late bloomers whom you hope develop into something they’re not right now.

But that’s still only 8 players and they need more than that. So some of the 23 undrafted free agents need to be good enough to not only make the team but contribute somewhere, especially on special teams.

Add in some free-agent acquisitions as we move toward the 2013 kickoff (and beyond) and you have the “ground floor” of a rebuilding project.

Jaguars fans hope that the draft picks will help immediately because in one way, it was the easiest draft ever.

Whomever they picked, they needed him!