Usually this column writes itself as the week goes along. When I’m out people want to talk sports and generally everybody wants to talk about the same thing. That’s one of the things I’ve always liked about living here. People like sports and they like to talk about it. And they have an opinion.
I’ve also learned that when people ask me “what do you think about such and such,” they really want to tell me what they think about a certain subject. Which is great.
This week was different though because people were all over the place talking about everything.
While the Tim Tebow story seemed like last week’s news, there were still a lot of fans who wanted to voice their opinion about that.
As expected, most weren’t sure about what he might do but knew enough about Tim and his background to have an opinion. And it always amazes me how pointed people are when it comes to talking about Tebow. He really raises people’s emotions one way or another.
One guy stopped me mid-week on the way to the first tee and told to me to advise the Jaguars not to sign Tebow.
“Why not?” I asked.
“Too much of a distraction,” he said.
When I referred to last week’s column where I wrote that Tim would bring Meyer’s ideas to the locker room and he might take some of the heat off of Trevor Lawrence he wasn’t buying it.
“Nah, he said, “Plus they took the wrong quarterback anyway,” he responded dismissively.
“I guess we’re done here,” I said, joking with his friends.
“He’s an Ohio State guy anyway,” his playing partner said, pointing to the “Buckeye” head cover on his driver.
Not taking Trevor Lawrence would have started some kind of insurrection here in town. Lawrence is a generational player who also seems to have all of the intangibles.
Watching him practice this week it’s obvious he’s deep into the Jaguars playbook already and has the physical talent to compete. Justin Fields might turn out to be a great player as well. He seems to have all of the tools. Even fans of “Runner-up U,” as Steve Spurrier dubbed the Buckeyes, know that. Plus I always think of Fields as a Georgia guy anyway. Kirby Smart just couldn’t see what he had at the time.
There was some mild talk about baseball this week and mostly about the number of no-hitters being thrown. Six so far this year, with the full-season record only being seven.
At least one pitcher, perennial Dodger All-Star and former Jacksonville Sun Clayton Kershaw, doesn’t think much of the lack of hitting. He thinks fans want to see more offense and said Major League Baseball ‘Missed the mark’ with whatever changes they made to the baseball in the off-season trying to cut down on the number of home runs.
“I do know that strikeouts are the same,” he said. “I think I saw some stats for April that it was the worst hitting month in the history of something. No-hitters are cool. I have all the respect in the world for Corey Kluber and Bum and all those guys that have thrown no-hitters. But to have one happen every night, it seems like it’s probably not good for the game. Fans want to see some hits.”
Kershaw is right, and former Major League catcher Rick Wilkins agrees.
“The way the game is played right now, it lends itself to exactly that,” he explained. “Hard-hit balls somewhere isn’t what’s being taught. Everybody’s talking about launch angle and uppercuts. You’ll see a lot of one-run or no-runs scored for a lot of teams.
“That oh-and-two swing is the same as that oh-and-oh swing,” former Jacksonville Suns owner Peter Bragan, Jr. agreed. “Nobody chokes up and just tries to put the ball in play anymore with two strikes. Agents have told them ‘moving runners over doesn’t get you paid, hitting home runs gets you paid.’”
Some people were fired up about the PGA Championship this week, the tournament moving to May and being played at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island.
But they couldn’t find it on television.
“Where’s the golf,” my friend Keith called to ask.
“It’s on ESPN+,” I told him.
“What’s that?” he asked
“Exactly,” I said with a laugh. “Nobody knows what it is or where it is.”
We’ve been so used to seeing early week or early round coverage on The Golf Channel or regular ESPN that to have to go find it wasn’t a good decision by the PGA of America.
Playing at Kiawah was a good call though. If only because most of the golf fans who wanted to talk about it this week were hoping for some tough conditions.
“I hope it blows like crazy there,” Keith added, having played the Ocean Course in tough conditions. “I hope they shoot a million,” he said.
That seemed to be the consensus and that’s changed a bit. Golf fans used to want to see lots of birdies and great playing but players have gotten so long, thanks to training and equipment, that par fives are nearly a thing of the past.
“I heard (Tony) Finau say he had to hit 4-iron into a couple of par 4’s at Kiawah and he hadn’t done that in a while,” my friend John said derisively. “Waah, Waah, Waah, cry me a river.”
Could it be that players have gotten so good that they’ve lost touch with some fans because the game they’re playing is so different?
“It sure elevates The Players,” my friend Pedro said about the PGA’s move to May. “The Players, The Masters, The PGA, The US Open, The Open all a month apart. Start calling The Players a Major,” he said with a smile.
And as the week came to a close, the conversation came back to Tim Tebow. Tebow signed a contract with the Jaguars and showed up at practice on Thursday wearing number eighty-five.
“He’ll have to show he at least belongs out there,” former Jaguars linebacker Tom McManus said on a podcast he and fellow Jaguars linebacker Lonnie Marts and I do occasionally. “He can’t go out there and fall on his face. I imagine he’ll do alright, he’s kept himself in good shape.”
“But he’ll have to earn it, and in the locker room too,” Marts added.
When I noted that Tim is familiar with the environment in an NFL locker room, Lonnie said that’ll be a factor.
“He knows how to act and what guys are like,” Marts said. “There’s guys who will say ‘he’s only here because he’s Urban’s guy’ and he’ll hear that. But if he runs and catches and studies and does what he normally does, he’ll earn their respect. And that’s important.”
One thing I saw that nobody mentioned was Travis Etienne’s combination of speed and quickness that he’s shown on the field in rookie camp and OTA’s. He’s the touchdown threat every time he touches the ball the Jaguars have been missing for a while.
If that pans out, now that would be something people would be talking about.