RESPECT – “Our people” in Kabul, mask-vax, and umpiring

The bad old days before vaccine – brother Mike is retired now, rolling around the country in a 37′ RV, a state of affairs he always envisioned. Having two unvaxxed, essentially homeless people, dropped into my living space isn’t nearly as respectful a situation.

Start with the most important RESPECT

Having sent congrats! to several military people I know (especially you Malitzia) about the Kabul airlift, RESPECT should be the byword for all Americans. By all reasonable standards, a massive – over 120,000 person success versus any ‘debacle’ or stain on our military’s record – should be lauded. Hats off for all who served, in the air, on the ground, or logistically.

As Marine Corp General Kenneth McKenzie said at the time of an ISIS suicide bombing, when you’re in such a defensive posture, you KNOW you are going to be attacked – it’s only a question of when, and how well prepared for it you are. Noting that searching for body bombs like what killed some 60 Afghans and 13 U.S. service people is “a breath on breath,” intimate operation that was a threat every moment of the 17 days it lasted, one ‘successful’ attack was exceptional.

General McKenzie was also willing to credit the Taliban, which constituted the initial defensive perimeter, as being helpful and abiding by what had been agreed regarding the US departure.

That ISIS took advantage of the situation – very possibly using a female bomber that Sharia law prevented Taliban people from touching in the way necessary to detect a personal bomb – was probably a factor. It was detonated when faced with US personnel not restricted in that way is a simple fact, not the overwhelming fault that some Congressional (GOP) naysayers want to paint President Biden with.

The last American out was Major General Chris Donahue, 82nd Airborne, XVIII Corp. (hope that’s correctly delineated). It was NOT the frantic desperation of the last helicopter out of Vietnam when I was a HS senior, more the always messy end of a 20 year mission.

Mask-vax negatives are not a gov’t flaw

Nine months into the deployment of several 95-97% effective vaccines AFTER trump left office – most know the why of that – the United States has yet to reach group immunity (generally pegged at 70%), and the delta variation is overwhelming our health care system.

Every time there’s a huge increase in infections, and then deaths, it’s been tied to idiotic loosening of systems that are *proven* to work against such unseeable enemies. This quote from Martin Luther https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/martin-luther-plague-quote/ shows great sensibility about precautions. We have people poisioning themselves with horse de-wormer https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/why-you-should-not-use-ivermectin-treat-or-prevent-covid-19 because they feel ‘getting stuck’ hands a political victory to Biden that trump et al don’t want to happen.

Come ON! with basic smarts America!

CHILDREN have not proven in any way immune to COVID-19, especially the delta variant, and mandates from GOP governors that school districts cannot protect them by masking is criminal. Many school districts will fight such mandate restrictions with civil disobedience, but at the individual level, there seems to a YUGE lack of respect for extra caution (see Martin Luther, above).

When I walked into a Novant clinic on March 18th, while still a Category 5 person in North Carolina, I felt I’d been given as close a guarantee to *living* as was possible. After hunkering down for a year, two weeks after a 2nd shot (Pfizer) I was allowed into Carmel Hills Senior Center, where I got to hug my 87 year old mother.

As a bottom line philosophy, I’d considered “thinning out the gene pool” a matter of choice – until it was very probable that ‘those people’ who wanted to deny or spit in the eye of the death-dealing ferocity of COVID could easily take me with them.

That my landlord decided THIS WEEK – his house, apparently he felt no need to consult three bill-paying tenants – to allow two homeless people to ‘temporarily’ camp in the living room, is a direct affront to the idea of respecting others. I wear a cloth mask when I leave my room now – it makes no sense to let my previous caution allow delta a gotcha! moment.

Having shown the two NYC-Jersey refugees my vax card, I have NO REASON to believe “Oh, I threw that piece of paper away,” is anything but a lie. The female denied the clog of hair left in shower was her’s (kee-RIST!), why believe something considerably more important to my health is okay, just because the guy would ditch such a document during a pandemic? Moron, right?

RESPECT has always been earned

RESPECT has always been earned, and both landlord – for many reasons – and these people have given me plenty of reason to doubt they’re working with societal norms. Millions of others have their own reasons for lying, but in situations this up close and personal, protecting myself is Job One.

For that, and many other reasons, I’m looking to get out of this living arrangement a.s.a.p. Landlord has a heart condition, another resident isn’t vaxxed either, not a problem to be a pisser about this IMHO.

Telling me to put my car on the street instead of in driveway so newbies can park there, that’s a minor disrespect, more an inconvenience. I talked to ‘the kids’ (22 y/olds) straight up about it, because good communication should always be top of the list. They seemed to understand, but like many aspects of life right now, about half the people in the house aren’t hearing it. Even if he’s “being a good Christian” re: homeless, I’ve been there. (Update 9/20/21 – He’s not that good, charging pair of 22 year olds $550 a month) https://cdtalententerprises.com/2021/06/22/america-truly-on-move-sheltered-homeless-challenge-millions/

Three sturdy HS football players who helped with a recent furniture drive said they wouldn’t get vaccinated, and I guess we’ll see how badly this continues to go on, based on lack of RESPECT for COVID.

“We know the difference with good umpires”

Tee ball doesn’t actually have umpires, your best player is the kid who jumps on the ball early, and 10 batters an inning is all you get.

Brother David gave me this nugget, and yes, the scheduler for the organization I work for has it as a mantra – “You have to be consistent, especially high-low.” Last week I umped five games of 9 year olds on Saturday, then three games of 15 year olds Sunday.

After a first game that took 2:30 hours (scheduled for 1:45), I was told to loosen up my strike zone, from probably two ball widths off the plate to three. Realistically, this was the first time the 9 yr. olds weren’t getting ‘coach pitch,’ and you can’t hit anything that far off the plate, but with a heat index of 105 degrees, getting done sooner was a matter of survival.

I thanked the spectators that offered water and Gatorade, especially the frozen bottle I drizzled on my neck between innings. That several every game understood how physically brutal that heat was kind of counted, 15 minutes between games in the air-conditioned clubhouse counted even more.

The games with 15 year olds was quite different

Even 10 year olds have curve balls now, despite evidence that its not good for them to be throwing curves, and I’m aware of that ‘hook’ at the end when calling the games. At the beginning of 15s I made it clear, 3 balls wide yesterday wouldn’t be the deal – the 17″ of plate is all anyone was going to get.

I should add the fact that 10-11 year old catchers learn to frame pitches early, and 15s are willing to pull a pitch from *anywhere* into a spot that’s close to strike zone.

After one particular pitcher kept signaling he didn’t know why he wasn’t getting calls, I went to the manager between innings and told him the catcher was set up on outer third of the plate, and if pitcher missed at all, it was going to be a ball. Turned out that catcher had that habit previously, and manager couldn’t see difference from dugout I could at plate. He had catcher reposition himself directly behind the plate and offered thanks for the input.

As someone interested in athletics beyond the win-loss aspect, I feel its my professional duty to offer a comment when I see an obvious situation deserving of one.

I’ve done it multiple times, and when a center-fielder crashed into the chain link fence Sunday (GREAT catch!), I went to both dugouts and reminded them such things happened in sports. That kid had a helluva egg on his forehead, and didn’t look all there at the end of game, even after they’d taken him for x-rays to check for a concussion.

Coach said “Thanks for the input, Blue” even though I was sure he’d probably told his players the same thing. RESPECT comes in a lot of different packages, and there’s noooo doubt we could use a lot more of it in the current climate of ‘Us-them’ on something as basic as health safety during a pandemic.

RESPECT a virus? You betcha. If you want to hug your Mom, living in a community that’s tougher on who gets in than you want, do something smart about it – get the shot. If you don’t want your kids to come back from school loaded with a virus they can unknowingly pass to you, and you to unsuspecting others – get the shot.

If you’d like to offer a positive response about how you’re handling safety or issues of RESPECT, comments are open. I label this in ‘Leadership Thought’ category, one of my favorite word-smithing abilities, available for hire.

‘Vanilla’ pre-season offense will surprise Steelers, Panther fans, NFL in 2021

Will the 2021 Panthers be capable of playoff caliber production? A lot of smart money is going to say “11-6 and we’ll see.”

I arrived in Charlotte (from upstate NY) the same year the Panthers started playing, 1995, and went to a game at Clemson that year against the 49ers. I took two pictures that I won’t forget – Sam Mills going up to stop Steve Young on a QB sneak, and Tyrone Poole trying to stop a high pass to Jerry Rice. I never liked the Giants or Jets, mostly because I had to watch regional doubleheaders of them during college, when they both stunk. I also got tickets to their playoff win against Dallas, and saw the full-moon win against New England when a last second Brady pass was incomplete. (Yes, Kuechly was holding Gronkowski.)

It’s a stone-cold given that the Panthers offense will put numbers on the board in 2021 season – the team record is 500, in the 2015 Super Bowl season – although the Carolina faithful may not be Believers yet. They haven’t seen any Darnold 70-yard bombs to those terrific receivers, ZERO from face-of-the-franchise Christian McCaffrey, and the second team defense hasn’t looked like they could step in and stop anyone better than in 2019.

Hang in there Charlotte, ‘The Quarterback Whisperer’ (Joe Brady), those fine receivers – Anderson and Moore were #3 producers in NFL in 2020 – and CMC is still the terrific over-achiever you remember from that 1000-1000 year.

Yes, Sam Darnold will pull the trigger

Rhule commented that Darnold throws a real nice deep ball, and fannies at BOA Stadium haven’t seen that factor in a long time. Steve Smith is still worshipped as the best we’ve had (836 catches/12,197 yds./67 TDs), he’ll probably become a Hall of Famer this year. Mushin Muhammed (860/11,438/62) gave the Panthers great service, and Greg Olsen will always be considered a ninja legend, a tight end who couldn’t be seen until he’d gotten the catch and first down yardage.

Defenses – and anyone in the stands – knew Newton almost exclusively kept throws to 20 yards or less, and his awkwardness in getting to the ground versus destroying DBs like before a 2016 injury, was painful to watch. Newton wasn’t close to a fearsome runner his last few years here, and in his MVP year (2015), only his 35 passing TDs (plus 10 rushing) was statistically much different from his career stats. While he enjoyed a 67.9% completion rate in 2018, a lot of that was dropoffs to McCaffrey, who obviously lugged the ball a lot in the Norv Turner offense.

Kyle Allen turned DJ Moore into a star by being able to hit him in stride the next year, Teddy Bridgewater didn’t scare anyone about going long, and Newton never threw a touch pass or jump ball to receivers in the red zone in nine years. Sam Darnold will change all that, including teams stacking the box to stop McCaffrey.

The Quarterback Whisperer

Ask Joe Burrow (Cincinatti Bengals) if Joe Brady made him the #1 draft pick last year, and he’ll admit that, talent aside, the juice Brady put into a somewhat stodgy LSU offense was the deal. Burrows top receivers his senior year are all in the NFL now, including Terrance Marshall, Jr. with the Panthers.

The potentially weak link in what should be a wide-open offense with CMC back and wide receivers galore, is going to be the O-line blocking Darnold gets. Yes, he sometimes had ‘happy feet’ trying to avoid sacks with the Jets, and *maybe* Brady wouldn’t say anything negative about his QB. Darnold is certainly under a microscope – albeit not a NY media one – and those at practice say he’s showing leadership and the arm that made him the overall #3 pick back in 2018. https://cdtalententerprises.com/2021/04/09/panthers-take-care-of-business-gm-fitterer-lands-qb-darnold-to-get-rolling/

Vanilla offense no more

With Burrow the proof of Brady’s offensive influence – (NCAA record 76.3% completions), 60 TDs, 5,671 yards (378 avg. per game) – more so than Bridgewater’s 15 TD/11 INT mark – NFL coaches are aware the Panthers offensive coordinator hasn’t shown much from what should be a substantial bag of tricks.

Last year the Panthers had four players accumulate over 1,000 yards from scrimmage, and while Mike Davis and Curtis Samuel have taken their games elsewhere, McCaffrey will replace – or once again become – that offensive production.

If you saw his shoulder injury, the defender pinned McCaffrey’s arms before he landed and he couldn’t protect his fall. Sure it could happen again, but its also impossible for linebackers to drop into deep zones to help with coverage when he, or possibly stud rookie Chuba Hubbard are carving out first downs running. CMC can just as easily go in motion and pick up eight yards on a short out, more if someone (few want to attempt open field tackles with him) isn’t coming to get him.

Robby Anderson is just the first of several Panthers who have received contract extensions (2 yr./ $29.5MM, $20.5MM guaranteed), meaning you’ll be hearing what this band is playing for a while. DJ Moore won’t totally break the bank with any new contract, but given Tepper and GM Scott Fitterer’s willingness to match production and paychecks (CMC got $21.3MM up front for his extension), he’ll get his piece too. Raiding well-paid Panthers personnel becomes a very secondary consideration.

If defenses had trouble with the speedy Samuel, they will not be happier with the size (6’2″, 200 lbs) of a third receiver like Marshall, who ran a 4.38 40 yd. dash and jumped 39″ in his pro day – and did 16 -225 lb. bench presses. DBs especially had better have it strapped on tight when he needs tackling.

Will the Panthers surprise Pittsburgh tomorrow and the NFL when games count for real? I’d say invoke Mr. Tepper’s financial stack and history of knowing what to do about what he wants results-wise. The smart money is on the steep though not prohibitive – cost of taking any of the current coaches away for head coaching positions elsewhere. Coaching WILL make a difference in Rhule 2.0.

Will Rhule rate a statue?

When Panthers owner David Tepper gave a big contract to Matt Rhule, he was betting against the history of terrific college coaches who fail in the NFL. Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer did real well with the Cowboys of course, but few others have made successful transitions to the pros.

After Coach Rhule’s 5-11 first year at the helm, not everyone was super-charged at prospects for 2021, especially lacking an A-1 QB to work with those quality receivers – of which there are now more. Rhule’s track record supports idea of significant second year progress – and he has a seven year, $60 million contract.

Right now, the statues outside the stadium are of Sam Mills, the linebacker who died of cancer in 2005 and is the inspiration for the teams ‘Keep Pounding’ theme. That he only played three seasons for the Panthers indicates the regard he was accorded. Mike McCormick was the team’s president and general manager from the time of Mr. Richardson’s bid, to formation in the NFL until 1997.

What might it take for Coach Rhule to get a stadium statue, generally a rare honor? Winning a Super Bowl would be a start. Winning as many games as Lombardi? Legitimate. Winning a title before Tepper’s new soccer team does? Ahhhhh… (The panthers at all entrances remain, original owner Jerry Richardson’s has been taken away.)

Let’s let him get through Year Two before the idea of statues comes up Charlotte.

COMING MONDAY – The Defense

Panther fans, closer to believing in football revived than pandemic?

Having 35,000 fannies back in the seats for an outdoor game, excitement should be as strong as its been in several years

Panther Coach Matt Rhule resting his first line players as “already having two tough days of practice last week,” and giving a number of others extended looks instead, was rewarded with pro-quality contributions right off the bat in Indianapolis.

That’s what pre-season games are for, sorting talent, but making decisions needs to happen faster than ever – first cutdowns https://jetswire.usatoday.com/2021/05/27/nfl-changes-roster-cuts-dates-2021-season-new-york-jets/X is this coming Tuesday.

If Jeremy Chinn has become the poster boy for crafty trading-drafting by Panthers, a handful of others presented sterling new production:

  • PJ Walker, QB 10/21, 161 yds/TD. When they say ‘mobile,’ he can run away from trouble and throw rockets doing it.
  • Chuba Hubbard (OK St.) 7 carries/80 yards. He sure looked like a stud backup for McCaffrey.
  • Terrance Marshall, Jr. Put an big ‘un on the board to start. As a #3 receiver, he won’t be doubled. Same 6’2″, 200 lb. size as all-time great Mushin Muhammed. https://www.nfl.com/news/which-nfl-rookie-receivers-will-be-most-productive-in-2021-my-analytics-based-to
  • Marquis Haynes, LB Out of Mississippi, is in a contract year. He’s good on putting a speed rush on QBs, and also at setting an edge. (I didn’t realize he’d gotten 4 sack in part-time role last year.) With Shaq sitting, he was the veteran making calls.
  • Tommy Tremble (Notre Dame, TE) 3 catches/19 yards, TD. He is blocking better, knows how to run routes well. Dan Arnold is #1 TE, but there’s every expectation Temble gets aspot on to roster. First TDs are always a grin-fest.

Recognizing the Panther faithful are hoping for a resurrection of previous Super Bowl status at SOME point, I’m reminded how many people I watched games with, who only believed “I think we might have a good team,” when the Panthers opened a full can of whupass on the Cowboys one Thanksgiving https://www.sbnation.com/nfl/2015/11/26/9805360/cowboys-panthers-2015-results-score-recap-thanksgiving to run their record to 11-0. Grannies were dubbin’ with Cam during his MVP season.

I’ve said before, there’s still room on the bandwagon. https://cdtalententerprises.com/2021/08/11/still-plenty-of-room-on-darnold-panthers-bandwagon-11-6-a-franchise-reset/ Starters will play probably a half against the Ravens, a night game here, which seems like very good scheduling.

Three weeks until home opener – Jets

Will a full house be allowed in Charlotte under current conditions is a legitimate worry.

Absolutely, a 21-18 loss on a field goal in the final seconds, where projected second line personnel started earning their professional spurs, its no coincidence Rhule’s path to the Panthers head job last year always includes major second year improvement at earlier stops.

This is already a younger but veteran team, and watching videos of Coach Rhule answering questions here in camp, his giving complete and straight-up answers to reporters has to filter through to his daily interaction with players.

He commented that they just missed a couple long throws in practices, smiled while stating Sam threw nice long ball, a factor missing in Charlotte for years.

Which new free agent played for Rhule at Temple? Quarterback PJ Walker (2013-2016), who was throwing ropes on the run against Indy, much like he did in XFL in 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P._J._Walker

Moton got the money

After being franchise-tagged (avg. top 5 in league, $13-14MM), Moton signed a 4 year/$72MM extension, including a $15MM signing bonus. He’s been a Panther since 2017, going into year two, he was considered under-achieving. Panthers have historically rolled their O-line people around, Moton has been a solid constant.

There’s been some busy-body comments they “only” paid him *right* tackle money, and they might want him on the left, guarding Darnold’s back. Easy analysis: The position has been tried by several the last three years, backside safety gives Darnold the best chance to lead. If Moton’s the best at that, Rhule will make it happen, and Taylor won’t be thinking he got stiffed, he’ll be a professional.

When hasn’t $15MM of bonus cash bought you a decent amount of good will and cooperation?

Coach can call it a successful week

There was some disappointment regarding “fire in the belly” in the first practice against Colts, but everyone agrees Panthers righted the situation on Day Two.

PJ Walker is the 5th player who Rhule coached at Temple, Robbie Anderson is obviously in that crew.

The turf in Indianapolis was essentially the same beaded turf now in BOA Stadium, Anderson doesn’t like it as ‘fake.’ Could be some negatives associated with that stuff in NY. RE-LAX, Robbie.

I think my brother gave up his PSLs. Charlotte was the first stadium built with Personal Seating Licenses, apparently Mr. Tepper is planning something along those lines for a soccer stadium.GM Scott Fitterer is indeed doing a fine job.

Still plenty of room on Darnold-Panthers bandwagon, Fitterer and 11-6 a franchise reset

I *guarantee* any of the faithful watching practice tried to find shelter fast in Spartanburg. If you’ve been there, you know the deal.

Nobody seems to doubt the Panthers will have plenty of offensive firepower in 2021. The “and if” part in many projections for their season was getting a high caliber QB to run it. Fans will get more solid evidence that GM Scott Fitterer did pretty good with his first real important job, on Sunday in Indianapolis.

Sam Darnold, former NY Jet – I won’t use that term often any more, he’s the Panthers QB, no ifs, ands, or buts now – was said to look good in practice last week, so here we go! Its certainly nothing like the fanfare that accompanied #1 pick Cam Newton’s arrival in Charlotte in 2011, off a national championship at Auburn for him and a 1-15 season in Charlotte.

Former Panther coach Ron Rivera always said things became more real once the pads went on, and there you have it in a nutshell. Unloved where he was, Darnold is a talented player getting a muuuccch better second opportunity to prove his worth to us fannies will be the train to ride. He can’t nail a 300-yard night during two practices with Colts, and will probably only see a half of game action, so any attaboys! finally being uttered now, I’m sure he’ll accept them.

Any bigger picture decision about Fitterer’s genius will have to wait a little longer, https://cdtalententerprises.com/2021/04/09/panthers-take-care-of-business-gm-fitterer-lands-qb-darnold-to-get-rolling/ but $30 million in cap space has plugged quite a few holes with free agents.

Consider 11-6 season a Panthers reboot

This will be an absolute turnaround season for the franchise, and opposing defenses should buckle it on tight after a highly movitated Christian McCaffrey (C-MC, some say CeeMac) comes out of the gate with maybe 150 yds./2 TDs on the Jets. Receivers Robbie Anderson and DJ Moore were the #3 production duo in NFL, and while two of FOUR Panthers not named McCaffrey who gained over 1,000 yards from scrimmage are gone (RB M.Davis, WR C.Samuel), there will be plenty of #22 jerseys in the stands cheering his return.

Valuable Replacements

Valuable replacement for Curtis Samuel (to Washington, 3 yr/$34.5M) NFL Network’s Cynthia Frelund pegged Terrance Marshall, Jr. as Top 5 pick to lead rookie receivers this year.

At 6’2″, 200 lbs., he’s the same size as Panther great Mushin Muhammad, as a #3 receiver, he’ll get 1-1 coverage because of Moore and Anderson.

For those who haven’t already forgotten Greg Olsen and his ‘ninja skills,’ suddenly appearing downfield to catch a clutch first down pass, management has signed 6’6″ Dan Arnold (Arizona) to a 2 year/$6M contract. That’s just in case Darnold can’t find a receiver anywhere else, there should a large security blanket-level target pretty much in front of his eyes.

Ask ex-Panther Jimmy Clausen why they couldn’t find a good pass-catching tight end when he was blitzed mercilessly the year before Cam Newton got a pair of stud TEs (Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olsen), or just accept they saw a need and took care of it.

The ‘Madden’ version of McCaffrey is redonkulous, his reality and quality equally so. Offensive lines LOVE working for someone with the ability to go house if you hold your block another fraction of a second.

Defense – Another Big Leap?

In Year Two of Phil Snow as the Panthers Defensive Coordinator, expectations for another rise in the rankings – from bottom three in all categories to 18th overall in points and total yardage in 2020 – are legitimate. It’s taken three seasons of iffy improvement to get here, and last year was still the worst defense in franchise history on 3rd down (allowed 49.2% conversion) and INTs with 7.

With #1 pick Jaycee Horn a large, very physical cornerback, getting off the field on 3rd down will be enhanced.

The all-defensive draft last year looks like gold now, especially trading up to have a second-second round pick that became Jeremy Chinn. https://www.espn.com/nfl/player/_/id/4043169/jeremy-chinn The Panthers defense led the league in recovered fumbles (15) and scored 3 touchdowns, two by Chinn on back-back plays. As for the mere 29 total sacks, Brian Burns (9) is looking to blow up at whatever they’ll call his position – speed rusher is accurate – and is the epitome of ‘Mobile, Agile, Hostile’.

The all-defensive draft last year looks like gold now, especially trading up to have a second-second round pick that became Jeremy Chinn.

Top factors to assess 2021 defense will be sacks, and turnovers will be emphasized. A couple times off the field with a stop on 3rd down becoming more opportunities for a potent offense will obviously make a difference. Turnovers always follow aggressive play calling, and adding a number of free agents (DT DaQuan Jones, LB Denzel Perryman, DE Haason Reddick) with that element is a real boost.

Reddick had 12.5 sacks for Arizona last year, plus 16 QB hits, 6 forced fumbles, 15 tackles for loss, and THAT will get a defense off the field sooner. He’ll play the opposite side from Burns, and Phil Snow must be licking his chops to have such a major upgrade. Jones played all 16 games 5 of 6 years for the Titans, and if not a big sack guy, Perryman is a documented run stuffer, and his range is clearly better than Tahir Whitehead, even if nobody will be going sideline-sideline like Luuuuuke!

DIVISION – NFC South

That Tom Brady took the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl victory in his first year away from New England isn’t lost on anyone in the division, where Panthers will see The GOAT twice a year. Drew Brees is gone, and while fans have waited a long time to see ‘Swiss Army Knife’ QB Taysom Hill – who has done everything for the Saints while Brees continued amazing – “we’ll see” is legitimate. If there’s a QB battle with Jameis Winston, something is wrong in the Dome.

Atlanta remains an arch-rival, and they picked up another stud receiver (TE Kyle Pitts, Florida), whose 4 yr./$32.9M contract is fully guaranteed. Matt Ryan is still slinging it there, and all division games count extra, so whether the secondary is good enough to hold up while the D-line goes after him will be the key, he’s never been called elusive.

There probably isn’t a defensive scheme Brady hasn’t seen, Ryan still has skills and blazing fast receivers, but any post-Brees letdown in New Orleans would be appreciated.

Wrap it up, we’ll take it

While Robbie Anderson isn’t a fan of the new turf in BOA stadium (‘its fake’), the stadium allows far too many other events to keep regular grass viable, so while it will be very different here, its not a totally strange surface either. Expecting someone like McCaffrey and Moore, who can turn on a dime, to take advantage of always good footing is not to be underestimated.

Joey Slye had a 120 point season (29 FGs, 33 PATs), his only drawback being 1-6 from over 50 yards.

Everyone loved Jeremy Chinn‘s contributions last year, switching between OLB and safety. Adding Denzel Perryman will probably allow Snow to keep Chinn at safety, but there will certainly be sneak attacks from the versatile Chinn to keep Ryan and Brady aware of his presence. (The rest of the NFL will learn about it too.)

There was an idea that Panthers would lose a couple shootouts in 2020, that possibility has gone down with an improved QB and a strong off-season of plugging holes with free agency as a result of $30 million in cap space.

Panthers play the NFC East and most of AFC East (total 8 games), with Eagles, Vikes, Pats, and Washington at home, the Bills and Miami on the road, and finish the season with Bucs-Saints-Bucs. They should be in contention for winning the conference all the way to the end – their strength of schedule is rated as 26th (of 32 teams, 5th easiest), which helps me stick with an 11-6 prediction.

“Thank you Lord, for thinking ’bout me,” 1st Social Security check & 7 signs of doing fine

Winner of hat contest at Queens Cup Steeplechases

Copping and swapping that shouted gratitude from Five Man Electrical Band‘s 1970 classic ‘Signs’ https://www.songfacts.com/lyrics/five-man-electrical-band/signs came through this week while shooting some hoops in the 94 degree-plus heat and humidity of Charlotte, NC. Heat dome or not, we recognize its the end of July, and at least there’s no massive firestorms raging here to go with that heat.

That actually counts as A Good Sign by the way. We had some unfavorable air quality here, but until now, often a breeze instead of just sweltering. Nothing like that 157 negativity NYC had to put up with.

That a specific part of Government directly affecting me – my first Social Security check – happened as expected on the 28th, is good – my personal economics of bills, rent, food, travel, and socializing are assured.

More events register as positives now, not always hurdles to overcome. Wearing a mask while shopping or getting gas is just one small thing I always do because it can’t hurt. Do I notice Hispanic ninos wearing masks now? Thankfully, yes – and I feel guilty if I forget mine. Out and enjoying live music at Camp North End? Bueno!

I’ve completed my video Q&A for a tutoring operation, and continue getting feelers about DICE resume – it’s a process. I’m back to cycling, there’s a wide-open municipal course ($32 senior, nine holes w/ cart) a mile away – with two glass backboards, well marked lane and 3-pt. distance – in a great pocket park out front, and hey, Government is working a little more like it should in Washington.

I’ll continue answering RFPs (requests for proposals) for my professional writing skills, and working on the final chapters of my book has put submission back on track mentally. I’m looking forward to the physical challenge of a weekend umpiring gig, and a lunch date with an outstanding Woman today.

The checks not in the mail, it’s in my bank account. It’s not an entitlement, it’s the payoff, that safety net we – American workers – were told would be there when FICA took a chunk of every paycheck, starting with that first $1.65/hour job at McDonald’s.

8 Elements as positive considerations

Getting vaccinated in mid-March was an elemental start on things moving righter. Politics aside, it almost guaranteed I’d live, and mentally I’d been figuring on a shot mid-May. After being hunkered down for a year, its an un-good difference, knowing necessary move (house sold) will include contact with many “out there” who will never get vaxxed.

Besides the Social Security check – this is what ‘not homeless’ looks like after three settled weeks for me.

Having a nephew offer a place to stay – when having to move last month was required and my new ‘place’ wasn’t vacated yet – kept plans on a solid path. Being technically homeless – not knowing where I might be sleeping or storing my ‘stuff’ – was a concern, and like many, my need was CONSISTENCY, starting ASAP.

Mask-vax question (3 of 4 here at house) is a factor in any housing. Next two weekends have major BBQs scheduled (yay! social and MEAT!) where there’s no reason to think I can’t trust my hosts and others from previous meetings. I smirk – their being primarily Democrats, few deniers and liars should mar things. Knowing the statistics in some parts of the country, I question how tough finding a safe living space like I did, will be.

A place to land, with wifi, was a BIG #2, worth a liter of Tito’s in thanks at the end. There wasn’t an Option B either. You can say lucky, I’ll say ‘family.’

I wasn’t making light of the spectre of homelessness I faced before and after June 22nd in my blogs https://cdtalententerprises.com/2021/06/22/america-truly-on-move-sheltered-homeless-challenge-millions/ – not knowing where you’ll lay your head isn’t funny. The 18 days at my nephew Ian’s were an excellent break, but even he wanted me moved on the 10th, when current occupant of where I was going was definitely moving out.

The number that keeps many awake at night is 13 million facing eviction, starting almost immediately. “I got mine” on shelter front, but I understand its a business for those owners. It doesn’t seem possible or reasonable to hold people who have non-paying tenants hostage to the situation forever. https://www.cbpp.org/research/housing/housing-assistance-in-american-rescue-plan-act-will-prevent-millions-of-evictions

Background, credit check, or heavy deposit – Not!

Without a background, credit check, or heavy deposit, I more than lucked out, getting into the process for this room on a days notice successfully – I might have even benefited from ‘white privilege.’ Other two residents are young Black man working long hours at a senior center, and a 40-year old female, both of them here for over a year, so maybe owner had a spot for this older white guy.

Hint or Fact

Time pressures force more bad decisions than anything, and signing a lease with terms you KNOW will be a concern in short term – with loss of deposits probable – is just a flat out don’t do it. Not expecting a lot of cooperation from online sources was a fact in my search, and as a hangover from pandemic, not everyone wants to show a stranger around. I only saw two places, the other I drove by had razor wire around it.

I’m also glad my rental amount is split, on 10th and 25th. As family, my brother was beyond reasonable for nearly five years, but I doubt many renters get even twice a month flexibility.

Early warning about moving

It shouldn’t be a surprise if the previous tenant has often been a louse. My first look at that room Saturday was an ugly surprise, getting it immediately Oxy-cleaned was a major positive. OXY man rolled in to assess, we talked it through, I took a three hour lunch half-way into edging and came back, SUPER glad how he’d undersold expectations of what the final terrific result turned out to be.

In a 12×10 room, things fit snugly. I expect to wear a path in space between card table-desk and bed.

While the painting and cleaning to visual and health standards involved my effort too, owner gave me $50 credit towards deposit for painting job. I don’t feel weird about going barefoot in any of the rooms, a small but definite element in having landed well.

Vacuuming a half-inch thick layer of gray off the ceiling fan and tossing cruddy blinds are taking care of personal standards in what’s now My Space, and the owner is redoing the flooring in central room, with new furniture as well. Lump all that together, its a reasonable #4 Positive.

I appreciate signs that the owner takes care of situations quickly. If you’ve rented bad before, you know what ‘situations’ means – everything is a hassle.

The house is nicely landscaped – I cut the significant yard, front and back this week, because it needed it – the AC is set at 76, and the decking out back is plentiful, A-1 condition, has a late sunfield, and is a worthwhile place to dine. I sat outside while a storm tried to organize Tuesday, lots to look at in other people’s places, too. Depending which direction you go, the range of houses in the locale varies greatly. Yes, its a good neighborhood.

Get living right, America

The first view of refrigerator was far from inspiring, but progress has been made. That third drawer of fridge still needs attention, and I eat less in the room, plus I found enough of my cooking stuff to survive with, cooking knives, spaghetti pots, plates and glasses, even containers for leftovers. It makes a difference to me.

Health concerns about stuff lying around, including recycling situation, brings out my “enlightened self-interest.” There are usually cleaning supplies available after cooking – use them. At my brother’s, stuff often wound up in sink. You can’t do that living with strangers – load and run a dishwasher, preferably without bitchin’.

If you are hesitant about using the kitchen facilities where you wind up living, you are destined for a miserable time. –Me, 7/18/21

In real estate, we encouraged clients to keep a Top 5 sheet of what they liked about a certain property, otherwise searching through 10-12 rentals or houses over 2 weeks gets confusing. Reality: Last month was a time when decisiveness was mandatory. Everyone takes care of their own TP here, the kitchen is fine, the shared bathroom, communal areas are solid. Shower especially is hot and strong, the laundry equipment new and high quality, a definite 6th positive sign – clean facilities – toward feelin’ fine.

Several of the others use TV to doze off, all are what is now referred to as ‘420 friendly.’ Late TV is something to discuss and get acted on. Being the last entry into house doesn’t mean you have to be awakened at 3 a.m.

Do I feel safe?

My ‘Seven factors and a check’ standards aren’t stack-ranked, so being safe as a single adult male, while important, has always been a hell of lot different than relocating even a small family will be. There are sketchy looking types every place (in Food Lion!) you might get out of your car and they can approach you nearby, but the house is in a Neighborhood Watch area. I’ve cycled and walked around quite a bit, just like in Tampa, FL and Schenectady, NY, and no reason to feel threatened.

We had three break-ins at brother Mike’s over 27 years, and a violent home invasion across the street in Charlotte; several times cops with dogs tried finding people between the fences between us and apartments, including helicopters circling. Yes, I feel safe here.

I look down into a neighbor’s active yard, with a large trailer in side yard, and weekends there has been musica musica, but nothing like the regular 3:30-4 a.m. still-going, loud outside music parties from the C-level apartment complex, maybe 100 feet from my bedroom window.

A new police station was built on Independence at the corner of brother’s street in the last year, but this is a neighborhood, 11:30 on weekends is all you get, and I’d rate that positive overall. A lack of shoulder or bike lane once you start using back roads compared to years on greenway is physically less safe, but that’s always kind of a choice.

Five Man Electrical Band ends with the character finding peace – FYI, Charlotte is ‘The Buckle on the Bible Belt’ – and when asked to contribute, to put something in the hat, he expresses gratitude. For all the negativity being projected at times, I’ll hold up my own little sign, ‘cuz that first Social Security check and seven other positives are legitimate signs that stress of moving has worked out fine. Best of thoughts on that for the many in need.

America loves family baseball, this Blue’s call is an official, Joyful 4th for all

Parents watching their 9-10 yr. olds play baseball in relentless, 88-degree heat – and VERY glad to be doing it after a year away – makes a starting point Americans can agree about. (Knights Stad., 2017)

Not homeless update

My Charlotte nephew, Ian, offering a spare bedroom – in the house he’s had for all of twelve days – changed my potential homeless gig over the last week. It’s a very nicely done brick, small 3/2 bedroom, hardwood throughout, quiet, well-shaded yard, and I wasn’t just stashing stuff elsewhere to be out of the house last Wednesday.

That immediately made umpiring all weekend easier to handle – I had better than just a place to take a shower and lay my head available. I’m keeping a couple boxes and my umpire gear in the car, a reminder of that short distance to much different.

For the record, that the Spain people were willing-able to assess a $500 fee for clearing out what was left behind, I’d say it was legit. I pared my stuff down to barely a room, left 20 years of hard cover journals behind. Bro felt the need to continue working at the office up till the last day, so umpire judgment-wise, maybe a bad call by him…

I heard Mike say $200 to guys across street for two queen mattresses. They didn’t come pick them up, knowing he’d wind up leaving them behind the next day. That’s how moving situations roll.

On the Tuesday before I’d normally be considering the second part of my big move back into the Real World, apparently the guy I’m renting from “Isn’t 100% sure what date the guy I’m replacing is going to be gone-gone.” This also, is how moving rolls.

I brought my large, 3-tree potted palm to Ian’s, one branch proudly waving out the front window, and that sense of flag-fluttering pride is recreated thousands of times a weekend across this country at family baseball games.

Over two days, nine games, *nobody* disagreed playing was HUGELY satisfying after nothing last year.

Glenn, ‘Blue’ 6/28/21

Family baseball is bedrock America

One thing for sure, nine hours of 88-plus heat, from after the 8:30 game (of five) on Sunday till the end, you had to WANT to be in that blast furnace. Little ones and adults still chase down foul balls. Tents aren’t a visiblilty factor as much as a recognized need, the periodic, “Hey Blue, I got plenty of water, maybe a Gatorade?” works for me.

I actually found out about Stella’s Mom promising the sub-5 foot, left-handed sometimes catcher would protect me at the plate, because I had her on Saturday. She actually clunked me in the back of the head with a throw while playing 2nd base late Sunday – said the protection guarantee only counted while catching.

And we had plenty of hooo-hah! to officiate. NOBODY is kidding when they say, “The kids are fine, its the adults you have to watch out for.”

An international rules overtime game, starting with bases loaded and one out was an above my pay grade call. From moments like this are small heroes made, so great to watch, and glad to make the call at the plate in the Bigger Picture.

Everyone I talked to – they are ALL glad to be playing ball again, and collectively they believe we can trust again. You can barely imagine how much these kids wanted to mix and talk instead of just tipping caps post game. Pitchers want to know how somebody throws such a good curve, and its shared with pride.

Umpires do not turn down Gatorade. Nobody expects my strike zone to change because I’m staying alive.

Pitchers with that ‘extra’ pitch usually telegraph it by smiling when their catcher signals for it. One chunky kid thought we should go heads up with his newly minted curve…

Making a Difference – 9 Umpire POVs

Head first slides

Early on, one kid slides into home head first. It’s a Little League rule- head first back to a base only – but most tournament 10 year old games use high school rules that allow it. One coach says he’s not for it, but… I remind him of that when a second kid does it. That he recognizes the moment as an immediate teaching time is great stuff – no more head first slides.

When the other coach approaches me with his own star kid, asking about head first sliding, I repeated situation with first coach, adding, “You probably don’t need to do it either.” He walks away, Dad-coach says, “He wants to get a sliding mitt so he can do it without jamming a thumb. More equipment…”

Thanks for asking, usually

I appreciate gentlemen coaches LOTS more than broadcaster-screamers (obviously). Regarding balks, one said, “Not trying to actually deceive,” with some move, that works for me. 12 year olds have to know better, but I’m inclined to give a 10 year old trying a pickoff and flubbing it to become their coaching time, more something we can discuss aside vs. scaring him from trying, y’know?

I tightened up my chest protection this week and a foul tip still found ‘meat.’

Yay! for rookie scorekeepers

Speaking with a first weekend rookie Mom doing the official scorebook, these are the people who make youth sports so truly wonderfully good for all. She loved the extra of knowing a backward K indicated “struck out looking” vs. swinging. I gave her the explanation for Stella’s run to glory, and why she hadn’t been out after striking out and a catcher-runner collision at home plate.

“Just in case anyone else wants to know, they had to step on the bag at first or tag her, and guy didn’t make the tag.”

They listen – I’m an expert

It’s terrific to impart a specific point to nine and ten year old pitchers and others, like an explanation of seeing one obviously fiddling with his grip in mid-delivery. Everybody knows your ‘out pitch’ is coming, but no sense rushing yourself.

“Not inclined to call time” effective in pre-game talk

I’ve made NOT giving batters time to constantly step out a part of pre-game talk at each dugout. I’m not bitchy about it, some kids its deeply ingrained, but telling them “I’ve called balks three times and its cost people runs. You can get set, but once pitcher is going, I’m not inclined to call time so you can get three more practice hacks.” It’s been effective.

“Of course I didn’t use the rule until I needed to!”

Every coach has something they’ll want called in the clutch. Sunday is was a runner at first shuffling feet around as a distraction, which everyone does, but… After pulling in the tournament director, and a cell phone call to higher ups, the appeal resulted in an OUT that caused an overtime situation with international rules. That’s bases loaded, one out, a situation made for being a hero.

The joy of that runner scoring off a passed ball was shared by the entire team.

Framing pitches is legit, no posing!

Every catcher is now coached on framing pitches. It’s legit – my standard is just no posing! because people question, “How could he call a ball when your glove is right there?” I *know* where they caught it, 4-5 inches from what fans think they saw, just no “want to change your mind?” posing like I’m not doing my job.

Umpires get to rub it, a little

Being right on top of plays is a point of pride, and somehow, taking a foul tip juuuust below the collarbone, missing the mask and inside the chest-shoulder plates has a certain effect on others. I showed off the stitching ‘tattoo’ on left hand, and told the crowd and players, “Umpires get to rub it, a little.” You’ve probably heard ten-year olds aren’t supposed to…Taking four in the mask, pssshhhh.

Yes, one call can do it

I can’t help myself, even knowing it only takes ONE CALL to turn a buddy in the crowd against you, I’m still a talker. Eleven hours for Demetri and me too, and no shade on that hard Carolina clay infield aside, I’ve had a gas “Being Blue.”

Stella, Heroes, Winning still counts

Most important play of the day? Glad you asked.

Our second consolation game was between REDS and TIGERS. Both are first year clubs, and playing four games in two days makes a difference, especially for next season, like September. The Reds lost by a run in their previous game, then immediately had to re-gather at another field, playing 20 minutes after the loss.

Watching them pre-game, they were sloppy, listless. Their man-child 10 yr. old first baseman waved at warmup throws, there was no chatter. They gave up seven runs in the first, it could’ve become a sorry, very hot, hour thirty-minute zombie march…

Things changed when the extra-large batter – only his coach was bigger, including me – drove a 3-run homer over the temp fencing to put a charge in the game. The defense made plays, a scrawny-lean young black man with dreads – who got pointers about throwing, possibly for the first time, and lasted almost three innings – allowed the Reds to come back and tie the game.

Going up against a time limit, Stella is at bat, a runner on third is dancing on every pitch. The large kid is playing catcher, and after Stella strikes out, the pitch gets past him, the runner comes from third, and 4’5″ STELLA is walking towards the dugout.

Technically, I’m in Low-C position, behind and to right of the pitcher, watching for pickoff plays at third, staying out of throwing lanes for catchers to second base and shortstops are considerations.

As runner GOES! the coaches yell for Stella to run to first, which happens a lot with wild pitch third strikes, and she manuevers around the pile at home plate.

I check the plate umpire, he signals safe at home, and a throw comes out of the tangle – but the receiving person isn’t on the first base bag, or able to tag the diminuitive Stella.

How important was that? If the play at the plate had been an out, Stella would represent the final out. Two bang-bang plays, and still only one out was the result. The Tigers score three, so in the bottom of the inning, holding the Reds to two is a win, three ends in a tie.

Without Stella legging it out, the game would’ve been a tie based on time, BUT…

The Reds score FOUR, winning their first game ever. As an athlete, YES! you absolutely do gain a stronger sense of self, of succeeding and doing things as a team, having others care just a little more, after a comeback victory.

And yes, its still about the size of the fight in the dog. Competition made this country great, so you go, Stella! Cheering FOR something always beats crying about the losses, and that’s not just a judgment call.

I’ll also continue to congratulate those American families who pull packed wagons, with tents and snacks for six, and my fellow Blues – things just don’t work quite as well without us and snacks.

America is truly on the move, sheltered-homeless a fact millions will be challenged with

Brother “Mike’N Stang” (and CharlieToo) is ready to roll right after the 4th. Fingers crossed for a couple nights sleeping in this vehicle in the yard.

What’s in your cards, these still legally UNITED States we’ve always loved? Pandemic safeguards will become forced mobility for housing soon? Friday I nailed down a 12’x10′, 4th bedroom in a good ranch-style home – rose bushes, new furniture, repaints happening, and the ability to store a small load of things for $100 deposit.

STORE – As in I can’t move in until July 1, and my brother hasn’t definitely said ‘yes’ to sleeping in the RV for, uhhh, several days after leaving the house tomorrow.

Me, 6/21/21

Just sayin’, there are various levels of success on the mass movement this country is going to experience in the near future. Many fear change and the unfamiliar – at least this time for me, its an easy lateral situation, very comparable to living with my brother.

Got the truck for tonight-plus

Mike wanted to move some 20′ sections of fencing pipe from his back yard (FYI, many turned out to be 28-30 feet!) so he’s splitting the cost of what I probably would have tried doing in two trips Monday night with a ten-foot truck and half the daily $39.95 + miles/gas for the twenty.

Rule #1 in moving: Whatever help you can round up, even one makes a difference.

My new place, after five years at my brother’s, is seven miles away, and there’s a good chance I’ll get a chance to use my golf clubs soon. Can’t honestly recall when I last even hit an $8 bucket…

Bonus point: Biking gets easier living even a little further out, I’m a little spoiled about getting on the Greenway behind the Hindu temple four blocks away, and rolling for 12 miles. That’s another point about moving, finding your good places to go for whatever gives you joy.

From just a week ago, things have turned out well, and in a timely manner for my necessary move, and that comes from consistent effort, nobody makes 20 calls for you. https://cdtalententerprises.com/2021/06/14/communications-customer-service-quality-content-writing-the-greatest-of-these-is-service/

There won’t be any way to avoid the pains of dislocation that are coming for many, but with a sigh of gratitude, I’ll echo the sentiment from here in the Carolinas and elsewhere, “I ain’t got a dog in that (need to find a place) fight,” at least not now.

I met the owner, a chattering good guy, and a second roommate, after brother and I quickly unloaded a decent amount of stuff into the garage last night. Now I’m working to find something more legitimate than crashing on a couch in a different living room for a bunch of nights if Mike and club pals don’t respond. I mean, it’s not 1978…

A very valid situation in 2021

This National Moving event that’s 2021 is a perfectly valid situation. Two days before I’ve got to be out, I still need to stash some stuff elsewhere, but things are actually breaking about 60% on my terms, especially economic. Because I’m working a plan, I’m not going to sweat being a relative statistic as – homeless.

The last time I had to exit an apartment on a deadline, I had five other post-poker playing guys, well after eleven, try to manuever my WATER BED out. At one point, wedged in the front door, it was obvious it wasn’t coming with me. Using the biggest knife from my butcher block set, we slashed it open and just kept pushing that bladder forward as it gushed.

After numerous previous moves, the base was crumbling, but man, those cold February mornings and nights in upstate NY, when I lived in the attic, that warm bed was GOLD, truly a difference maker as furniture.

Then or now, no place for it to go means, c’ya!

My MOST DRAMATIC move involved going to a rugby banquet until after nine, then clearing out everything possible into my Alliance – actually a terrific car for me – and driving to Troy, NY. Dramatic part was next morning, when fire engines gathering out in front of the building was because place next door was kind of smoking the area up.

I’d had a good time, then literally jumped from an economic fire into a literal one. Yeah, happy freaking Tuesday on that piece of history!

Got one better than that? Let’s hear it, but 2021, that’s moving along just fine, thanks.

Glenn S., 6/21/21

Right now I’m mildly worried about where a few items, like a three-tree potted palm might go, along with a last trunk and two boxes. And a half dozen picture frames. And these two cool portable wicker seats … I’m far less worried than last week though, when facts about a legitimate place to land lacked getting *somebody* to cooperate by calling back.

What comes, what doesn’t

At sixty-four, I’ve accumulated as much crap as anyone, but down-sizing to a room, not all the memories get to make any further trips. Know that I feel you at this time, America – I’ve been there, am again. My best advice is to channel your inner Matt Damon from ‘The Martian,’ an A-1 example of working through what has to happen next.

In ‘The Martian,’ Matt Damon quickly decides he’s got to “engineer the sh*t out of the situation” to survive. Moving isn’t nearly that tough.

It’s not brain surgery, it’s choices

Will it help my life the next 7 months? Yes-No, stay or go. Emotional weight though, that’s in the process. I’m donating a bunch of books to the library two blocks away, I hope I’m doing something worth while instead of just lightening my load.

The 200-year old upright secretary desk of pure, shiny brown, with slots and small drawers, and three drawers of storage that I cherished, went north with Mom’s cherry bedroom set (and a bunch of stuff Dave’s wife didn’t know was coming) back in early May. Nobody wanted that to wind up curbside.

Right now, I’m working from a 4-legged wooden card table that Uncle Leo made waaay back in the day, moved the half-filled cedar chest Mom refinished for my 25th birthday, and nightstand Dad won a blue ribbon for at the Florida State Fair. Things make the cut for personal reasons.

The folks bedroom set going to my niece Maria’s place in New York – she finally gets to attend her art institute for real – is a part of that life circle, passing things along. Stuff like yearbooks – or most of 20 years worth of hard cover journals I’ve written in – have to be jettisoned based on space and need. Here’s betting which brother winds up with Dad’s excellent smaller, hanging grandfather clock in the future.

I have ten of the bells I bought Mom for several years, its good to know nephew Ian even has a few of those from Mike’s china cabinet. If he’s got the good Waterford one, nice to know he has taste – make it an heirloom.

We’re going to have that terrific 4th of July people, hopefully near some water – its mid-summer hot here, and with essential moving done, some time for more baseball and maybe a date at the Whitewater Center.

May the times before and after that work out as well for my ‘on the move’ fellow Americans.

Good fortune to all in the upcoming search. Consider lighting a candle that they gain necessary help to find their way.

Communications, customer service, quality content writing, the greatest of these is service

Control Central, 2020. Working from home lacks a level of personal communication, quality product is alway an expectation, but customer service is a difference maker.

Maybe this is “preaching to the choir” – a term used often in Charlotte – as a leadership thought deal, but while giving myself and writers of many descriptions credit for writing ability, the customer service aspect is what makes one-shot clients into regular gigs.

While perhaps a stretch as political commentary, I’ll take the COVID-19 vaccination program – 309M doses given, 145M/43.8% of population fully vaxxed – as proof we elected a President who has delivered maximum customer service on a MAJOR promise.

Me, 6/14/21

Customer service-wise, if your Wellington’s somehow sprung a leak, just tell them, they will gladly send you another pair, is an example of Excellence. The Home Depot person who can lead you directly to the product you’d already walked by twice is A Cut Above, the gas attendant who feels empowered to comment about your tee shirt slogan because he’s already got your money, much closer to the bottom.

‘Getting stuck’ March 18th – for an investment of 26 minutes – with the COVID vaccine, instead of worrying it could take until mid-May, you’ll have to believe that cemented my concept of delivering customer satisfaction.

Dysean at T-Mobile delivered too. When he didn’t know the deal with my phone making a constant notice noise, he was willing to call a guy who might. Bazinga! Turn the phone all the way off periodically, not just screen off.

Getting my phone back doing as it should brought an appreciation of the service effort, but c’mon, the day a Novant supervisor at a clinic around the corner from my place – no extra effort to try – said to 64-year old, Category-5 person me, “Sure, let’s get you stuck,” that’s going to be tough to top as customer satisfaction.

How matters get handled

The point is, those who emphasize the customer’s satisfaction of the service delivered gain loyalty – business might have changed over the years, but its not an outdated, ‘used to be’ philosophy.

As a creative I can deliver written content that hits specific points I’ve learned from a client during interviews. With plenty of extra experiences communicating through Q&A to determine wants and expectations from sales situations, the truth is, the happiest people will ever be is when “Is that what we decided to do?” or similar matters get handled right.

A different POV

Having umpired Little League baseball the last two weekends, I’ve had three situations with balks resulting from batters that I didn’t allow a time out to just because they asked for it. Managers want to disrupt a pitcher’s rhythm when he’s working well, but I very seldom grant any requests when the pitcher is ready and a batter gets in the box.

Specific point: Unfortunately, the pitcher has to release the ball or yes, it’s a balk, even though one stopped because the batter was stepping out, without knowing I hadn’t given him a time out.

Late in a semi-final game, I have to allow the runner from third to score that way, and there is a third hoo-hah! with a particular coach. Best outcome: The ‘customers’ are really the spectators, and with that correctly handled balk call – even against their team – and two others in a wild game, one guy calls me to the fence with a “Hey Blue! I want you to know, I’ve told the tournament director he needs to do something about that screaming coach who charged you. You’re running things right, and we all got your back out here.”

THAT’S what I’m talking about! Customer satisfaction seal of approval.

Thousands of places across America…

Cycling along the Greenway in 88 degree Carolina heat, the fact I might be literally without a roof over my head in a week was sobering.

Having commented numerous times the last few weeks, that “This scene is being recreated thousands of times across America at this same time” – meaning family baseball – it’s a more sobering https://vocal.media/unbalanced/a-week-of-blue-was-umping-charlotte-baseball-now-its-panthers-blue-with-darnold-c-mc-moore-and-defense reality to recognize I may literally be homeless in a week.

Umpiring has been good extra cash – $400 last weekend – which helps make things happen like this move back into the Real World, after brother Mike and his two dogs head off into the sunset in his 37′ RV.

It’s always been his clear goal, and I knew this day was coming from the moment one of those “guaranteed cash offer” people briefly toured the house over three months ago and he signed immediately.

No, I didn’t get serious about the search until this month, and while its true some of the online operations – Roomster leaps to mind – are bona fide (mostly) scammers, I’m confident the cash from three full weekends income will allow this move to be smooth.

My point in mentioning this is how stressful such situations are for others, too.

Staying awake from before 5:00am, that’s never been a problem before. Like during the Great Recession years, I wonder how parents with tuition, car payments, and mortgages made it on retail wages. I was single, chiseling every nickel, and still wound with significant credit card debt. Others used their accumulated cushion to get past the last economic problem, and it won’t be available this time around.

My time essentially runs out in this house on the 23rd. I’m about half-packed, and while I don’t *think* I’ll wind up sleeping in my Hyundai, it’s going to make a difference how soon a real person responds to my phone messages. It’s also going to be an upheaval of way large proportions for MILLIONS. Families large and small are going to experience some REAL dislocation the end of June, when the protections of the pandemic social net expire .

Having stayed one overnight a month during the colder months for a Room in the Inn ministry for many years, I didn’t question that, with only minor changes, I could be some of those people.

Umpire-wise, I’m neither out nor safe in the moment. On the good side, I do have cash in hand now…

A good jump shot isn’t racist – having your throat choked helps focus the difference

I honestly hope my rugby mentor with the Schenectady Reds RFC, Dr. Julius R. ‘Skip’ Aycox III, is alive to read this, because his grabbing me by the throat for using the N-word made a difference the last thirty-five years.

Someone will have to show me a more macho game, and on the pitch, teammates color is about jerseys.

Now, “that word” was used in a sing-song style lots of close friends did in late 1970’s college, and I did it right after one of our team’s best players used it while talking to him, so getting clutched by the throat surprised me hugely.

“What? You didn’t do anything when Ted just said it!”

“He does it to try and upset me, and he can’t be changed. You I can help.”

When I moved to Charlotte in 1995, Carolina Panthers rookie QB Kerry Collins getting a black eye from his center sticks in my mind, smaller examples of “correcting behavior” compared to the massive upheaval this country experienced last year. Across the USA and beyond, George Floyd’s murder, at the knee of now-convicted white police officer, Derek Chauvin, had finally brought a specific reckoning.

The call to STOP! police brutality that continues to result – especially with young Black men – in violent death, literally echoed around the world. Not as significantly in certain parts of our Congressional representatives, but there have been large numbers of white faces available every step of the way.

I’ve lived most of my Boomer life believing we squared a lot of this stuff up during those wild ‘n crazy Seventies, but it’s time to step up again, do a booster shot, right’s still right. Remember thinking ‘Tricky Dicky’ was a real threat to our nation? It’s not every cops badge and gun we need to worry about, BUT… https://cdtalententerprises.com/2021/01/18/smarter-than-average-bear-content-writing-boomer-replants-thought-leadership-flag-2021/

Without meaning to claim any special ‘wokeness,’ of course it’s time to consider walking in someone else’s shoes. It’s been part of the journalistic process since my HS days, and with all due credit for watching Ken Burns’ “Hemingway,” I appreciate it when people share the experience I’m putting on the page, too.

A guiding thought in my life process was a NYT Sunday Book section title, “Hemingway made his own hours.” Case closed, but now a few positive points on Attitude to set out.

Ideas recognized, ‘salt & pepper’ counts

White privilege?

Should I have to consider my willingness to walk into a Novant site around the corner from my house, on the way back from grocery shopping, ‘white privilege?’

While still only 64 and a Category-5 profile in North Carolina, I did exactly that, getting the Pfizer vaccine March 18th, a full two months earlier than I’d expected.

My May estimate was based on the trump administration having no actual stockpile of vaccine revelation, the number of distribution points at the time Joe Biden became President Biden, my birthday two days later being no real factor.

The nurse said they did 3,000 a day where I got mine. Reality at Novant was immediate – I’d barely started talking to a young lady with a laptop when a supervisor said, “Sure, let’s get you stuck.”

She also said, “You don’t ask, you don’t get” about Life. Pulling into that parking lot was taking the shot. Bazinga! But that was actually Novant #3 attempt. I’d also called Lancaster, SC about possible appointments when they were giving shots to 55+ there, long before things went into overdrive on options.

In early March, going to shoot baskets, I saw cars pulling in at McClintock (school), barely a mile from my brother’s house. Those “they had to use the extra shots” stories had been on TV, so I got in line and called my 65 yr/old brother about the possibility. Once a representative spoke to me directly about having accounted for any extra shots, I simply left to shoot baskets as planned.

Turns out, my bro apparently did some extra ‘yapping’/discussing about people in line, they couldn’t ALL be teachers, although when I’d checked earlier, all actually had after 4:00 appointments. When the (black) Novant rep delivered her message and I left, she came back out shortly thereafter, with a cop and two co-workers, apparently because she’d felt a little threatened.

Counting these as white privilege? I don’t rate it that way, just because I dropped in to a local unit and my brother didn’t get shot or manhandled for extra commentary. It was handled appropriately, and when he admitted why he was already back when I returned, I said yeah, I can imagine her feeling ‘something,’ based on what I’d heard.

Fact: Upset about his “65 and waiting until an April appointment!” status vs. those in line, he called Novant and wound up with a first shot (Moderna) the next Tuesday.

Freedom Park hoops with Rahim

Basketball ability is a legitimate baseline for judging another person, because its understood I’m talking about us, not LeBron, right? Black/white/whatever, female/older-cagey vet or wannabe, when we’re keeping score, how you perform reflects on whether we get to keep running the court, right? Save the yackety-yak, unless you got the chops to back it. High school doesn’t count here. Make it, take it.

Do not call stupid little fouls, especially if you’re the only ‘salt.’ I was playing tennis the morning I saw a wiry kind of rec-speced white dude take an old-school boat hook forearm right across the chops after some of that. Started right below the nose, the glasses kind of proving their worth. To be honest, I’d heard the yapping…

Oh, and it’s not racist to say everyone wants a piece of the white guy in a gorilla-ball game, where its all against all. Best thing to do is make up to three free throws after scoring a basket, reduces time banging heads with dudes for rebounds. Sticking a knee into a thigh, jacking a butt, or getting my money’s worth on a hack in the lane before a guy finishes his move, kind of a specialty. Being soft, waiting for a rebound instead of guarding someone closer, its not a label I ever had. Only brother of four under six-foot, I’ll let you know I’m back there.

We’ve got 7-8 guys in a gorilla game, one of them finally holds onto the ball, looks at me and says, “What are you doin’ here?” and I said, “I’m with Rahim.” Everybody there knew Rahim, a central figure way beyond the current game at the other end for sure. As others looked over, Rahim came out from the lane and *volleyballed* a guy’s 3-pt. shot out of bounds.

Couple minutes later, he calls me over, tells another player, “You’re out.” You have to be confident in your skills AND manhood at that point. Having a scorer’s touch always counts, like tucking putbacks in and making sure the big dogs get their touches, because you truly are repping white guards right then.

“No blood, no foul” is a legit guideline, and sh*t yeah, its better to give than (just) receive contact. Don’t embarrass yourself or your host is a Man Thing that crosses color-cultural.

Real Rahim, such a monster figure, I actually use him in my books, and yes, it’s good to be easy and right with people across a spectrum. Last night it was Karina, waiting in line together for a beer at Camp North End celebration https://www.camp.nc/events, it felt soooo rightly social with jazzy Spanish-centric music.

She appreciated my being able to say “I have two courses of Spanish at CPCC, but 10 years ago…” It was many people’s first time there, plenty of family and music, but out of beer and everything else before 9:00 – guy in front of me literally got the last cup of wine. That sort of goodness – plus more beer – is EXACTLY what builds communities.

‘What abouts?’ Four quick thoughts

At one of the Communities in Schools programs I think so highly of, https://www.cischarlotte.org/ helping HS seniors write better letters for scholarship money, I had an opportunity to listen to and speak with two young Black men. My straight up message was to let them know how different-better it was to talk with young people who weren’t using ummm, errrr, and you know every other word, was a legitimate asset.

“I noticed it and told you so, and every other adult you’ll meet will notice, too.” A positive affirmation is easy. What individual meetings with fertile minds can accomplish 1:1 *always* counts.

I got the same degree of change in attitude at a lunch meeting with perhaps eighty military people. They weren’t just trigger pullers like my Uncle Howard had been in the Pacific – this luncheon was about job search, and they KNEW what their ratings said they were qualified to do. When I admitted about being way off on that attitude to the gentleman next to me, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Nicolas ‘Chris’ Short told me about being Rumsfeld’s top kick at the Dept. of Defense. Definitely not just a trigger-puller.

Two last facts

Our Linton High Class of ’75 didn’t get to have its 45th reunion in 2020. At the 40th I’d decided to go into real estate, but waiting for a 50th, there’s no telling how many of us Forever Young Boomers might still be around for that. We might get it done this year, I dunno.

Paging through the yearbook, which our Journalism program put together – Take a bow, Liz Nealon, as Editor, your handwriting is all over it – I counted 20 Black seniors in a class of 540. If anyone wants to check me on that, fine. We also – can you believe it – let freshman (brother David) in that year.

Nobody’s brought it up that I know of, but at the time of 25th (2000) I know I wasn’t the only person who wondered if we’d be FORCED to have future reunions with the people from cross-town Mont Pleasant HS. Declining enrollment in Schenectady had forced a merger, at the Linton campus, but “we” didn’t particularly want to have an evening together with them.

I’ve mostly mellowed on the melding…it just took 46 years.

In 2021, I’m hoping to catch up to Scotty Grayman, Bobby Mazz – anybody know about Lussier? – and a couple dozen (probably not you, Malitz…) others. Here’s hoping we have it at Saratoga Racetrack instead of indoors – wasn’t that the plan? Let’s see if old people can agree on August fun instead of traditional Thanksgiving, just for starters.

Panthers take care of business – GM Fitterer lands QB Darnold to get rolling

Without burying the lead, Panthers GM Scott Fitterer made an impression with his first major move, delivering pretty much the arch-typical Hollywood story of a QB unloved getting moved to a new place, where he flourishes as The Guy We Needed.

That would be Signal Caller and Arm version, CMC will be back on Ground Attack. It could be a video game-type stats year when a highly motivatd McCaffrey gets paired with a quarterback that can make all the throws.

Newton threw nothing but fastballs, Kyle Allen and Teddy B. knew how to lead receivers, putting DJ Moore in elite company and making Curtis Samuel kind of rich.

It was the obvious need and Fitterer put up a mission accomplished sign.

Fuggidaboudit, Charlotte & Darnold Works

Good young QBs traditionally get torn up, because they often went to the worst teams to start careers. The Jets continue as an NFL franchise.

  • Vinny Testeverde, Heisman winner, to Tampa Bay Bucs. He said he threw so many picks because he was color blind – Tampa had orange jerseys, the same as his collegiate team, UMiami.
  • You can get more local – Chris Weinke, 2000 Heisman winner, Carolina Panthers. https://www.heisman.com/heisman-winners/chris-weinke/ The only thing he couldn’t do was lift the Panther from a shipwreck win-loss season. He wound up with stats that triggered incentives for yards, TDs, total snaps, and they hadn’t invented the $5MM Backup then.

The bigger problem was, he’d played six years of minor league baseball before going back to college at 26! Those were glory years at FSU, but on the calendar, Weineke was almost thirty quickly. Terrific passer, but Panthers gave the keys to a caretaker, Rodney Peete, instead.

I didn’t care about Sam Darnold with the Jets. “Everybody” knows he was #3 overall pick three years ago out of USC, and sorry to say, high pick QBs often go to ungood teams. Major points, has to be said: His former Jets coach, Adam Gase, has been kind of a talent killer with quarterbacks, and Robbie Anderson coming to Panthers last year meant Darnold couldn’t throw to him in New York.

Darnold wasn’t wanted where he was, the Panthers definitely wanted more from the role than 15 TD/11 INT production Teddy Bridgewater put out as a $21MM caretaker. The price in draft picks was nominal, Panthers problem (theoretically) solved.

It has to be said: His former Jets coach, Adam Gase, has been kind of a talent killer with quarterbacks, and Robbie Anderson contributing to Panthers last year https://www.panthers.com/team/players-roster/robby-anderson/ meant Darnold couldn’t throw to him in New York.

Just so happens the Panthers have a resident genius with quarterbacks – Sam, Joe Brady; Joe, Sam.

Mr. Tepper took care of business

Having seen something by sportswriter Ian Rapaport about New York taking the new guy in Carolina to the shed on his first deal – Sam Darnold ain’t a busted down mule. The asking price – a #6 in upcoming draft, a #2 and #4 next year – isn’t anywhere near the mother lode Minnesota gave Dallas for Herschel Walker in October, 1989.

Heck, the Rams and Lions recently moved a bunch of #1 draft picks around, and the Panthers wanted/needed a #1 thrower so bad, they were in the sweepstakes for DeShaun Watson, but his $177MM contract cooled most potential takers. https://cdtalententerprises.com/2021/02/05/watson-would-work-wonders-for-panthers-25-free-agents-a-concern/

Fact about Mr. Tepper, he’s already analyzed factors relative to what he expects the Panthers to be as a product, and there’s no reason to change his tactics. He invested in facilities, and absolutely, bought some REALLY good football minds in Head Coach Rhule, Offensive Coordinator Joe Brady, and Defensive Coordinator, Phil Snow. He gave Christian McCaffrey a contract like his production rated.

A season after having iconic players like Newton, Kuechly, and Olsen depart, the Panthers had three-1,000 yard gainers – none of them named McCaffrey – and the defense moved from bottom three in almost every category to 18th overall, with a secondary that was right on the league average in yardage. Without Watson’s contract, the offensive line will get paid – four were part of 25 Panther free agents.

In 2021, Darnold is set to get $4.775MM, and team will have to decide about picking up a 5th year option in May for another $18MM, making him marginally more expensive than Bridgewater. It’s a two-for (years) that’s not tough math for Tepper or Fitterer.

Give the Panthers very high marks for respecting Teddy Bridgewater, who they’ll allow to possibly make his own deal elsewhere.

Resurrection on the Cheap

In a season-year that will be more memorable for playing before empty seats, the Panthers were an entertaining 5-11 bunch that let at least two games slip away late (Minnesota was the worst). On a team where playoffs would have been on the line, the injuries McCaffrey suffered, and mostly recovered from, might have pushed them to use their $21.3MM man late, but there was no reason to test ‘the franchise.’

Most Panther fans have moved on from Cam Newton thoughts, and I thought Bridgewater did a decent job distributing most of the year, but 15/11 are numbers that don’t lie. Kyle Allen had 17/15 the year before (yeah, and those fumbles) and didn’t get invited back. We’ll see if Mr. Samuel finds someplace to use his special skills, he was fun to watch.

So the business of the Carolina Panthers is moving forward. Mr. Fitterer appears to have put a satisfactory conclusion to the question of who’s going to run this team, on and off the field. As for that New York thing, heck, LOT of us will probably say, “Gawd bless ‘im, he must feel like he’s made it to the promised land,” and leave it at that.