Cam, Luke, Greg are gone, will all defense draft be Panther “difference makers?”

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As practically the only “sports event” that went as planned – okay, online instead of with thousands of people attending in Vegas – the NFL distribution of new talent was this past weekend.

Off the top, let’s believe that yes, Coach Ruhle and the Panthers might have done what’s necessary to right the Carolina franchise over a three day weekend. Nobody else in the common draft era (since 1967) has used all their picks on that side of the ball, but there’s not a feeling they’ve blown it, or taken any great risks.

That All-American defensive tackle Derrick Brown will play immediately is almost a given. Panthers were the worst (5.2 per rush) against the run last year, and with Dontari Poe gone, he’ll have every chance to prove he’s The Deal. So will  edge rusher Yetur Gross-Matos (6’5″, 265 lbs., Penn St.), Jeremy Chinn (safety, Southern Illinois), fourth-rounder Troy Pride, Jr. (CB, Notre Dame), Kenny Robinson (safety, West Virginia), and Bravvion Roy, a 330 lb. chunk of DT who played for Rhule last year at Baylor.

Some pundits, including this one, have suggested that an offensive lineman at #7 instead of CB Stantley Thomas-Oliver (Fla. Int’l) would have been legitimate, but GM Marty Hurney and Rhule both maintain they held to their draft boards, For Panther fans who still worry about Christian McCaffrey getting worn out (only if the carries that $21.4M signing bonus around), the other three running backs on the roster, including Reggie Bonafon, are no better than average.

As many note, nobody plays game until September (if then), so changes on the O-line and somebody who can catch a swing pass or two while CMC gets a cup of water can still work out.

If we’re being catty, the Panthers might have improved just by letting Eric Washington go. He was defensive coordinator the last two years, when they clearly couldn’t stop anyone, and rejoins Sean McDermott in Buffalo as defensive line coach, the position he held for six years with the Panthers.

New guys with backstory ‘blemishes’

During the long reign of Mr. Richardson as owner, the question of personal character was often a criteria, with Greg Hardy being suspended and shipped after allegations of physically abusing a girlfriend as an example.

While Tim Biakabutuka (6 seasons, 611 carries/2,530 yds./17 TDs) was a better choice of character than the collegiately productive Mike Rozier in the draft, a Christian McCaffrey’s dazzling goodness that makes you want a chocolate chip cookie and glass of milk just watching him, isn’t available every year.

Derrick Brown is such a leader and quality citizen by all metrics, and #3 pick Jeremy Chinn is often referred  in favorable terms as “Simmons Lite” (Clemson’s versatile safety-linebacker Isiah) size and speed, but a couple new faces have overcome youthful transgressions admirably.

Give Chinn an extra check mark for being a three-time Academic All-American, Brown one for becoming president of Auburn’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and SEC leadership council after deciding to return to Auburn for his senior season.

#2 Yetur Gross-Matos was a consensus All-Big 10 (or 16, actually) in 2019, with 40 tackles, 15 for loss, and 9.5 sacks, compared to 54 tackles, 20 for loss, and eight sacks in 2018, which looks like teams didn’t run to his side as much last year.

The “blemish” is he and a Penn St. teammate were suspended for disciplinary (but still undisclosed) reasons the summer before his junior season, and in today’s reality, if it didn’t even generate a police report, “live and learn” seems to work. His physical up-side and football IQ aren’t in question, “whatever” from 2018 should be allowed to die quietly.

#5 Kenny Robinson was cut loose by West Virginia for “academic fraud,” and had a good year in the XFL instead of a senior season, which seems a trade-off both he and the Panthers can view as a positive. Recognizing that safety was a sore spot for Panthers the last two years, although Eric Reid was a solid pickup last year (and has moved on), careful vetting and his own written explanation of events should help close that factor as a negative once the pads go on.

That’s not meant as a dusting of hands “boys will be boys” attitude, but in the history of the WORLD,  twenty year old boys are more often guilty of “uh-oh, Mom and Dad are going to be upset about this” acts than becoming Alexander the Great world beaters.

#4 Troy Pride, Jr. shouldn’t be considered “blemished,” especially when the Notre Dame product feels he didn’t fall so much as land where he’d be able to succeed. Pride has what is always called “elite speed” based on his track background. In hoops they say, “You can’t teach seven feet tall,” and in football, saying someone runs well is the criteria, and 4.3 is valid on that count. For those that say “burners who can’t catch play D,” or track guys can’t tackle, we shall see – Deion Sanders had a pretty good run.

Speaking of running, at some point Pride and Donte “Action” Jackson will have to lace it up and go. Jackson came to the Panthers saying, “I’ve always been the fastest guy as soon as I got out of bed,” and while he’s definitely got the make-up for mistakes afterburners, he often made tackles after the catch. Coaching will help Pride work on any small deficiencies he might have, and he’s got a professional attitude about his Next.

Ahhh! competition comes later, but right now, the Panthers draft looks like a hand of Texas hold ’em – any two cards can be good until you see the flop.

If WR Robby Anderson chose the Panthers as a free agent because of Coach Rhule, and Teddy Bridgewater can distribute the ball, and puh-leeze throw lead and touch pass like the departed Kyle Allen gave Moore (87 catches/1175 yds./4 TDs as a rookie), all these new defensive helpers could indeed be the difference.

 

“In-place” Sunday on greenway, a moral lesson from bike accidents

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Sunday’s accident was a scraped knee, it could have been worse, like Memorial Day, 2016

Because the parks in Charlotte are blocked off to traffic, brother Steve came by Sunday with his carbon fibre bike, but he zoomed away as soon as we got to bottom of the ramp for the greenway behind the Hindu temple.

He’s considered essential with Wells Fargo, is looking for a workout when he gets the time, and using other brother Mike’s knobby tired, 21-gear mountain bike instead of my usual Miyata, I wasn’t worried about matching any training pace.

Sunday was an optimal day though, LOTS of people on the greenway, and whatever medical ungoodness is a fact of Life in America right now, being grateful for family and Carolina sunshine was working to lighten the load in a big way. Getting out again today, with mid-70s possible, has been part of a regular routine built around remote ‘gig’ work for most of two years.

I had an accident at the furthest point of my ride Sunday, right at Providence Road, and while I took some skin off a knee, kind of jammed two fingers, and heard my helmet scraping on the concrete, it could have been a lot worse, so lets talk health care.

2017 and ACA is the Standard

Cycling is more recreational training than a separate sport for me, I’m not even sure about the mileage of several urban routes I’ve used for years. I’ve had a couple glorious rolls in a peleton during three MS 150 Bike to the Beach fundraising rides with the Mojo Riders, and two-100 miles in a day (with a mountain in the middle) rides that required some extra training time to not get embarassed.

Since the earliest days, biking has been part of freedom, and it also gets most of the credit for keeping a solid fitness level (194) all those years of having a bum left knee. Biking meant I’d regained full range of motion after a late 2017 knee replacement, allowing me to walk versus have to skip across the street to avoid getting run over.

On Saturday of Memorial weekend, 2016, I was enjoying a ride like Sunday’s, when I became too enchanted looking at *something* and crashed into a curb, catapulting over the handlebars and face-planting on concrete. Everyone asks “Were you wearing a helmet?” but its not as helpful when your face is the contact point.

Four people stopped to ask if I was all right (I was bleeding, but not gushing), the EMTs arrived shortly thereafter, eventually there was an ambulance ride, and several nurses at Novant mentioned my good humor for a guy whose face was kind of messed up from sunglasses and concrete scrapes. (No, the nose was like that long ago)

The puncture wound – deep but not long – in bony (protective!) area over my right eye took six stitches, but the fact I was still using BOTH eyes to see was a great reason to be excited.

The two times I’ve really needed fixing up, the Affordable Care Act worked for me. On the top line, that bike accident was $6900 – I paid $325 for the $900 ambulance, and my $100 deductible. 

Knee replacement and rehabbing,   with a top line of $28,700 changed my physical trajectory for a small fraction of that from me, and no one will ever convince me “Obamacare” didn’t work exactly as I needed it to. A huge difference maker, you betcha .

There is zero respect for the social club member who pooh-poohed it every step of the way, but got HIS knee worked on with explanation that, “He shouldn’t be only person who didn’t take advantage of the (terrible, over-reaching, Democrats forced on us) program.”

CHOICES and Reality

What seemed like a legitimate analogy, even a moral, came with a two-beer examination of just how lucky someone can get while putting a bicycle into some rocks.

Maybe its germaine that having missed a deadline for submitting a simple tax form by one day several months ago, I’ve been “skating naked” insurance-wise. Not that the premiums were exorbidant for me as a 63-year old single, but just ONE MONTH I’d be required to pay almost $1,000 before ACA coverage kicked in was more than I could handle. Statistics indicate a lot of people are that close to similar lines.

So nobody else was going to pay for an emergency room visit when, in the moment I asked two ladies “How much further to the end of the greenway?” my foot slipped off the flat pedals of the clunky mountain bike, I lost my balance touching down, different brakes, boom! I’m down.

The two ladies come over to check on me, and I’m smiling from six feet away, feeling lucky there’s no real problem. The bike isn’t damaged, I tell them the same story about last accident, and away I go.

Community spread –  my biking example

When I needed first responders for that 2016 accident, the number of people involved:  4-6 drivers with passengers who stopped to help, with thanks again for the gent who delivered my pretzeled bike to the house. Plus two EMTs checking me out, two ambulance people, probably 4 nurses along the way, a doctor, and my sister in law who picked me up.

That’s 16 people, minimum.

It only took one instant, with the right answer directly in front of me, (“duh, the new section ends at Providence) and a flat pedal situation almost got me messed up. I don’t know how I’d handle a major economic hit for that.

Watching this situation about a renewed spike with COVID-19, protesting in-place regulations as tyrannical, and I think of elder care, where it truly only takes one careless moment for someone out and about at a protest among often unprotected others, to kiss their favorite aunt or grandmother, to touch a child, and THAT triggers “more.”

Freedom of speech, “except for yelling fire! in a crowded theater” was the theory I heard growing up. What’s righter about that gridlock stuff? 

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This scene at Whitewater Center isn’t the way of the world in April, 2020, but social distancing is going to be a byword for foreseeable future.

And for God’s sake, that old expression about “If you can’t be part of the solution, at least don’t contribute to the problem,” still works. Causing traffic jams that prevents those front line people from getting to where they’re needed, that is SUCH a negative.  That nurse blocking a pickup from jamming up a crosswalk, that’s an American I’ll shake hands with – well, at some point.

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Glenn Shorkey – Creative eDitorial Talent Enterprises 
(704) 502-9947

44 days of COVID in-place discipline won’t be tossed in trash by “re-open” pressure

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 ‘Discipline’ can mean four days of studying for a State license, or maybe getting 1200 words right for a submission before lunch, but pro wrestling as an “essential business,” THAT must have another meaning I haven’t encountered.

Trying to work my sports as a release during this current, constant COVID focus, going to a local park and finding sections of 2×4 “blocks” bolted onto the hoops wasn’t a happy moment. That the Prez was stumblin’ and fumblin’ on national TV for ten minutes didn’t contribute anything to my happiness…well, actually, I didn’t watch it – and I’m good.

Okay, something got around my sunglasses and irritated an eye during a great bike ride Saturday, I had three beers while binge-watching five episodes (four hours worth) of ‘Defiance,’ and I’m sure it annoys my brother the dogs jump off his lap to watch my every move in the kitchen, but I delivered Mom’s Easter flowers and a chocolate egg, so I’ll call it karmically even.

Blowing off the last four (or five…) days without progress on a second wattpad book and not finishing two blogs (did anyone miss me?) along the way was a sign of mental drag, which is where discipline comes in. Discipline says get back to best practices; even if its later than it should be, get it done, then get on to Next.

A strong bike ride in Charlotte sunshine reassured me that I’m still capable of doing the right thing personally.

Discipline

If you haven’t got the coffee on and laptop fired up by 7:15, you’re behind IMHO, although eight-ish during this in-place situation is a reasonable standard. The writing game is obviously different from being an office admin or my first job out of college, making a minimum of 20 cold calls daily, while putting in beaucoup windshield time,  with more of the same during the years in scholastic fundraising.

Being at the schools by 7:15 was a necessity then: Calls, demos, signings, and starts were well-defined signals of numeric and organizational rigor. The numbers spoke to time on task, better production and group averages came from managerial follow-up.

Having shut down writing sessions at 2:30 a.m. many times, “productivity” there isn’t in terms of on-the-clock hours as an admin associate, or group starts and product sold in scholastic fundraising role.

“Thinking about” writing can be a vague laziness, for me it doesn’t really count unless there’s an aha! moment about what comes next, at least a page of notes scribbled in a blank sketchpad, a system I’ve used forever.

Discipline is aligned with good and consistent habits. If you’re a night owl, own it, rework what a timely start to a day means. Doing brain downloads with notes to self over java in bed? Sure. Not everything needs a computer.

My best production from time on task writing was during latter part of the Great Recession, when I worked an 11-7 shift in retail and edited two years of group essay materials from SCHOBY (So. Carolina Hugh O’Brian Youth) into stories-chapters for an Aesop’s Fables-type read-along book.

Two months of sitting in a warm waterbed every morning, cranking along on 800-1,200 word chapters, polishing leadership thought about trust, sharing, self-confidence and the little kid level – with a 10:15 deadline so I could shower before work – set a great base for the push to self-publish a 73,000 word project when I’d finished the SCHOBY deal.

I brought pages of my own stuff to work, stuck it under bags on my counter while Jack and I cranked production well enough to gain a 1% of sales bonus money nine months in a row as Nautica specialists. Editing between customers, I completed my first book over the course of  seven months and saved $500 by shooting my own cover. January bonus money made publication possible.

That is, after three more months of editing for actual printing.

That’s nothing extraordinary compared to success stories-in books I’ve read, more like a must do. Absolutely NO DOUBT that time on task makes or breaks things, and with the current ‘in place’ situation, time is a discipline I have plenty of to invest.

Pro wrestling as “Essential?”

In keeping with my desire to provide something sports themed in the current desert of possibilities, what can be said about Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis declaring WWE professional wrestling an essential business?

For those of us raised on “Mr. Fuji and Professor Ta-rooooo Tanaka!”, ref’s looking the exact wrong way during tag team mayhem, Chief Jay Strongbow’s ‘spirit’ rising from an almost limp state into tomahawk chops and the bow-and-arrow submission hold victory, the idea THIS is an “essential” business is ludicrous.

This latest TV iteration, with people double-somersaulting over the ropes into the chest of a waiting rival, as we all knew, there was ‘real’ wrestling and pro wrestling. When that Florida story dropped, brother Mike and I discussed Grandpa Sevigny taking us guys and cousins to the television studio for wrasslin’ a couple Saturday mornings when our family visited Tampa as kids.

There was certainly plenty of thumping on each other later.

In the early Eighties I returned to Tampa as a sportswriter, and after watching David VonErich, of the legendary (bad guys) VonErich wrestling family, get disqualified for tossing someone out of the ring over the ropes, I got to interview he and a tag team partner about the lifestyle choice of life on the road, and the body as “office” for a job.

At about 25 myself, making $25 an article (and picking up some scrip for a BBQ place, where the beer was free because they didn’t have a license and they gave you a takeout container of chicken and sides), I even asked him about “the fake factor” and good guy-bad guy economics.

David was one of those “love to hate him” guys, and he said when people were booing him, he was shouting back, “That’s right, and I’m a millionaire!” His plan was “Five more years, then take the wife and retire in Colorado to continue raising palomino show horses.” Not sure if he was kidding about the horses, but he didn’t get there, dying in a plane crash before thirty.

He had a younger brother who died in a wrestling stunt as the “entertainment” factor really blew up in the Hulk Hogan-‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin-The Rock years, when everything was beefcake bodies, steroids, and higher tech drama. VonErich’s death was something with a bad release element while being lowered on a cross from ceiling deal. Boom! glitch became a dead wrestler.

David was demonstrating what’s beneath those turnbuckles so many get their faces bounced off (no, its not a fluffy pillow thing), then sling-shotting off the ropes and bounding loudly across the canvas, when he suddenly jumped up and grabbed a low beam over the ring.

“Hey, you wouldn’t have to worry about missing a drop kick with a guy, you could nail him in the chops EASY like this!

1984 Olympic Greco-Roman gold winner,

Heavyweight Jeff Blatnick

With all due respect to fellow Brockport State (NY) grad Frank Famiano, in his prime as a 126-pound Greco wrestler, but one of the many athletes whose career goals were trashed by the US boycott of the 1980 Olympics in Russia, Jeff’s “I’m one happy dude!” interview on ABC became iconic after the victory.

Jeff was also from Schenectady, NY, and during a Webelos meeting long, long ago, I caught him in a choke hold, then got chased around a car until my Dad came out and I could safely open a door. Not saying I beat him, more like lucky he didn’t squash me against a partition, or catch me before Dad came out.

Jeff was “a real wrestler,” two-time Division II champion, and a three-time All-American, who died in 2012 – Hodgkins got him the third time. Frank Famiano created a profitable “roach coach” coffee truck operation in the mornings so he could continue training another four years for the 1984 Olympics.

Great athletes have a discipline that puts sticking to my keyboard and finishing a presentation into very real perspective.

Anyway, we met while he was competing in the 1983 Empire State (NY) Games, after he beat Hodgkins disease the first time, long before he became the first commissioner of the MMA (mixed martial arts) operation, or beat Hodgkins a second time. With his singlet rolled down, there was a *major* “railroad track” scar down the middle of his chest.

He didn’t know the Russians would boycott the LA Olympics the next year, and he told me that the only person he’d really been afraid of was somebody I mentioned as being the baddest of the bad. They’d changed the weight limits for super-heavies, and this other guy was 280-plus pounds of steel, whose signature move was pile-driving an opponents face-head into the mat.

If that Russian got you up in the air, it was surrender there or risk a broken neck. Turns out the guy becomes a no-show because of Soviet payback for US not coming to their Olympics in 1980. That Jeff admitted that fear again the last time I ran into him, on a cold, windy day in Albany, NY, just two guys on a corner ready to cross the street, kind of gives perspective to what athletes have to consider can happen in an instant.

Jeff never failed to correct writers who called him the first American gold medal winner in Greco-Roman, because long-time buddy Steve Fraser (90kg/198 lb.) had won his gold the night before Jeff.

A nation cried along with a very sweaty Blatnick as he offered a hands-together prayer upwards after the victory, and repeatedly used the “happy dude” phrase while giving thanks to everyone else who had anything to do with his career getting to that lofty spot.

***

STAYING IN PLACE instead of blowing off the social distancing that has made the difference with COVID-19 here in 2020 is still a legitimate piece of discipline. Hang in there America.

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Glenn Shorkey – Creative eDitorial Talent Enterprises 
(704)502-9947

 

 

 

A rugby – COVID-19 analogy for a lack of sports Wednesday: Gotta make the catch

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Having used the analogy several times over years of writing, the ultimate factor as the receiver of a downfield kick-punt in rugby, a game everyone knows is rough, is you can’t whiff on it or let it go, you HAVE to catch it. That high, hanging up there one especially.

You’ve seen it dozens of times in football, “the bomb squad” guys who pulverize a punt returner who doesn’t wave his arm in a fair catch signal.

Now take out the pads and helmet. And the fair catch signal. Yeah, crunch time, pal.

Well, actually you can TRY fair catching it, by simultaneously catching the ball, digging a heel into the turf, and shouting, “Mark!” but most experienced players will tell you to run even if you do it right, because not everyone knows the rule.

I sure didn’t back in 1981, when I went *through* a guy who invoked it. I learned about it at the keg later, when the guy – who was a referee and certainly did it right – told another guy about running and not everyone knowing the rule.

Part Two of that is being on the receiving end of getting railed, where you can SEE that ball and different colored jersey are going to arrive at the same time. Whether or not you’ve been clobbered at such a moment, that very short moment of impact, your life gets changed.

It’s going to be a problem (challenge? pssshhh!) either way.  If you try to avoid the blast and let the ball bounce, and bing, bang, boom! they score, thats a mark (soft?) you’ll have to carry for a while.

Otherwise, when they peel you off the turf, there are only a couple questions that make any difference. The primary one related to potential concussions is supposed to be “What’s your name?” with the expectation you don’t know that, fuggidaboudit. After taking the abuse, many want to know if their team kept the ball.

If you say something about, “But I don’t wanna go to school, Mom!” they put someone else in the game.

The Analogy

Lots of Americans, and people around the world, are “sheltering in place” now, WAITING, as a rugby fullback often does, for the ball to finally get there. Nobody else can make the play, and whether people think differently about you at this specific time, will count on how you handle the opportunity.

We’re not talking about taking the kick all the way back for a score, we’re not talking about the ball bouncing off you, and everyone scrambling while you hopefully have the ability to choose between covering your head or curling in a ball to protect yourself, and will someone PLEASE get that telephone!

It’s absolutely about making the catch. Not doing anything crazy, but nooo, its not going to be easy either way.

Staying in place is making the catch without sweating a different colored jersey in your peripheral vision. There’s no “Whats your name?” factor either. You cannot hurt the team by hanging out around the home work space right now, maybe even have a beer during work hours. 

Need another rugby analogy? So, this THICK, Samoan-looking #8 guy (and yes, the tats are part of it) picks up the ball and comes around the scrum, motoring right at our captain, and from inside center position, I swear I heard him gulp.

Captain sat out the previous season after a broken collarbone, and having this ever-lovin’ chunk of humanity coming full steam ahead, he knew somebody had to stick their head in there and stop that bowling ball.

Which I did, taking him low, because otherwise you bounce off, have no effect. I’ll remind any readers that, in rugby tackling, there’s no roll blocking someones feet,  so a legal tackle involves circling your arms, which means having to put your head in near knees and feet.

Doing whats needed

That’s what “somebody” needed to do about stopping that situation, it didn’t have to be Davey at that point though. We need LOTS of somebodies doing whats needed to get “real life” back any kind of sooner. Like rugby, this COVID-19 isn’t a one shot situation, more like Spring and Fall season. Sports-wise, its going to be more of a marathon-like survival than a win-loss on any scoreboard.

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AME Zion Church during Sanders rally for environment

If I stay in place another couple weeks, doing leadership thought blogs, and working on another book instead of deciding to pack a church next weekend,  that’s making the best choice, given the alternatives. Even here, in the Buckle on the Bible Belt, I don’t believe we’re going to break on what needs to be done even at a holy time on most calendars.

I’m for sure not planning on taking COVID-19 straight up, but I’ll make the catch or right play when its needed. I can certainly feed myself without any problem, my last expedition to neighborhood Aldi, had no problem getting everything I needed to batten down, including a couple bottles of 3-buck chuck. Here’s hoping we can rely on “the other guys” to do their part as well on the best practices front.

And yes, the people working smile when you ask if they’re getting enough props.

A high caliber nurse in this arena offered to make me two masks, which makes me sure its going to be of a quality those brave people wear, ones for my brother. She and a couple others are cranking them out besides doing 24s and a couple 12 hr. shifts a week. I’m doing the bandana and gloves, and hell yes! you take your gloves and whatever garbage with you after shopping or whatever.

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Glenn Shorkey – Creative eDitorial Talent Enterprises 
(704) 502-9947