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.

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.

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…

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.

Job scam warning – “Too good to be true” almost certainly still is

As much effort as I’m putting into gaining a next gig, I imagine a kid somewhere, with M&Ms or munching a churro, kicking a battered soccer ball, then checking responses.

Three weeks ago, I started an online interview with a Human Resource person from a major international corporation, and barely an hour later, after consulting with a vice-president, Mr. Malcolm said “regarding your standing in a customer service online role, you are hired!” 

To acquaint with, I’m Mr Greg Malcom. I’m located at Huston Tx, I appear to you as the Hiring Superior/Client Services of Doosan Group

While two out of three brothers congratulated me on what seemed like a legitimate late touchdown of economics, my Wells Fargo Director brother, Steve, opined that money seemed steep for a customer service job, and when I got back from walking the dog, I tagged him for expertise. 

Later in online session, after I was ‘hired,’ there was a significant listing of technical gear I’d need. Along with two weeks training @ $30 an hour, (I’d start at $40+ an hour, benefits after thirty full days), there was a niggling negative about how I would get a check, then withdraw funds to pay for equipment within 24 hours.

Just so you know when you see it…

“Below are the list of materials and softwares needed for this position since you’d be working from home: 4 in one (fax, scanner, copier and printer), Zebra ZM400 Bar-code printer and cards, 4 drawer cabinet and office desk,Apple-(Macbook Air), Blu-ray Drive, Vista Premium), myob business essentials software 2005,For Peach Tree premium 2010 US Patent Single Users Pack, simply accounting 2009,Adobe Photoshop 52011,Adobe Acrobat 8 2012,Ariba 8 2012ASP 32007,CSS 6 2012,Dreamweaver 7 2011,HTML 11 2011,Illustrator 3 2009. Are you familiar with any of those software programs ?

The funds for the software’s and your working materials will be provided to you by the company via check You will be using the funds  in making purchase of  your equipment from the company certified Vendor and All equipment will be labeled on them with the company name, they will have you connected to the company database UNDERSTOOD?

“The check will be covering up for both your working and training materials as well as setting up a mini office in your home which i believe you do have a space provided for that ?

Once you receive the check you are needed to have it deposited in your bank account via Mobile Or Bank teller. Then the funds would be credited in your account immediately or within 24 hours for cash out.. Do you understand me ?

TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE 

It’s an age old truism, that what might seem so super incredible juuuust might be Too Good/Untrue, and this is why accessing real expertise in the clutch is always a good idea.  

While discussing the tone of ‘interview’ – especially never actually talking to a representative – you bet he smelled something wrong. His international experience with Koreans was that they’d die if professional communication was read as anything less than ‘regular English’ – the online stuff I saw wasn’t up to that standard. ‘Malcolm’ had apparently misspelled his own name and Houston (no ‘o’) in first line of introduction online, another wiggle of doubt. 

The kicker was, while on the phone with me, Steve found *exactly* the company scam I’d been enthused about at 9:30 am, was running, at least referenced by FBI, since 2015. https://www.ziprecruiter.com/blog/scams-work-from-home/

BIG POINT – Recovery 

What could have been a small disaster then, in what is at heart a CHECK SCAM, is worth putting out as a warning for those eager to return to economic goals in this surging economy, extra glad their skills are coming to the fore again.

That ever-lovin’ $1,400 stimulus check many were waiting to get passed by Congress, it got to my bank account on Wednesday, and depositing the company funds – which are inevitably declared NSF – electronically lets ‘them’ into your account is the heart of the scam. 

I had enough sense to investigate what seemed too good to be true, more like Reagan’s “Trust but verify.” That made a disappointing ending to a singular ‘fake event’ three weeks ago easy to bury. There’s a light in tunnel now that doesn’t feel like another train. Don’t make hasty decisions or imagine a Disney ending to the challenges we’ll all still face in 2021, but hey, ask someone you trust about something TGTBT. 

Of course, having facts that others can see and believe has been a problem for some lately, but journalistically, I go with believe your experts. I deep-sixed further contact with ‘Doosan Malcolm’ by 3:00. They sent a notice the next morning that I was supposed to be online at 8:00. I laughed, and will continue thinking I dodged a bullet. Be aware people. 

Information Everywhere 

It’s problematic that, despite 930,000 job growth last month, the U.S. still has some 8.4 million dislocated workers in a year of panemic, even those like myself, who were essentially WFH (work from home) types thinking of being ‘inside.’

Year Three of CDTalent Enterprises https://www.linkedin.com/in/glennshorkey/ company growth suffered in 2020, and putting irons in the fire or RFPs (requests for proposals) in 2021 means our personal information is often available.

I actually gave last four of my SSN to a different interviewer recently, but you had damn well better know ANY information out there is a nugget someone wants. 

Check extensions for a fake contact. While e-dresses should be the company’s, mine had 3296 after it.

“Sure, let’s get you stuck.”

Thursday will be my 2nd shot (Pfizer), the first coming a couple days after that job disappointment on Monday. Amazingly, the stimulus check was on time Wednesday, and while still officially a Category-5 person in North Carolina, I got a vaccine shot right around the corner, coming back from grocery store.

No extra fuss, the whole event took 25 minutes, from parking lot to post shot departure, an effective flow from first temperature check, to a supervisor appearing just as I talked to a young lady at a laptop to register and saying, “Sure, let’s get you stuck.” 

March Madness has provided a mass catharsis

Honestly, it should be stated what a non-scientific boost this years Madness was compared to zero in 2020. Reducing the usual travel to sub-regionals, the NCAA did the bubble thing amazingly well.

The Stanford ladies team story was beyond compelling – When the Palo Alto campus was CLOSED to them, they spent almost forever – 86 days! – traveling as true road warriors. They decided that only WINNING the title would make all the discomfort worthwhile, and that’s now a 54-53 fact.  

In both the semi and championship finale for Stanford, the other team’s final shot was just off the iron, the ultimate difference between victory and defeat. South Carolina’s was a put back at the buzzer that didn’t go down. Haley Jones for Stanford ‘only’ had 17 for the winners, and looked like a star on every one. Aari McDonald for Arizona – I couldn’t have been the only person surprised she only had 22 after stroking multiple bombs – including a miss on last shot, with three Stanford players hanging all over her.

In the Gonzaga-UCLA men’s semi-final, Bulldog freshman guard Jalen Suggs banked in a half-courter at the buzzer to win 93-90. Who hasn’t done 3-2-1… EHHHHH! a thousand times in back yard? Super tournament, and tonight a worthy men’s Final. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwX4yHytLJU

We’ve seen heroic efforts by all, and (for once) Charles Barkley was right, two players for UCLA were unstoppable, and who doesn’t appreciate a superhuman effort falling just short? 

Normalcy

A LOT of clouds got less threatening that shot in arm day. Getting four solid calls from recruiters, two discussions (1 still not rejected, 1 rescheduled because I was headed for visit to Mom pre-Easter), and even having gotten out 4x for rides and shooting hoops regularly, I still sincerely applaude how March Madness has provided a mass catharsis in this country.

I’m also glad to have participated in a fish fry with another church organization last week. We served about 350 dinners between 4-7:30, most of them at drive through, and there was great sense of comraderie and community with those who came and sat down inside. Normalcy? We’ve always provided ‘beverages’ at our events, and those who enjoyed that and some ice cream for dessert were reminded what our Men’s Clubs can do.

That it came together in barely a week, that’s community action.

We’ve certainly seen the ultimate in team play during March Madness, and Easter is always appreciated as a time of optimism and renewal. That one small negative three weeks ago, I’m still AWARE stuff like that is out there, and that when it showed up, I questioned ‘Too good to be true.’ Be aware America.

I’m still a Boomer, flag recently replanted in 2021, and now days from fully vaccinated. What’s Next?

March 2021 -Biden’s $1.9T Help for America, 100MM shots for COVID, Gonzaga in NCAA, are stars

For a year the world hoped for a miracle. With 100MM shots in arms so far, and hundreds of millions of doses available, backyard cookouts for the Fourth of July seem as real as it gets.

Having finished re-editing Chapter 18 of ‘With Platinum Fury Focus,’ Swiffer-ed and vacuumed most of the house, gotten current with ACA (Stim. #2 finally arrived), raking and branch-trimming yardwork, started the spaghetti sauce, had three cups of coffee, walked the dog, put on a favorite striped dress shirt/suit pants, AND SHAVED – I proclaim Thursday’s one year anniversary of COVID-19 lousiness and ennui an official rebooting of “Life More Like It Should Be,” maybe within sight of normalcy.

As of the 18th, I became part of a terrific statistic, arms stuck.

The karma of Asking.

Yes, America, WE made it an entire year with this declared pandemic. It’s still difficult to deal with a ‘previous prez’ knowing how bad it was *really* going to be – and telling a well-known journalist, who recorded it for posterity – early on and then lying about it. There are hundreds of millions of vaccine shots available to help the process now – Donnie J. actually got one, and Mr. Snake Snot didn’t tell the world, which juuuust might have made a difference.

The Karma of Asking

At 64, I was still a Category-5 outsider in North Carolina when I decided to take a chance on the way back from grocery shopping. The Novant clinic is across Independence, barely a block away, it wouldn’t be a killer waste of time, to check out the possibility of a ‘Freedom Shot’ if you will.

In late 2017, “checking things out” about timing when getting an x-ray resulted in an immediate (five days) appointment for a knee replacement had been my standard for good karma. That a supervisor appeared immediately as I’d gotten a temperature check and started chatting with a laptop person (among MANY staff/volunteers) about 64 and around the corner, so why not? Her response was, “Sure, let’s get you stuck.” From parking lot to post-15 minute stay period and leaving, 25 minutes.

I will be heading to Mom’s place at Carmel Hills for a couple hugs. We got to hang with her a little for her birthday, March 1, but it wasn’t one of her better days. Even though masks are still a good idea for a while longer, if your Mom’s been vaccinated (like mine), and so are you, hugging her a bunch of times is a start on what they’ve suffered without so long.

‘March Madness’ Hits Full-on Stardom

The fact of genuine ‘March Madness’ arrival, after being denied that annual basketball bachanal in 2020, means leaving behind any “coulda-shouldas.” Fill out a bracket or three, quaff a quantity of cold ones with variously seasoned wings, invite – righteously vaxxed, no masks? – a couple buddies to watch your big screen, because that *IS* about normalcy.

Those with Ohio State or Purdue in Final Four, oh that Madness thing!

If you gotta go on Spring Break instead of camping on a couch to watch, see if you can plant a big ol’ kiss on Gov. DeSantis, just for the sake of freaking him out. Most of those wild ‘n crazy hombres you’ll be hanging with are still two months from a shot in the arm, but (bleep) it, you only live once (as far as we know).

A nephew and a bunch of buddies drove an RV around the Midwest parks, fishing for two weeks last May because post-college jobs were on hold, my NY brother’s entire family helped move another nephew from Kentucky to the Pacific Northwest, so why shouldn’t you celebrate some in 2021?

The simple fact this administration carefully counts FULLY VACCINATED and ‘sticks’ as two statistic shows an understanding and accounting, right? but who isn’t aware there are multiple bad-ass variants of COVID-19 out there?

Worse case, saying “If it’s good enough for those governors from Texas to the Keys,” nobody over thirty *really* expects you to be the responsible people,” y’know? Sure, its a numbers thing, but also a ‘shoulda learned year,’ too.

I didn’t go to Pennsylvania for a three day car show last July with a brother I’ve been hunkered down with, but he came back without problems. (tongue in cheek) I needed to be ready for that bicycle accident I was going to have in August. Maybe you can get to that age/mileage marker (64) I have no matter what you do…

8 ways a bike accident and “low grade depression” match U.S. mess

Impossible not to be political

Truth is, given a year’s perspective – especially the party line vote, zero Repub Yes votes, 100% willing to stiff their non-Washington, DC people – 75% of the country favoring that $1.9T COVID bill *has* to include some ‘regular’ Repubs in favor of sending checks. If that COVID bill is supposedly the easiest one Dems will have, that doesn’t bode well for the future of Repubs helping their constituents.

Thanks to a sister-in-law doing 2020 taxes, two stimulus checks came very quickly as well. With solid time-on-task https://www.wattpad.com/myworks/218725526-with-platinum-fury-focus progress made an overall enlightening week.

This coming week, President Biden and Vice-President Harris will work on the public relations aspect of what they have maintained all along, that Americans can overcome any obstacle if they put their collective minds to it. ‘100 million shots in 100 days’ has gone from an attitude to fact.

Setting new, familiar and desirable goals, like 4th of July cookouts, that’s legit. Do you have to invite everyone, including recent non-maskers? The ones who never bring meat (or beer), just those plastic containers of ten cookies? Naaah. Maybe next time.

Was slipping into that 100 million category as significant a milestone as John F. Kennedy’s goal of putting the USA flag on the moon “before the end of this (1960s) decade”?Personally, guaranteed survival during a pandemic is at least as important. I didn’t expect to get vaccinated until almost Memorial Day, which seemed like forever.

By the way, America is still in the space business, it’s not just Tesla putting up rockets. There are definitely NOT Jewish spaceships shooting lasers to start raging wildfires in California though, but there are moments to cheer. https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-s-mars-perseverance-rover-provides-front-row-seat-to-landing-first-audio

While the entire WORLD was doing that collaboration thing on an all-important COVID-19 vaccine, having four different U.S. manufacturers produce highly effective ones in less than a year surpassed even the miracle of the sugar-cube polio vaccine. (Wikipedia ref. – a weakened oral polio vaccine (OPV) developed by Dr. Albert Sabin, the sugar cube was first used in 1961.)

Dr. Jonas Salk’s inactivated (‘dead,’ IPV), first used in 1955, is still considered a gold standard of scientific achievement.

I was a “sugar-cube kid,” would’ve trusted any of the current vaccines, but I have no worries about Tuckaseegee, circa 1932. My Dad survived polio in the 1930’s when lots of kids died, and while his left leg was always visibly thinner, he served his country in the Navy. That some would risk death instead of taking a proven “You won’t die or wind up on a ventilator” shot makes me sad.

That a certain former president has made several attempts to claim credit for that vaccine success speaks to political gas-lighting. His denial of the pandemic’s (world-wide) deadliness, and his administration’s brutal mishandling of the health crisis enrages many. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/

Since ‘politics’ were part of everything this past year, it was surprising that tens of millions of protesters taking to the streets during the Black Lives Matter uprisings across the country didn’t cause the level of “super-spreader” infections that certain indoor events during his campaign did. (Sorry, facts are just part of my journalist background)

And now, ‘Selection Sunday’

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My new favorite spot to shoot (glass!) even if it’s set 18″ back too far and messes up foul shooting.

Having watched my share – and perhaps the shares of several others, with three days of quadruple-headers – I’m ready to put my sportswriter expertise on the line by picking at least a few brackets worth. Gonzaga looks strong to me, Illinois has a HUGE center and guards like crazy, that’s my finals. Most experts are calling this a year for ‘chalk,’ meaning favorites.

Of course, during this messed up year, MILLIONS of others will be doing multiple sheets, which again, counts as normalcy. Will there be a chance to pick a perfect one, maybe win that $1 billion prize that’s been dangled the last couple years? (Not if the first two days of wreckage continues through weekend.)

Nahh, but winning cash, that’s not really the point. Most of the world is looking forward to the Olympics, which were delayed from 2020 because of the pandemic. Some will hold their fervor for the World Cup, scheduled for 2022 in Qatar. For Americans though, there is truly nothing like ‘March Madness,’ school ties and buzzer-beaters to cheer insanely for.

Because playing abbreviated seasons in ‘bubbles’ last Fall (ie- Edmonton and Toronto for the NHL) worked so well to reduce COVID infections for the high-priced talent in NBA, NHL, and MLB (baseball) leagues, this year’s three-weekend NCAA tournament will all be held in Indiana venues this year.

Being a righteously dragged-out fan from watching late West Coast games in 2019 will be mitigated by that fact, and even having gotten first Pfizer shot, I’m still not hanging out in bars in 2021. (Well, one two blocks away is mostly outdoors…)

As a WFH (work from home) content writer, it’s very possible I can grab a cup of java and be ready to start a workday by 8:15 anyway, but that’s the *only* thing COVID-19 has done for the viewer experience.

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Just in case appreciaion isn’t enough…

Congratulations America, with a special extra nod and two thumbs up of appreciation for the healthcare people and essential workers who got us through a truly terrible time. For every baller – male and female – who plays their guts out for our enjoyment, NOBODY laid it on the line more than you did. Amen.

Watson would work wonders for Panthers, salary cap and 25 free agents a concern

The old chestnut “Money is no object” might be legitimate concerning Panthers owner David Tepper’s personal stack of about $11 billion, but fitting Deshaun Watson’s contract into a smaller salary cap space would be a legitimate question. The Panthers have 25 players whose contracts are ending – including most of the offensive line – and that can’t be ignored.

The Panthers needing a better solution to their current top signal-caller, Teddy Bridgewater, is no secret. Bridgewater was a three year, $63 million dollar interim addition to replace the departed Cam Newton last year, but his 15/11 TD to INT production won’t satisfy many as the building block necessary for 2021 and beyond. (FYI – In 2019, Kyle Allen’s 17/16 production line in 13 games didn’t earn another look for 2020.)

Bringing in Watson, who led the NFL with 4,823 yards passing (382/544, 33 TD/7 INTs), and his massive contract extension, signed just last year (4 yrs/$177.5MM, $111MM guaranteed) is a fascinating possibility, but its probably more about cap space and the personnel the Texans will want for their prime time QB.

Time is a real factor

While Watson is obviously looking to relocate, and he just might want to come home to the Carolinas, where he won a national championship with Clemson, the recent swap of LA Rams QB Jared Goff for Lions QB Matt Stafford has radically reset the value of a franchise-level #1 quarterback.

Panthers GM Scott Fitterer won’t have long to consider coughing up picks and players, especially when the NY Jets have the goods and more than a little attention on Watson’s part. There’s no doubt about the impact he could make in Charlotte, but the Jets have been without a great QB in almost as long as Detroit – even if Stafford holds all the franchise records – or the Bears.

There are some stud QBs coming out in 2021 draft, but the Panthers #8 being high enough to get any of the top four is iffy. Houston might be able to use Bridgewater in the same stop-gap role the Panthers did, rebuild in 2021 or repackage the picks for someone like Aaron Rodgers, who some think may be available (I wouldn’t be one of those).

Whether the Jets could scrape together anything beyond the #1s and #2s the Texans want is questionable, and they certainly don’t have any defensive players to spare, which the Texans obviously desire. The Panthers would need to include Bridgewater in any trade – there aren’t any $21MM backups in the NFL – and they have enough #1 picks to be a factor.

Stripping players from a defense that showed progress – up to 18th from bottom three, right on league average in the secondary, four points better than 2019 scoring against – after two season of being shoved around mercilessly won’t be progress. They used all seven picks on ‘D’ last year, but speaking in blitz-like terms about pursuing Watson, no risk, no reward might be the bottom line.

Getting a quarterback just entering his prime is such a risk. Defensive coordinator Phil Snow earned his paycheck in 2020, freshly minted General Manager Scott Fittere will need to pull some magic with the cap and 2021 draft to be considered same ‘successful.’

Samuel or Chinn? (NOOO! but…)

The Panthers might have to choose their need for a primo QB over a couple of performers that were worth watching in 2020, safety/linebacker Jeremy Chinn or the finally emerging Curtis Samuel.

Chinn was their second-second round pick (after Yeter Gross-Matos), had 68 solo tackles/49 assists, and scored touchdowns on two consecutive fumble returns for touchdowns, while absolutely living up to all expectations. While Washington’s Chase Young is considered the favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year, Chinn was always one of the jerseys that fans saw walking away after tackles.

Samuel is mentioned in the same breath with DJ Moore as someone both difficult to catch and get on the ground, but he’s eligible for free agency. After a 77 catch/851 yards/3 TD receiving, 41 rushes/200 yds/2 TD season, there are going to be plenty of teams willing to show him the money, probably in the $11 million a year range. That would help satisfy at least a couple of those O-lineman, so packaging him in a trade vs. losing him in free agency is worth considering.

Whether Gross-Matos or Donte Jackson would be sufficient – plus #1s this year and next, a #2 next year, or possibly Tony Price, Jr. and his elite speed on the corner might be enough, is in the hopper.

Alternatives

Again, there are a slew of free agents to consider by Panthers management. While Coach Rhule turned in a competitive 5-11 record, losing several games (Minnesota!) late, and minus the estimable Christian McCaffrey most of the year, it will almost certainly be Mr. Tepper’s decision on who and how things settle out. He was pretty much hands off regarding on-field changes his first two seasons as owner, but the magnitude of Watson’s financial commitment and salary cap considerations that changed as result of the league playing before almost empty stadiums, is significant.

Brian Burns has shown great upside as a pass rusher at LB and might be a possibility instead of Gross-Matos, and Kawann Short, who was ‘dinged’ enough to miss chunks of the last two seasons, might be worth dangling.

For anyone who thinks McCaffrey is going anywhere, there will be another riot in Washington before he and that $21.3 million in front money from last years extension moves elsewhere is a non-starter proposition. Mike Davis proved an effective surprise in CMC’s absence and would be a loss, but almost nobody else is beyond considering.

Okay, forget about asking for DJ Moore after another great year (66 catches, 1193 yards/4 TDs), and free agent Robbie Anderson’s 95 catches/1095 yards/3 TD season and Temple connection with Coach Rhule means he is safe. Bridgewater did a decent enough job of distributing to make the Panthers top three as good as almost anyones.

Watson is also a terrific citizen, as turning over his first NFL check (about $27,000) to three cafeteria workers after Hurricane Harvey laid waste to Houston proves. Its part of his already significant legend, along with winning a national championship in 2017 (35-31 over Alabama) after a brilliant 2016 championship loss (45-40, also against Alabama) where he went 36/56 for 405 yards/3 TDs passing, plus 73 yards and one TD rushing).

The fact of his family getting a home from former Tampa Bay Buc Warrick Dunn when he was eleven proves he’s a man who knows how to show his gratitude. If getting him out of Houston and onto a team where he would complete a quick(?) rebuilding of the Panthers franchise became as big a deal as Carolina fans believe it would be, that gratitude would work both ways.