Maintaining ‘lifestyle’ is a worthy goal during Regular Times, too ‘Merica

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Knight’s Stadium in downtown Charlotte, NC has big city ambiance, and civic jewel Romare Bearden Park the other side of right field fence. Pro sports are facing challenges of gearing up, but good thoughts for your Fourth ‘Merica.

Exchanging FB messages with a favorite cousin, we concur that, whatever is going on in lots of places at this point in time, we’re still not severely cut off from all civilized pursuits, our lifestyles, as it were. Confederate statuary be danged, that “When you’ve got your health…” stuff comes up on both our attitude-radar regularly.

Frank is retired, would probably be spending the summer in Minn. if not for all that’s transpired. My brother Mike and I have been in-place since just before the official start in late March, and having lived together off-on during long stretches of life before, we’re doing pretty good on staying relaxed. I’ve got an office at one end of house, he winds up using the kitchen table. Yes, there’s been too much TV watching, the dogs demand regular petting, and they follow my every move in the kitchen.

I was essentially a remote worker the last year, so COVID-19 didn’t have a major effect on my daily timing. Knowing this week will be a scorcher, I expect bike rides will be earlier vs. in energy-sucking humidity of Charlotte afternoons. Brother Steve asked Mike for a lift back from here while riding yesterday – I shot hoops earlier this morning, had early lunch and being blog productive all afternoon.

Time on task

Sometimes it really does feel like vacation, and what needs to be accomplished in any 2-3 hour window might be vague. Missing a blog is most often a lack of discipline, but also a signal that’s reminded  you throughout life about attitude affecting outcome. You let it slide, it becomes a negative.

Every time I leave mid-program, after any too long escape from screen/keyboard or food-making, I give myself an attaboy! Artificial Intelligence (AI) might be able to turn ‘it’ on-off in the future, but only being in the saddle actually gets results in 2020. Period.

Having opinions about BLM, face masks, and when stimulus checks show up? are kind of in the personal mix, but really, only getting the dialogue written for my creative stuff with wattpad, or making sure an RFP hits the clients criteria described on Indeed, thats a ‘more is better’ situation. Discipline is always the deal.

Sports – Who knew we’d do okay without…?

  • Charlotte has Carolina Panthers football, Hornets basketball (23-42, 10th in East, out of any restart) and Triple A hockey Checkers (2018-19 champs, 34-22-5, tied for 3rd in Atlantic Division), and Panthers owner David Tepper pushed through his purchase of an MLS soccer franchise ($300M worth) that doesn’t have an official name yet.
  • It’s doubtful any of these will be putting fannies in the seats in the near future. After two train-wreck seasons, the Panthers return is certainly the most anticipated. The retirement of beloved Luke Kuechly, the amazing goodness of Christian McCaffrey’s rarely achieved 1000-1000 yard productivity, an exciting new coach (Matt Ruhle), a necessary all defensive (7 picks) draft, and the arrival of QB Teddy Bridgewater from New Orleans, and offensive coordinator Joe Brady from national champion LSU are all positives. 
  • According to CBS Sports, the big sendup for Major League Baseball will be the Yankees and reigning World Series champs the Washington Nationals on July 23rd. That will be the focus game, with the rest of whatever season they figured out starting the next day. Could be Max Scherzer or Stephen Strasberg for the Nats, Yanks battered 306 HRs last year (and the Twinkies-no-more had one more).
  • I got my motorsports ya-yas out years ago, with a couple Formula I races in Watkins Glen and Montreal, and satisfied any NASCAR yearnings with a 300 miler in Charlotte that took almost seven hours, with wrecks and rain delays. I was in a hospitality suite, so food, drink, staying dry was all good, with a great view of everyone pulling into the pits without the various fumes.
  • Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick were at the top in Pocono 350, Harvick leads the standings with 581 pts. (3 wins, 8-Top 5s), Hamlin is 4th, with 506 pts. (4 wins, 9-Top 5s). You figure it out.
  • Dustin Johnson’s -19 took the Travelers Tournament, Kevin Streelman was 2nd at -18, and because he was one of the ‘names’ in tournament, Phil Mickelson was T-24th at -11, Sergio was T-32nd at -10. Webb Simpson leads the FedEx standings with 1,583 points (7 tournaments), Justin Thomas (1,543 in 11 events), Rory McIlroy (1,270 in 9 outings) is 4th.
  • Formula I is a whole ‘nother deal than just going left, and if you’ve had the opportunity to samba in the streets with Brazilians, you have partied with the best. Having no crowds trackside, those sports mean very little. The golfers don’t seem to mind any lack of  crowd ‘juice,’ and its probably easier to keep your mind on doing what most think of as free money, hardly a real job.

For those who wondered, former Panther Cam Newton has landed in New England as their probable #1 QB, since 42-year old Tom Brady has left for Tampa Bay.

Bombshell good news – ‘The Comeback Trail’

While doing our first furniture pickup for a shelter supply ministry since February, our four-man crew moved a large table downstairs for a lady’s neighbor, receiving 300mg. vials of prime CBD (hempseed oil) for the effort. Having been a content creation person for a manufacturer last year, I appreciate the quality of it, much better on anxiety levels with .5 of a dropper several times a day, compared to the $2.49 version (wine) from Aldi.

good timesdave-michStill, beyond just knowing everyone is safe – including Mom, even if they had a breach at her senior community on 17th – and Favorite Nephew and wife arriving in other corner of country, getting really GOOD news is a slice of Life that works wonders.

Family counts plenty under circumstances like whats out there, with 40 million in some stage of unemployed, and not many you can have a beer with.

 

That came with a note on FB about a movie my “fifth brother,” David Ornston worked, and his getting a producer credit for comedy ‘The Comeback Trail,’ starring Robert DeNiro, Tommy Lee Jones, Morgan Freeman, and Zach Braff.

It’s not “Jenny from the Block” or “Straight Outta Compton” huge, and for most its just info you’d look for at the beginning or end of the film. As a bro thing, when an important part of your life involves getting a bunch of stars on the same project like ‘Comeback,’ that’s a good professional result, worth an attaboy.

Right now I’ve got RFPs for remote work out, I’d like to try some outdoor brew pub entertainment three blocks away, will keep an eye out for that elusive stimulus check, continue a healthy amount of activity including my good-looking jump shot, and edit another chapter of Platinum Fury.’ y’know?

Time on task man. And please wear your mask.

 

 

 

Sports is the American way, we love winners, believe in fairness

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If there’s a game with more macho to it, someone is going to have to show me.

After wasting essentially three hours on FB on an overcast-rainy Wednesday (right? I’m not always 100% on days now, anyone else feeling fuzzy on that?), I’ve purged enough of my angst about political buffonery to write a legitimate blog.

Having planned on doing something ‘sporty-ish,’ my initial observation is that, lacking any juice from crowd excitement for the NASCAR and golf I peeked at, its less interesting than some of the (repeats of) NCAA action in baseball, football, lacrosse, and hoops I’d seen years ago. Of course, showing finals, or YUGE! upsets is part of that.

Duke (6-0) was #1 early in the 2019-20 season, and while they were a good looking pick in the NCAAs – where losing one is Death – coming up short to the Lumberjacks after 150 straight Ws at home versus non-conference teams was avoidable. If you saw it, SFA earned that  85-83 win by crushing the Blue Devils 36-27 on FGs, barely being outshot on 3-pointers (2-10, 5-15) and shot 11-17 FTs, but Duke made only 24 of *40* from the line, which will bite you just about any time.

When you lose like that, everyone has to do some unpleasant navel-gazing. Notre Dame beat Navy 43 years in a row (football), and you’d think beating on your little brother wouldn’t be any kind of thrill after that long. But, ask long-time powerhouse Nebraska how it feels when all those teams they pulverized in the Big 12 rejoiced when THEY finally won, or seeing the Huskers get their heads handed to them since they moved to the Big 10 (14 teams now, funky B1G logo).

Navy’s win against Notre Dame had to be better than sex – nobody’s father or grandfather ever got it while playing there.

UCLA (men’s basketball) beat California 52 times in a row, meaning our place *and YOUR’S* 26 straight years, and a common quote by ‘overdogs’ at times like that is, “I knew it would end at some point, it just sucks to be on the team when such strings end.”

Penn State (women’s volleyball) won 109 matches and four NCAA titles in a row  through 2010, and the UConn women’s hoops 111 games (plus four consecutive championships, two during the streak) in a row. The NCAA record for consecutive match wins is held by the UMiami men’s tennis, with 137 straight from 1957-64.

Minor political comment – THAT is what actual WINNING looks like.

The other side of the coin

How one ranks a DISASTER is often relative: When the British retreated from Kabul in Afghanistan (1st Anglo-Afghan War, 1839-1842) in January ’42, almost the entire British-Sikh force (750 British, 3800 Indian troops, 12,000 “camp followers” – families, not fans)  was slaughtered in Khyber Pass, “disaster” is *very* legit. In a fairly strong comeback, two British armies returned to crush the Afghans in Kabul in August, 1842.

The NY Giants beating New England 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII, when the 18-0 Pats were looking to become the second undefeated champions, that’s a loss, not disaster.

Super Bowl 51 – Atlanta (omg!) versus New England

Along with the annual NCAA hoops orgy, Super Bowl wins and losses determine who is held high (or regarded otherwise). For anyone who watched it, the Falcons seemed like they were poised to topple the Patriots dynasty after an eight play-85 yard drive early in the 3rd quarter gave them a 28-3 lead, 28-9 after three quarters.

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“A game that made grown men cry”is how its usually remembered, and Ryan, who had a 4,944 yard/38 TD Most Valuable Player season and a 17/23, 2 TD Super Bowl, has barely gotten the taste of ashes out of his mouth since.

You simply don’t forget losing a championship like that.

Choke? Well, there’s not a lot of ways to make losing in overtime acceptable when you’ve owned a team so totally most of the game. In the fourth quarter, a great tippped ball reception by Julian Edelman kept a Patriot drive alive, a sack-fumble against Falcon QB Matt Ryan led to a touchdown, and a unreal 43/62 for 466 yards and two TD day by future first ballot Hall of Famer Tom Brady hung a 34-28 overtime loss on Atlanta instead.

The Worst – Georgia Tech pulverizes Cumberland 222-0

At a time where air-raid passing attacks in college football can score six-to-ten touchdowns with ease, and running up the score isn’t favored, knowing how this 1916 pasting came about should earn anyone a beer.

Cumberland had actually discontinued its football program before the season, but they weren’t allowed to cancel. Tech coach John Heisman (yes, that Heisman), whose baseball team had been thumped by Cumberland 22-0 that year – possibly while using ‘ringers’ – had actually offered the Tennessee college $500 to play or face having to pay $3,000 as the guarantee for the game. “A game that made grown men cry” is how its usually remembered, and Ryan, who had a 4,944 yard/38 TD Most Valuable Player season, and a 17/23, 284 yard/2 TD Super Bowl, has barely gotten the taste of ashes out of his mouth since. (FYI -You simply don’t forget blowing a championship that way.)

Cumberland only brought 12-16 players, Tech scored 63 points in the first and 63 more in the second quarter, held them to -42 yards rushing. Heisman, apparently with his blood lust sated, allowed the 3rd and 4th quarters to be 12 instead of 15 minutes long.

“That’s why we don’t play them on paper”

Having used two personal underdog stories throughout a long sportswriting career, this is still where they belong: An 8-2 win against Ithaca College by my rag-tag bunch of players called the Brockport State Women’s Ice Hockey Club, and a 6-3 semi-final win in the Upstate Rugby Championships by the Schenectady Reds over our arch-rivals (and aggressively un-humble) group, the Albany Knickerbockers.

My hockey team lost to Ithaca on our ice the week earlier 3-1, when IC scored an empty net goal with :02 left. I’d pulled our goalie with a minute to go, and we played textbook hockey, keeping the puck in their end, and getting six shots on goal, until they slid it the length of the ice to score. Terrific effort from a team with five freshman, but an L.

The next week, with only ten skaters, some borrowed equipment (several of them had intramural helmets without cages), only five players with green-gold jerseys and our outstanding goalie (Julie Dufresne) in a purple-yellow LA Kings jersey, four girls scored twice each. The four wet and stinking jerseys I borrowed from the men’s team Friday afternoon, didn’t wash – ooops! – but handed out before the game, that’s an underdog situation. Unforgettable!

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The rugby match was epic. The Reds hadn’t beaten the Knicks in 13 years, since they’d broken off from what had been a powerhouse and become the best team in the Upstate. Utilizing ‘rugby whores’ (give them a jersey, they’ll do what you want) to fill out a ‘B’ side, winning the championship was a hard core defensive effort over two days.

We held the Knicks scoreless until the last play of the game, essentially three straight shutouts, then they made a penalty kick because one of our players punched someone right in front of a referee.

Winning that championship was a two day, hard core defensive effort; holding the Knicks scoreless until the last play of the game was  essentially three straight shutouts.

In overtime, we made two kicks, they missed their second, which is how ties are settled in such tournaments. For anyone who has shaken the hand of someone who doesn’t believe they lost to YOU guys and says, “Too bad it had to get settled that way,” smiling and offering a “Yeah, right” is like winning the lottery. (Okay, maybe finding $10 in a pair of jeans in the dryer.)

I was also on the wrong side of 52-0 whuppin’ in another tournament (Saranac Lake) in 20 instead of 40 minute halves. As a bonus, on the last play of the game, an Old Blue player karate-shopped me in the ear as I attempted a tackle, then slid in for the score.

Ahhhhh, SPORTS! I have no idea how pro baseball, hockey, football and basketball will get things back on seasonal tracks, and I think a brother has sold his Panther seats, so I doubt I’ll see them any time soon, but its the American dream – anybody on any day can be a hero.

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If Dr. Fauci was an umpire, his SAFE! call would be the end of “in place” griping

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Equating Dr. Fauci’s influence in so much relative to this pandemic with the ability I, as an umpire, held sway over decisions that affected how events went forward in the lives of others,  is specious.

Still, while its permissible to gripe about some calls, when the ump says, “This is how it shall be,” well, a lot of  ‘Mericans seem to count that as more factual than Fauci’s forty years of expertise gets him about Next, coronoa-wise.

Before each game, I went to both dugouts to discuss “the high strike” in arc pitch softball, that area at the top of arm but below the shoulder, where the tough calls are. Anybody can call ’em down the pipe, and pointing out the specific area *I* called a strike, my exit line was usually, “But you’re all hitters here, right?” meaning working walks is mehh.

A player I recall saying he didn’t LIKE my strike zone – but I called it consistently – was all anyone should ask for. For those clamoring for “freedom” from the  tyranny of being told not to congregate to improve chances of NOT getting sick, just know that I let a pitcher throw a strike to someone who stepped out of the batters box without asking permission.

‘Outside’ as helpful, not ‘bum rush to’

Umping in a medium pitch league, by the third inning I’d sent enough guys to first that the catcher was catching heat from his pitcher. I told him, again, “Tell your guy he’s this much (thumb-forefinger couple inches) off the plate.” A couple more walks in the fifth, he yells, “Hey ref! I been putting it in the same place all night!” I took one step onto the plate, pointed at him and asked, “Which of us better change what they’re doing then?”

The reality was, that strange motion he had when looking at his catcher for location, was because HE WAS LEGALLY BLIND in his left eye. Talk about flipping a cliche. The point I expected to convey was, straight up, that my opinion was the one that counted.

Frankly, Fauci has done that step up more than a couple times during truth-oriented situations, even with his political boss nearby. In the video conference he did with the Senate this week, he handled Rand Paul admirably – no, he’s not political or the “be all” on answers – but there is forty years of well-regarded expertise.

When Trump said “Maybe there’s nothing in the fall,” he came right to the mike and said, “We WILL have a wave of corona virus in the fall.” IMHO, that’s a definitive call on the second half of a double play grounder.

If anyone, my nephew included, questioned my calls (he did, in a minor league LL volunteer stint), you are two pitches from being struck out.

Umpiring and standing up for ‘right’

There was a girls league in Charlotte where they apparently worked the “run rabbit run!” style. The (obviously) better team would get people on, then, because *you can’t lead or steal until the ball crosses the plate,* they essentially went wild on the catchers throws back to the pitcher.  Inaccurate throws around the infield to stop runners quickly became a cycle of two runs and someone on second.

I see part of the umpire’s job as fairness. Following the catcher to the backstop (she really couldn’t stop much), I told her to call time out. Then throw the ball to the pitcher, after which I said, “Play ball.” After a single inning of that, the A-team manager asked what I was doing, and while I knew I’d never be coming back, letting people run wild and getting mercy-ruled by errors is a humiliating way to lose an un-fun game in three innings, that I could do something about.

Fauci as Umpire:  Check the states “re-opening” and having spikes in their infected rates about un-fun. If Dr. Fauci controls the “we’re gonna go-go-go operation” (I did), makes the call on scientific results (and expertise) vs. going to instant replay or another court case, that’s an ump who hits a righteous standard.

Rules matter

While unprepared, I volunteered to do a charity tournament game wearing topsiders, a tank top, and Ray Bans. Left field was actually unfenced, allowing outfielders to chase foul balls. With runners on 1st and 2nd, left fielder catches a long foul, and throwing to third from an angle, he clongs it off a light tower, it ricochets into center, and two runs score.

After searching for the guy with ground rules, it becomes one base on the throw, so only one run scores. Unfortunately, one person (female) wouldn’t quit “discussing” it, so I finally gave the word: Next yapping I heard, she’d be leaving.

After the game, two large players came over and asked me about singling her out. I explained that I went and found the ground rule and applied it. I had umpired plenty before, I didn’t have to put up with the sh*t, but if I left, the game was going to be in trouble. I wished them good luck and walked away..

An all time favorite was a runner interference call. Runners on 1st and 2nd, one out, with a major pop up to the shortstop. Runner from second was *right* in front of her, she dropped it, girl from first scored off two errant throws.

I couldn’t help myself – I said, “Boy, if that happened to my shortstop, I’d probably want to talk to somebody about it.”

The catcher held her hand up to stop the pitcher, turned to look at me, then walked out, and while talking to the pitcher, pointed back at me. She came back and said she wanted to make an appeal; I asked whether the runner going from 1st-2nd, or 2nd-3rd. She got the answer right, I yelled “runners out!” and both teams changed, with the manager having no idea what happened.

As for one guy cheating up in batters box, knowing the pitcher couldn’t get it in his strike zone with arc AND across (vs. land on) the plate, or, very likely have to give him a pitch he could cream, my job is still ensuring a fair game. I told the catcher, “Throw it any way you want,” which was essentially flat.

Batting box cheats and  people carrying military-style assault rifles while protesting ‘in place’ rule in Michigan, but not in NY is a valid analogy. Why? Because in NY the rule is you empty your pockets into little trays before going through a metal detector in state buildings, and pistols, AR-15s, and grenade launchers DON’T come in the building.

There are things YOU want to do, that might be good for you, but that aren’t fair to others. If it was simply a matter of rights, and it might trim the herd appropriately by doing something uncool like exposing themselves to unseeable but deadly viruses, fine, but the fact is, that behavior might affect me, and that’s not the best way to run a pandemic.

I’m still willing to look for the SAFE! sign from Dr. Fauci instead of listening to the bench saying, “Looked good from here, ump.”

 

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.

 

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

 

 

 

“In my heart, I know it’s the right thing to do” a sentiment Senators could learn from

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It may seem simplistic to juxtapose the essence of what retiring Carolina Panthers linebacker legend Luke Kuechly said, and what will probably be an even less satisfying or happy result in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump in the US Senate, starting Tuesday.

Kuechly was known for extensive film-watching, which made his always being in the right place a source of awe. By most accounts, Republican Senators barely feel the need to review the evidence provided with the House of Representatives impeachment charges. They’ve opined, in the most partisan way, that a trial is a waste of time when they could just as easily vote to acquit now as later, without worrying about clear, voluminous evidence of abuse of power or malfeasance.

In football terms, they will seemingly wander around like they’ve been concussed, even when the ball is snapped to resume play.

Never a doubt they played their honorable best

After suffering several concussions the last couple years that curtailed his time patrolling the middle of the Panthers defense, yes, Luuuuuuke! is taking a route that’s best for his long term health. Whether his numbers – 1,092 tackles, 5-times 1st team All Pro, Defensive Player of the Year (2013) – make him Hall of Fame material will be a matter of debate for others, his place in the hearts of fans is definitely assured.

Long time Panther fans don’t have to look far to see the shadow of Dan Morgan, the U-Miami hitting machine who couldn’t stay on the field during his time with the Panthers.

The 11th overall pick in the 2001 draft, Morgan helped move the Panther ‘D’ from worst in the league to second. Although he was an essential part of their first Super Bowl team in 2003 – Morgan was credited with 18 tackles in the 32-29 loss that became the New England Patriots first Super Bowl win – he was essentially out of football after a fifth concussion in the 2006 opener.

“I mean, I go back to high school, and I remember hitting people and seeing shades of green. You know, that was probably one there.”

That was a 2010 quote in ProCanes.com magazine, and Morgan admits he sometimes faked his way to staying on the field at a time before concussion protocols prevailed.

While Kuechly may not get a statue outside the stadium beside team icon Sam “Keep on Poundin'” Mills, who died from intestinal cancer in 2005, only the best of long life wishes from all who witnessed his ability to search out and stop runners that made him almost unblockable, is legitimate.

Given owner David Tepper and new head coach Matt Ruhle’s attitudes, if “It’s the right thing to do” becomes part of Panthers lore, that will work fine.

The U.S. Senate has the ball now

While it seems almost a foregone conclusion that their oaths to be a jury willing to reach a verdict after careful deliberation – are worthless, our country is seeing this ultimate extra-judicial step for only the third time in its history.

It won’t be of any more use to flay the situation regarding GOP enabling than it was to continuously say how badly the Panthers defense was whipped all year, “but that McCaffrey guy has been outstanding!”

If owner David Tepper ruled the Senate instead of “Moscow Mitch” McConnell, well, Charlotte and the rest of the NFL have already witnessed how decisively bad news can be redirected.

(Me, after just a week of watching and listening to the Senate’s approach to witnesses and  impeachment during a genuine crisis.)

Tepper went after a new head coach – Matt Ruhle, whose 11-3 record in his third season at Baylor was more winning than Trump has produced in a similar period – and offensive ‘genius’ Joe Brady (only 30!) of national champion LSU, winner of the Broyles Award as the #1 assistant coach in the country, as offensive coordinator.

Okay, the problem of being next to last in scoring defense (470 points/29.4 ppg, ahead of only the Miami Dolphins 30.9 ppg) and performing more like a matador (an ole! 143.5 ypg. against the run) can’t actually be fixed until next season, but the spirits of everyone who cares about this particular team have clearly been soothed and uplifted.

Like the NATO leaders who cattily talked about Trump’s politically light-weight status as being up to previous world-class/US standards, we must rely on a change in management and leadership going forward to regain real respect.

If that doesn’t happen over the next few weeks, the country might have to wait until November to make the sort of change the “Vote ’em ALL out!” cry of previous generations was, although 2018 saw some extraordinary progress on that front.

Hey, even the Tampa Bay Buccaneers went from worst to first in 1979, winning the NFC Central and advancing to the NFC Championship in their fourth year (the Panthers did it in their 2nd, with a legendary expansion team 12-4 record). Up until that point, the attitude of Bucs coach John McKay might have been echoed by many thinking outside the impeachment box.

When asked what he thought of his team’s execution in a post-game interview, the colorful McKay quipped:

“I’d be in favor of it.”

 Many would settle for Kuechly’s parting words, “In my heart I know its the right thing to do.” Pay attention U.S. Senate – the world is watching. We’ve got plenty of fond memories of Luuuuuke! here in Charlotte, but we need action from you.

And “Vote ’em ALL out!” is still legit.

 

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The best of thoughts for whatever comes next, Luke Kuechly.

 

Panthers, Ruhle’s attitude of truth-respect a great analogy to ‘imminent’ message suspicion

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According to new coach Ruhle, “Running and stopping the run, making big plays and stopping big plays” – meaning DEFENSE – will be part of sustained excellence in Charlotte.

Panther fans are obviously feeling soooo much better about how owner David Tepper handled matters of concern with his football franchise and new coach Matt Ruhle, compared to a different message on ‘facts’ coming from every direction about the how and why of a possible or averted Mideast confrontation between the US and Iran.

As a content creation professional, sports fan, and human being, an important part of everything I do relies on listening and hearing what others put forth as either facts or attitudes.  The idea our country was very possibly being thrust into a war over “imminent danger” was far too easy to question when honesty and straightforwardness has never been part of the Trump administration.

Regarding Mr. Tepper’s decisiveness, nobody questions the idea of “Trust the process” and that he’s actually gotten a “best and brightest”-type guy in the right place. Even if the price tag – over $60 million for seven years is the initial word – might seem exceptional for a guy whose career record in moving two college programs our of the doldrums is still only 47-43, its his money to spend.

Its doubtful that 40% of any Panthers ‘base’ wanted any less dramatic change. Tepper didn’t just ‘take a bad guy off the field’ in a reckless way, he made a guy with winner tendencies and a philosophical depth of belief in people an offer he couldn’t refuse.

Its an easy analogy to get your arms around

While its almost impossible to put politics totally aside after the stress of possible war after the assassination of top Iranian general Qassem Solemani, most fans in Charlotte will – after tonight’s “Tiger Tussle” between Clemson and LSU for the national championship – be ready to consider impeachment and whatever else 2020 has in store. Most are hoping for fairness on both situations.

To say a lot of people won’t be happy with either outcome, be it win-lose or impeach-let a dangerous person continue as a leader, is a stark reality.  What we see on the stage from Democratic candidates Tuesday, or exactly what happens after Wednesday in the Senate, its going to be a start of a tougher, longer than 60 minutes process. That the latter is quite a bit more important, well, that *might* be true for Tiger fans, but as voters, millions will have more input about matters beyond what happens in Atlanta.

In a better focused set of circumstances for Charlotteans of all stripes, be it birth or just the adopted home of more recent arrivals, Matt Ruhle’s becoming the replacement to Ron Rivera as Panthers head coach counts bigly.

Charlotte lost its love for George Shinn (and Bob Johnson’s Bobcats) over matters of what they expected from the citizens beyond the economics of ticket support and the product on the court. The hometown crowd was also stunned at everything regarding Mr. Richardson’s situation that led to his selling the team to Tepper, and the two seasons since then were almost worse than the crash and burn 1-15 times that brought Cam Newton to town, fresh off a national championship at Auburn.

Give Mr. Tepper credit for believing in and leaving alone a management team already in place in Year One, trusting there could be a continuation of success (11-5) after what had been a trip to the Super Bowl and MVP year for Newton in 2015-16. Give even more credit to him for being just as dissatisfied with 7-9, 5-11 seasons that moved believers (there is still that “Buckle on the Bible Belt” factor) to wanting more and making positive changes on multiple fronts.

Charlotte isn’t Cleveland or Iraq – Reality counts

Sure, its easy to bust on Cleveland, even if my community group is counting on lots of people from there showing up again this Friday at our second pierogi dinner (over 700 served last year). Baker Mayfield has talked a lot, done plenty of commercials, but the most memorable night of their season was a vicious brawl with the Steelers, with Browns DE Myles Garrett clubbing QB Mason Rudolph with his own helmet.

The biggest changes for the 2020 Panthers are moving their training came from the

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Fans won’t need to make the sweaty pilgrimage to Wofford, but no word on #1 at this point.

brutal humidity of the Wofford campus in Spartanburg, SC during July, finally creating a necessary indoor practice facility, and elevating the super-productive Christian McCaffrey onto the national scene with his 1,000 yard rushing and receiving season (only 3rd player ever to accomplish), and the development of DJ Moore to anticipated elite receiver status.

At least now Ruhle gets to coach Moore, whom he recruited out of high school to attend Temple (Moore went to Maryland).

There’s no equivocating from either the owner or new coach about “Trust the process,” and while positive results are clearly expected sooner v. later, there are no “laws of armed conflict” or lives to be considered by Ruhle, aside from Cam Newton’s physical status and the overall defensive pulse, which has taken a beating for two seasons.

Tepper’s early assessment was that Ruhle has done “pretty amazing things with less” by turning a hoops school like Temple into 10-game winners his last two (of four) seasons there, and resuscitating Baylor from 1-11 to to 7-6 and 11-3 over three seasons at the helm in Waco. 2020 figures to be a beyond interesting year in America, and for Charlotte and the NFC South, “amazing” would be a grateful upgrade from continuing mediocrity.

Everything we’ve seen and heard from “our guy” here, including his purchase of an MLS soccer franchise and the (expected) cooperation of City Council in bringing development to that side of the city with the former Eastland Mall site, comes as straight up and positive. You did not hear “imminent” from Ruhle or Tepper, the rest is trust by the Panther faithful.

As for tonight, Geaux Tigers!

 

Panthers ugly 2019 ends with questions on broken D, head coach, Olsen, Cam

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There won’t be any pilgrimages to Wofford in 2020, but the fans will still be faithful.

Here in “The Buckle on the Bible Belt,” its quite possible that more than a couple fans put some time into praying that Christian McCaffrey didn’t get hurt, especially during the eight loss spiral that ended in a soggy 42-10 whipping by the Saints at BOA Stadium.

Color commentators often opine that defensive backs best assets are speed and having a short memory about negative plays, and if a belated Christmas or Hanukkah gift could be given out to end the year, may Charlotte be so blessed memory-wise.

There was a whole lot of ugly going on after Kyle Allen started throwing INTs and the defense showed they couldn’t stop anyone, and not replaying it all is legitimate. Yes, it was smile-worthy that McCaffrey became only the third player in NFL history to post 1,000 yards-plus rushing and receiving, and Moore seems to have arrived as a premier receiver in only his second year ranked 9th, with 87 catches, 1,175 yards and four TDs.

As a two-time Coach of the Year, Ron Rivera will probably find another job in the NFL (Redskins?), although except for the 15-1 regular season the Panthers posted in their 2015 Super Bowl season, he wouldn’t be the franchise’s career leader in victories at 76-63-1.

Rivera arrived the same year as Cam Newton, and defensive bulwark Luke Kuechly became an instant star at middle linebacker the next year, but good luck to him working any instant magic for the 3-13 ‘Skins owner Daniel Snyder.

Do NOT expect many of the Panthers coaching staff to remain in Charlotte. While owner David Tepper gave Rivera an above average amount of rope during a second straight year of defensive under-achieving, he’s not going to let that become the sort of malaise that infects Detroit, Cleveland, or Cincinnati. How Cam Newton’s status looks after a bad shoulder (2018) and foot (missed all but first two games of 2019) injuries is an especially big question for fans this winter, and Allen’s turnover woes (16 INTs, 13 fumbles) don’t come across as the answer in the QB arena.

Is it really the thought that counts this time of year?

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Having given a brother several bags of mulch and some pea gravel – along with a promise to render his front garden area more presentable – and the roof of his house being done just before Christmas, the analogy of the back yard being a mess *right now* is a legitimate one for the Panthers.

The Carolina Panthers weren’t the worst at anything, although the 470 (29.4 ppg) points they surrendered was ahead of only the Dolphins (494, 30.9 ppg). The 143.5 average they were gouged for on the ground beat only Cleveland (144.7), Washington, and Cincinnati’s (2-14) bottom of the list 148.9. That made their 3,696 (231 yds. per game) by air look comparatively lofty, with 19 teams – including 12-4 division winner New Orleans (3,868) – behind them.

While that only proves numbers aren’t always the whole story, especially in a pass-happy league, the Panthers were pushed around plenty, with runners consistently picking up necessary first down yardage. McCaffrey was third in rushing with 1,387 yards and 15 TDs (287 carries) plus 1,005 receiving (4 TDs); Derrick Henry (TN) won the rushing title with 1,540 (16 TDs, 303 carries).

Although many fans, especially in the Carolinas, would consider C-MC’s efforts worthy of MVP consideration, his exploits the second half of the year were almost a curiosity to the rest of the country, though his 116 receptions and productivity were crucial to fantasy owners. Nobody doubted he gave his best effort every week, even when defenses were often stacked to stop his contributions along the way.

Mr. Tepper isn’t Yoda, but fix things he must

The Panthers boss man not only put his considerable $$$ where his mouth is while buying the Panthers at the beginning of 2018, he’s also added an indoor practice facility and a major league soccer franchise ($325 million), while targeting a rejuvenation of the former Eastland Mall area off Central Avenue with a practice facility and team offices for the soccer franchise. That goes beyond good thoughts, but fixing a great many lagging factors before their 26th season is uppermost on Panthers fans minds.

Recently released lesser performers like Gruden (Redskins), Kitchens (Browns), Shurmer (NYG) and the like will probably not be of interest to Tepper as a head coach, but former Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy’s success makes him a possibility, along with a list of high profile college coaches. McCarthy apparently also wanted the GM role when he was considered for the Browns job, but Marty Hurney has done a good job on that front.

While the Panthers have always had a reputation for promoting from within, two years of negatives will probably call for new, pedigreed blood.

Whether a “defensive minded” head coach will get the call – based on the last two years of getting undressed regularly – as a deciding factor is iffy, although a strong defensive coordinator to replace Eric Washington is a 99% certainty. Sticking with the 3-4 or going back to the 4-3 is not the #1 question right now, with a small thanks for not being as pitiful on the pass rush as last year.

College coaches don’t have a great track record in the pros, Pete Carroll of the Seahawks being an obvious exception, and Chip Kelly, who nearly wrecked the Eagles before Doug Pederson took the reins and led them to a Super Bowl win, being the more normal result.

 2020 will be turn the page time

Charlotte was thrilled when its first professional sports franchise, the Hornets, came to town because it proved the city was major league. They bought PSLs (personal seating licenses) to build the football stadium when they gained an NFL franchise in 1993, the first time that route was utilized in the sports world, and gladly (??) chipped in major tax dollars to help refurbish it a couple years ago.

Charlotte now has about every pro sport covered, with the Knights (baseball), Checkers (AHL champs in 2018 season), Hornets, and Panthers. There’s also the historic enthusiasm for the college programs, which now includes the UNCC 49ers (7-6) after the first trip to a bowl game and taking their lumps as a newbie D-1 entrant for five years. The Tobacco Road hoops schools, Wake Forest, South Carolina’s Gamecocks, and of course, Clemson football, all have a dedicated following.

Keep wearing your Olsen, Newton, Kuechly, and McCaffrey jerseys proudly, even if Olsen decides he’s had enough after 2019. Cleveland (6-10) made only marginal progress in two years with Baker Mayfield despite a lot of talking, but count on Mr. Tepper not taking a back seat to anyone on getting results. He’s not Santa Claus, but he’ll deliver sooner than that merry old gent.

And if you want to keep working the beads for McCaffrey’s good health, that’s not a problem either.

 

 

 

 

Christmas Thoughts for Panthers 2019 are a mixed bag for ‘fruitcake’ 5-9

Would Christian McCaffrey tell you, “Honestly, this ugly sweater is going right to the bottom of any drawer I can find space,” if you’d gifted him so? Doubtful, but there’s no reason to believe he’s doing anything less than giving each game his best effort. As a team, there’s also no reason to believe otherwise, even if the defense was sliced and diced by Seattle, dropping the Panthers to 5-9.

Fruitcake season? Just because you hear someone say “It’s not that bad” doesn’t mean you want any more of it. (Gonna have to use that one again…)

Everyone will point to McCaffrey as a bright point in a sub-par season, but holy moley! DJ Moore has 86 catches for 1,174 (4 TD) in his second year. Nobody is “happy” with six straight losses, and yes, eyes goes naturally to Kyle Allen’s 15 INTs (and 3,027) yards as a replacement for Cam Newton after two games .

It wouldn’t be any glaring sign of giving up if 3rd round pick Will Grier got a chance at QB the last two games.

Its pretty certain the Panthers have had a look at Allen after twelve games. Rookie name of Gardner Minshaw II did fine in Jax’ville, its not like they’re clearing the bench to give everyone a couple plays to consider over the winter, but a time when Panther fans will hear about LOTS of changes.

KEY PLAYERS

Doesn’t everyone have a favorite nephew, whose exploits you like to remind others about? McCaffrey is obviously as productive as anyone you can think of, and if he gets 186 yards receiving the next two games, “The Legend-Weapon that is Cee Mac” will be firmly anchored.

Like the kid who demands Santa’s “sled” in the commercial, Dad saying, “He was pretty good this year,” is very legitimate. C-Mac needs those 186 yards to hit 1,000/1,000 level, so I hope that item gets wrapped up real nice and arrives, FedEx or whatever. You’ve heard only two guys have done that, so expect some serious effort to deny him.

Speaking of favorites, congratulations to Drew Brees, a GOAT of GOATS. *That* is a team needing one LESS maximum negative a play in the clutch at some point, but they’ll play an extra inspirational bit harder for that/Drew’s championship this year. Topper on the tree stuff.

Most would agree the O-line has done its bit. Despite constant churn at positions with injuries, McCaffrey doesn’t get all those yards himself. Allen does hold onto the ball at times, so while the line has given up quite a few sacks, eliminating throwing errors (one hopes), although his mistakes, including fumbles, have clearly hurt offensive production.

Curtis Samuel got some different looks in the Seattle game, and using him as a runner like they do with Moore is always intriguing, because he’s a bolt coming at defenders. If he continues to learn how to evade, he could become a devastating slot receiver. Whether Ian Thomas is able to take the tight end job after an Olsen retirement is open to question.

Joey Slye has made seven 50-yard plus field goals this year, but he also missed some kicks that cost games. Overall, do you return cheap gifts and maybe stick with a higher priced version, like a $17 million kicker? Ahhhh! Something has gotten into the egg nog…

The Newton question is the big package hidden in the closet. He may have everyone’s good thoughts for recovery, the question is whether his injury and style – as a passer, all he has is a fastball – and price tag work for 2020.

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Panther fans won’t be sure what they’re getting for 2020, but ‘D’ will need to look less undressed.

The Turner offense certainly put certain players (Moore, McCaffrey) on a very strong path, just like it was designed to, and with a relative newbie at the controls to boot. Newton was +10 pts. over his career passing percentage last year before the shoulder really crimped his production, is he really-really going to be “okay” (you know the commercial) when games count again?

If someone doesn’t pay for Allen to attend some serious camp committed to cutting down his turnovers (13 fumbles), its because he’s getting that proverbial hunk of coal on the way out.

Yes, there needs to be something small but appreciable in the “Running back, besides Christian M.” under the tree for Panther fans to rest assured he won’t be toast in two more years.

DEFENSE WAS LIT UP LIKE CHRISTMAS TREE

If Mr. Tepper keeps Eric Washington as Defensive Coordinator after the way the front was repeatedly gouged for yardage all year, it would be a massive surprise. While the sack total is back up to historical levels, and Kuechly is #3 in the league with 131 tackles (17 against Seattle), Chris Carson went for 133 yards and 2 TDs last week.

Stats: The Panthers have given up 386 points (27.6 ppg) thus far, ahead of only Miami20181223_220242 (29.6 ppg). Pitiful Cincinnati (325, 23.2) was #22: Cleveland and Indy were middle of the pack (311 pts/22.2 ppg); New England (157, 11.2 ppg leads the league).

In 2018, the Panthers started giving up 100 yard rushers regularly, and it hasn’t stopped. It was suggested that opposing QBs didn’t mind throwing against their secondary either, and an improved rush didn’t lessen effectiveness going long. Whether the 3-4 alignment or standard 4-3 is better will require examining the potential of 2nd, 3rd year players like Brian Burns and Marquis Haynes.

Eric Reed was every bit the hitter they wanted at safety and run support, but a lot of people (not just Falcons, Saints; Jax had a receiver get 2-60 yard gains out of 383 total v. Panthers) seemed to be running free far too often. Give Dante Jackson credit for “make up speed” and no lack of confidence, but even when he gets there, people are still making catches. With expectations that he will blossom into the A-1 cover guy Panthers obviously need in 2020, lets hope the Big Boy pants under the tree fit right, or he acquires ‘sticky’ vs. anything figgy by next season.

Shaq Thompson is the speed linebacker many expected him to be with more playing time, but Dontari Poe doesn’t appear to  be a run stopper by any $9 million definition, and I didn’t hear Butler’s name often, that probably can’t stand either. Mario Addison might be trade bait after another decline in sacks.

While Fewell got the nod for interim coach, as the coach of secondary, he might not be around for New Years either.

If some Panther stockings are still hung by the chimney with care after New Year’s, look for when “Bonus $$ for on roster – (X date)” about decision time. James Bradbury’s stocking has something in it, hopefully a situation he can share with Ross Cockrell, who had a quietly good year after a broken leg kept him out all of 2018. Most probably its just a thank you for keeping things respectable with most receivers.

Nobody wants to see Greg Olsen ride off into the sunset (with or without a Man of Year award), it will be up to him and family to decide whether 2019 was enough.

Philosophically and realistically speaking, its going to be an uncomfortable winter for Panther fans. Mr. Tepper has big plans for his soccer franchise, but his NFL franchise will need considerable tending too.

 

Knee replacement turns two, and ‘Obamacare’ is still law of the land

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Still proud of myself for ‘re-purposing’ the bicycle seat that served me for 28 years as a wedding gift.

Having started with Affordable Care Act coverage when legally mandated in 2015, I’m proud to announce that the replacement knee that made me physically whole again after a dozen years as ‘a gimp’ and restored my personal confidence levels, turned two yesterday.

A physical game changer at 60, replacement was the most anticipated gift I’d ever received.

After asking my doctor if I could possibly get the surgery in December, 2017, the scheduling person said, “You’re in luck. Two cancellations means one spot has opened up. The doctor is booked on the 18th, Christmas is the 25th, and after that its a new program year. You can have surgery this Monday, but you have to tell me,” and she literally looked at her watch, “now.”

After a difficult economic 2016 as a new real estate broker, getting a knee that was totally shot at the end of 2017  fixed as a long-term negative was far from a given. In the final accounting, the numbers turned out super-doable: “Obamacare” meant my maximum out of pocket – on an insurance breakdown with a $28,700 top line was $600.  The $20 a session for physical therapy – seven weeks, twice a week – was money extremely well spent.

Thankfulness has abounded since, and I have no reason to listen to anyone knock the ACA. This past weekend I popped off an 18 mile ride without any protest or strain from “Lefty,” and while a second day of Christmas tree selling brought a minor ache, two beers watching the LSU game took care of that.

I’m a happy camper about the knee, and have said so in every survey they sent me.

Rehabbing is definitely a challenge, nothing fun

When you catch a major break like the timing and cost factors I had, you owe the Universe your very best effort in return. Whatever other exercises Amanda and Becka came up with, knowing how important a factor an ERMI was in my progress, I worked the hell out of it.

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A significant extra from having Dr. Robert McBride (OrthoCarolina) as my surgeon was getting that ERMI (Extended Range of Motion Improvement) machine as a 30 day ‘loaner.’ It’s not kidding to say, with your heel in a foot-scoop, “You pull the pneumatic lever until the bend is uncomfortable, then give it another little tug, and keep that position for ten minutes.”

After taking a break, the system calls for coming back for ten more minutes and doing that twice a day. In physical therapy for knees, they quantify your progress in range of degrees, and at least for me, clicking that lever another line or three while in the ERMI saddle and channel-surfing hit an “I got this” machismo.

I believe that *every*little*bit*more*I*do* goes directly to helping the strength and functions of my knee-quad-whatever. (What I told my PT person, Amanda, often, and strangers in grocery stores even more frequently)

Its a process, and goals help

My initial, somewhat whimsical goal for being “better” involved planting my left foot without pain and being able to hit a tree with a snowball. The last time I’d tried on a trip to NY, I literally couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn. Charlotte doesn’t get snow that often, so it was a touch of luck that a decent skim appeared in late February to help fulfill that “leveling up” affirmation.

By the end of May, with the help of regular, mostly flatter 8-10 mile bicycle rides for training, I could handle my favorite urban route, one that features a three-mile stretch with several long rises about the mid-point. Thumping a forehand up the alley in tennis as an opponent flails at its passage still hasn’t been put on the official scoreboard, but I’ve killed a nearby wall.

In a captain’s choice golf event before Memorial Day 2018, I played amazingly well off the tees, STRAIGHT drives that located well and allowed better players to shoot for higher risk options. For years that knee clicked and wobbled at exactly the point I settled into an optimal swing position, which was more than just distracting. When my balance was restored, wow! Without that constant niggling, my swing came through smoothly.

That old joke about, “Will I be able to play the piano after surgery, I never could before,” that’s what solid drives felt like.

My bike ride is a working antique, a 12-speed Miyata with gears on the up-angle from my pedals instead of in the middle of the handlebars. I bought ‘Clyde’ for $125 in 1990, refurbished it for $185 many years ago, and finally bought a more ergonomically friendly seat vs. the slab of leather (see photo at top) that lasted 28 years. Riding Clyde was a saving grace, what allowed my staying in shape because it was really the only physical thing that *didn’t* abuse the knee, and biking is an almost year-round possibility in Charlotte.

Post-replacement and therapy, I honestly never expected to become the long-distance shooting threat in hoops I sort of recall being a dozen years before, when I started needing a bracier brace. Having stopped playing even 4-on-4 games six years ago – I sure didn’t want to be the guy *anybody* can drive on and they want to guard – I just wanted to move naturally. I continued catch and shoot hoops by myself over the years, but having to WALK after misses, that didn’t really square with the inner athlete.

Not having to skip across the street so I didn’t get run over made having that knee replacement a simple decision.

This October, after declining to play the previous week, I tried “going easy” for a short game to seven, shooting 4-5 with three long shots, and an assist. I’ve been back four times since, even though my doctor says, “You’re playing basketball?” with concern in his voice. (No sweat doc, I’m playing with old, broken down guys…) I resisted for over a year, I swear I know my limitations, but running after misses because I can, is another reason for thanks.

When doing a content copy writing gig for a CBD manufacturer early last year, I did several articles about how CBD’s effect on the endocannaboid system (ECS) can help with anxiety and depression.  Other research, regarding physical activity as a good overall tool on those fronts, echoed a personal mantra, and that Forever Young Boomer inside me does seem to respond well to CBD’s “focus factor,” having both going for me is terrific.

In my humble opinion, when your moment comes to pull the trigger, do it. The physical therapy is going to hurt, but do it – and then do a little bit more. Happy second birthdays depend on it.