8 Examples of Great for Mother’s Day – When She’s Happy, Everyone’s Happy (@the mall)

After a sometimes frustrating day directly related to on-going supply problems – like no tuxedos to sell! – from time spent on tie selection to finding a pair of size Small black shorts, Mom’s deserve their reputations for successful shopping. They also appreciate those who help them.

Moms #1 and #2

Day after Mother’s Day, not lilies. #gshorkonsharonroadseam

Abe Madkour, Publisher/Exec. Editor of Sports Business Journal/Daily, and wife Christina are what personal relationship building with clients is all about. Sunday they brought three suits to put together shirts and tie outfits with – two blues and a darker one, with plaid elements of copper/burgundy.

A frequent question of mine is, “Is he a good try-er on-er?” and while she said not particularly, “Abe knows where he wants to get to on situations, and he does what’s necessary.” That involved trying on five and buying three shirts, including ordering a lavender-speck shirt that set offs an A-1 hot raspberry and dark paisley tie choice. IMHO, guys are mostly past the not trying on attitudes of yore.

Collectively we nailed his “I want some things that always look good, and one combination that’s definitely major pop!”

Coming from our alterations area and having the lady and teen son already at checkout with a decent pile of clothes, was a revelation. Best practices first question is to ask whether they’d been working with anyone – maybe they’re getting another item in back – her response a gratifying, “I’m working with YOU.”

Just sayin’, glad the current manager was close enough to hear that, we’ve had some hoo-ha! about customer grabbing recently.

What became an $800 sale began with my questioning whether black shorts she wanted to order in Small matched options on my screen. Going back to find another size to help with search, she returned with the desired black shorts, a large ‘S’ on front tag kid hadn’t seen. If that isn’t the archetypical Mom move…

Going back to find another size that might help with search, she returned with the desired black shorts, a large ‘S ‘on front tag.

If that isn’t the archetypical Mom move…

Half-way through the ringing up, Ray passed behind me and said, “I forgot all about them,” later explaining he’d gone upstairs after putting them in the dressing area to have a quick sandwich on a busy day. He relaxed, forgot, and yet no bad feelings because he knew the sandwich, not me, was the point.

#3 – Mom got lilies

Brother Steve took some great looking lilies to Mom at Carmel Hills, and said she was awake and coherent while he served her lunch. She was a strong eater the last time I was there, and nobody minimizes what Good-er Days means to all of us.

With plentiful traffic throughout Mother’s Day, lacking certain basics in current suit-tuxedo market affects my micro-economy directly. Having kept a selling streak going over a decently long stretch, over a month, when ‘Not available in black’ is the search answer for a size 40 or 42 (but plenty of 38 Shorts) for anything, you have a clear supply problem.

Putting guys into any Peter Millar suits or jackets has been iffy, the only positive is knowing how brisk my selling COULD BE if product was available.

Guys know why they are buying suits, weddings or old stuff doesn’t fit. If I can’t get a prom guy hooked up, I can ‘size him’ as information for all to go forward with in search. As a small point of personal pride, a Mom or Dad’s thank you so much! for the time and information, call it small ‘L’ legend building.

Me, often, because it counts plenty to provide that extra service.

Maybe that’s when you earn those times a Mom finds her son’s shorts and says, “YOU are helping me.”

#5 A fantastic leftover stir fry

Knowing all it’d take to satisfy me at 8:00pm would be a pack of noodles and the rest of squash, broccoli, orange pepper, onion, mushrooms and last of hickory smoked sauce, with two country ribs of chunked pork from Saturday night mmm-mmm! ahhh . Microwaved and again proof that leftover Chinese is always worth eating, just boil fast noodles, add crispy chow mein noodles, feet up, watching playoff hockey.

Three hours, two pair of socks!

Until walking into jackpot situation at register with Ms. Combs and son, the only sale on my scoreboard was two pair of socks. Two bing! bing! situations later, its a much brighter day. The challenge of juggling opinions – including a daughter and teen friend’s votes – with the Madkour’s was smile-worthy. Dad told us four guys, “If Momma’s happy, everyone’s happy,” a truth I helped many attain yesterday.

There’s no question about telling people there’s an online place at bottom of receipt if they want to tell management how helpful I was. Also, how #cdtalententerprises.com on card I often give them has blogs specifically about my POV on economy from behind the register.

— Me, lately.

A regular flow of prospects was available most of seven hours, and I’m a pro, never a need to panic, especially since we’ve gotten Peter Millar product. EVERYBODY likes Millar stuff. Salesperson-wise, its simple to enlighten customers about the fact more is now available size-wise. People smile when I add, “At least some of its finally off a ship, onto a truck, and gotten to here.”

Pointing out new possibilities is an easy intro to whether there’s something they want. “Do you have…?” is music to my ears.

SERVICE is still the keyword. Finding that single 17.5″ neck, 36-37″ sleeve the computer says is available ALWAYS counts. People might have gotten used to ordering on line, but getting good help face-to-face is a factor many, many people mention regarding me.

Talking to multiple shoppers will mean some are already with another salesperson, integrity is appreciated, often found lacking in retail. Talking with Abe and Christina Madkour was a terrific luck of the draw while walking through suits, other times its just a comment or two and keep walking. I considered it a social interaction, actually fun, the back-forth of likes and how abouts, time agreeably invested.

I later recognized I’d played hoops with Abe over twenty years ago, Sunday or Monday night at St. Gabriel. Might have even approached him about sports-business writing, a talent I still work with.

#7 People buy from people they like

Yes, I absolutely was stylish Sunday, thanks to another appearance of my light green Palm Springs jacket, with mallards on classic green Vineyard Vines tie, slim cut blue with white slashes (Nordstrom brand) pants and sneakers. Classic white with green stripe Polo shirt was sharp, useful showing what ‘Trim’ means vs. Regular. Its not just a coincidence a Woman like Christina asked me for help making Abe look sharp.

#8 A half-hour shooting session after work, a hockey story

#gshorkonsharonroadseam

As both long time de-stressor and thinking resource, shooting hoops has always helped keep my scene stable. During worst of pandemic, the three rims in back of Rama Road School were only ones in Charlotte without rims rendered useless by 2×4 section across them. There’s a colored map of US in parking lot, sometimes I shoot from Anchorage, Alaska.

This picture of a now raggedy red-white-blue net, our backyard court in Schenectady, NY often had such a net. Easy to remember how Mom, in her sewing room upstairs, would hear a Shit! slip out of her teenage sons during 3-3 games, everyone knew it was a five minute penalty.

Another Mom memory while watching the hockey. Back in college, brother Steve brought Mom, Dad, Aunt Jo, Uncle Howard, and cousin Mike, to my Brockport Girls Hockey Club game at Cornell’s Lynah Arena, before his JV hoops game.

Keeping the story short, our rag-tag ten girls – some without cages on borrowed intramural helmets – opened an 8-2 can of whupass on a 20 girl Ithaca College team with identical equipment, helmets, and jerseys. Four girls with two goals apiece, Judy Dufresne was a star in goal. My feet didn’t touch the ice afterwards, walking over to offer their coach a “Good game.”

After borrowing green jerseys from the Brockport Men’s team Friday after practice, I’d tossed them in an equipment bag, never thinking about them until passing cold, wet, stankin’ jerseys out to the girls Saturday afternoon.

When they objected to the conditions, all I said was, “Put them on, we need to tape numbers on the back.” It seemed like Ithaca didn’t want to go near our girls… Many are probably grannies now. (Forty-three years ago. smh, the thought of those jerseys when I opened that bag. I’m crying laughing…)

Between periods, when I went into the stands to talk to my family, Mom mentioned “All the girls seem to have enormous rear ends.”

She had no idea the pants were padded.

Thanks for the memories Mom, and all the rest of the Mom-ness along the way.

‘Great Suit Feeling’ in retail continues, Queens Cup races a social grace, Panthers get stud left tackle Ekwonu

My personal micro-economy gets #1 for attention, but the steeplechases are a premier Must-Do live in NC sunshine event, one I’ve enjoyed five times. Our American football? vs. futbol team has drafted help in a VERY big way. Hellllloooo Ikem Ekwonu!

Tony did a great job on an old pinstripe

Customers respond to someone who walks the talk with style, redone pinstripe was a worthy micro-economy investment.

An analogy between what the Carolina Panthers have recently said regarding QB Sam Darnold and my new-look classic blue suit is righteous. You appreciate the bones-skills, but it doesn’t look quite right.

Who didn’t know the Panthers have been wringing their hands, about how to upgrade the position AND fix an underlying problem with offensive protection, specifically at left tackle in the draft? Darnold hadn’t overly-impressed anyone in ten starts in 2021, picking up his 5th year option early was seen as a misstep.

Then, in days before yesterdays draft, there were headlines about ‘Mr. Tepper likes QB Panthers have,’ and ‘Steve Smith says Carolina hasn’t seen how good Sam Darnold can really be’ (duh), and similar stories.

Did someone in the brain trust decide running down Darnold for $18MM due in another season and negatives of stats https://www.pff.com/nfl/players/sam-darnold/29048 was less effective than putting a “We could win with Sam!” face on things? (Still, I doubt anybody would want to be in Baker Mayfield’s cleats right now…)

Relative to my suit – I can’t really remember how old it is, certainly from the previous centuryit owed me nothing. ‘Just a suit,’ like Darnold coming from Jets, just a QB.

It didn’t cost anywhere near $18 million to make important changes though.

Panther fans won’t be as unanimous about how Ekwonu (salvation by local boy!) and Darnold (still here, huh?) present themselves when things get real this fall, but everyone has been positive about my suit’s transformation. Tightening things up with Darnold’s game would be a similar deal.

While wearing an older-‘experienced’ pinstripe suit and ties was already classier than most coworkers wear at Nordstrom’s, I believe customers relate to a professional image. ‘I have the suit, what can I do with it?’ didn’t take Scott Fitterer-level smarts to invest $145 in upgrading this regularly used asset. (Thanks Tony!)

  • Legs not billowy, tapered now.
  • No cuffs, almost showing ankle, Shortest I’ve worn in forever.
  • I still have pleats! Waist and behind taken in
  • The top button, at bottom of lapel, is repositioned.
  • Jacket difference is huge,*definitely* feels closer, sleeker. Wallet goes to back pocket, it changes the line on right side.
  • We didn’t mess with lapels – its always a classic pinstripe.
  • Over 1.5″ off bottom an immediate, noticeable change. ($52)

Yes, I picked up the option on doing another suit – then negotiated with the shoe shine guy for polishing and a tight left boot situation. Spirit of the season on ‘additional considerations’?

Queens Cup Steeplechases

The aura of Good Will that permeates the QCS is legendary. Congrats on Silver Anniversary!

Whatever they’d told me a ticket cost at Harris Teeter, I’d have gladly paid it. The event history is a specific charity – Alzheimer’s Association in this, the events Silver Anniversary running – gets a significant jolt from proceeds. For $60, after three years away, vowing NOT to miss this All Kinds of Good social event to WORK! was easy Using the “Never is heard a discouraging word” is Truth – once you’ve been, you’ll know.

There are ‘good horsies’ in a central area, where children and sorority sisters can be led around on or have pictures taken astride. If the Raptor Center can be allowed out again safely, previous owls and hawks were excellent for kids, wildlife up close. Newbies are the greatest to show around, its impossible not to strike up conversations with total strangers over cornhole, haberdashery, or tailgating.

The bright yellow Garcia tie with blue-blue Bugachi, topped with ‘antique’ 1979 Ferrari hat, from final Watkins Glen (NY) Formula I race.

It’ll be seersucker or Nantucket Red pants, and because I’m saving #1 Tommy Bahama shirt for a costume change, a bright yellow Garcia autograph tie with good-fitting blue-blue Bugachi (long sleeve, $160) to show some Ukrainian support. Ahhh! and an ‘antique’ Ferrari hat, purchased with poker winnings at Watkins Glen Formula races waaaay back, never fails to get comment.

I haven’t experienced the major sponsor tents – in tiers along the finish line, after a loooong final straightway – but the Top Tailgate award winner (entrants around infield of the 1.5 mi. turf) is often an excellent place to get an additional beverage or snacks.

Operationally, its a slow drive through Waxhaw to get to the GA (general admission) gates, so allow some time for that (Note: Took 1:15 to go last mile, coming from south on 75, only missed one race). The walk in from the far out fields is a decent trek, if you don’t catch one of the small tour buses. Being even a little early on the 1:30ish first race, you’ve got a shot at closer parking.

The After-Party (Hotwalkers Ball) is a buffet and always jumping band, which continues about 1 1/2 hours after last (of usually six) races.

Micro-economy still a Great Suit Feeling

While pleased with my own haberdashery after suit upgrade, setting up one dude with something that spoke of ‘uptown casual’ tone of invitation was fun for all.

We were on a Millar sportscoat (silver-gray-black with almost Panther-blue window pane, $700) early, but the final choices were a blue Hugo Boss unlined hyperlight ($390), Millar sueded-medium gray pants (a must have, $158), Bugachi short sleeve ($150) white with smaller, three-color swirls, and cognac Magainin weave belt ($150). I told him most of his outfit was free, if you put it against the original sportcoat $$.

Cranked it ($4,700) on Monday, capping a hustling last two hours with a $2,000 Canali suit as they counted down the last 15 minutes to 8:00. That made me #2 in the store, on Tuesday I sold handled another suit past 8:00. For someone who STILL hasn’t gotten a Sunday in six weeks, my numbers are strong.

I’ve interviewed for another sales situation (with a much higher upside to a good day) that’s appeared, so my micro-economy is like millions of others – ready to do more than listen, I’m ready to make moves.

Absolutely nailed a Hugo Boss black suit, 44 Regular, first shot out of barrel Friday. Gentleman was impressed with long-sleeve Bugachi black shirt (ooooCotton! $160), killer textured off-black belt ($1300 total), scoring a last minute-kick save! on classic black funeral outfit. The hem on pants (+$60 alterations) was ready in morning.

Losing another suit to politics, was an unfortunate situation, but I’ll be over it well before I’m done with my second Lazy Bird Brown Ale tomorrow.

My micro-economy is like millions of others in USA – ready to do more than listen, I’m ready to make moves.

We’ll see how my picking of horseflesh – there’s no real betting, just sayin’ “I think the gray one” – results stacks up with whenever/whomever the Panthers get to pick again.

Extra note about draft: Panthers GM Scott Fitterer is the bomb-diggity, trading up to third round to get Matt Corral, the necessary QB upgrade that was Item 1-A in draft. https://www.nfl.com/news/panthers-trade-up-to-select-ole-miss-qb-matt-corral-in-third-round-of-2022-nfl-d

Panthers #6 pick can’t fill two major needs, so 7 Ideas for GM Fitterer to consider along the way

Without burying the lead, but with a quantity of tongue in cheek, the answer is Testaverde. They wouldn’t owe anyone compensation picks.

Just kidding, a bit of shock therapy there. Its Kaepernick.

Every Panther fan, in fact the NFL WORLD knows how desperately the Carolina Panthers want-need an alpha-type leader as a quarterback. Sound of mind and limb (letting Cam out the side door easily with that criteria), able to hand the ball to McCaffrey regularly, and throw some long TDs to the now properly taken care of contract-wise DJ Moore.

With the DeShaun Foster dalliance settled after his trade to Cleveland (!?), and nobody experts project as a franchise QB in the draft, that #6 should mean General Manager Scott Fitterer grabs a documented and undeniably sturdy OLT (offensive left tackle) to settle an obvious long term line problem.

Names are circulating, but if you’ve heard the Panthers might select a stud edge rusher, that’s what they call ‘smoke.’

Highly Motivated – Absolutely!

Are Kaep’s skills anywhere near NFL levels after years (post 2016) wandering in the relative desert, essentially black-listed for his kneeling as a silent message about constant shooting-killing of young black men by white cops across America? Held to the light of retreads (Jay Cutler, Ryan Fitzpatrick) who have gotten opportunities elsewhere, is he at all a consideration?

Just in case you didn’t know, Kaep and the Panthers passed this way before, in 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1z2kBAO5yI

While it would have to be one HELL of a workout to make such a bet-the-franchise move, when options include Cam and the un-good performance of Darnold over his first ten games, Baker Mayfield sure isn’t a more logical answer than Kaepernick.

You wouldn’t keep the lid on a workout with professional route runners Kaep says he’d like to throw to (Panthers have several), some PR circus would accompany it – Cleveland is getting a ration of negativity for bringing Foster in – but that isn’t Panthers problem. Would they have to make a huge offer to satisfy some sense of ‘worth’ after so long, or put together a ‘Make Good’ incentive package (Wins? 4000 yards, Comeback Player of Year?) that puts him in camp and working full time on his skills?

Cam’s haberdashery and previous community efforts shouldn’t and won’t count in further discussions.

‘Make good’ sounds like a winner, and its doubtful Mr. Tepper pays prime $$$ for another stop gap QB. Like many teams, when you’re down, it behooves looking at all options, and Panthers continue to sign positional players. If Coach Rhule can’t turn a former Temple player like PJ Walker into the starter, Darnold is signed for $18MM, and Rodgers got $200MM to stay in Green Bay – Fitterer will have some leeway on a contract.

#2 – Sam Darnold

Okay, this isn’t Sam Darnold by any stretch of imagination, but would he be more likeable if he dressed like Cam?

Charlotte fans were willing to believe some good loving after three years in New York would cure the former #3 overall pick of all his demons, yet with an easy, 25th place schedule, his ability to throw the long ball, and a plethora of offensive options, he indeed under-performed in 2021.

How much blame for that goes with exiled Offensive Coordinator Joe Brady, whose LSU superstars (Joe Burrow, 4 receivers, RBs) blowing away college secondaries got him the job but didn’t seem to faze many pros, is open to discussion.

FYI – Panthers will be playing the 12th toughest schedule this year. https://www.panthers.com/news/carolina-panthers-2022-opponents-are-set

Yes, Darnold looks like a weak link, and whether anyone could fail while having CMC to hand off to (please, please!) or to drop swing passes he lugs 18 yards or so, we may never know. In gallows humor, if the Panthers can’t somehow package him in a trade, at least he isn’t the $40M dead money salary cap hit former Falcon Matt Ryan’s team was willing to take by shoving him at the Colts.

Darnold looks like a weak link, but at least he isn’t wearing a massive, albatross level $40MM dead money salary cap hit former Falcon Matt Ryan’s team was willing to take.

FYI – An albatross has nearly a 10 foot wing span, and is considered an insult when its meant as a psychological burden that feels like a curse. In Rime of the Ancient Mariner  (Coleridge,1798), as bad luck (becalmed) continues, the ships crew blame their misfortunes on the mariner killing an albatross, which is hung from the his neck to signify the mariner’s culpability in cursing the ship.

Sam Darnold is not the unwieldy burden Ryan’s $40 million cap hit is.

Jury is out on Coach Rhule – Year 3

Ending pursuit of Foster means the Panthers will be able to keep many of their really good pieces, which includes a defense that’s regained a place in the middle of the pack compared to previous bottom three in most categories. Jeremy Chinn, Derek Brown, and edge rusher-mayhem maker Brian Burns are part of that cadre. Donte Jackson would belong in that category if he used that speed to *stop* receptions instead of laying a lick on receivers immediately after the catch.

Whether every former player (Temple, Baylor) of Rhule’s that comes to Panthers is an automatic best choice, Fitterer is a known and respected quantity as a trader. It seemed like a gaping hole had been fixed with his initial signing of Darnold, but he’ll be essential in continuing to bring in possibilities. https://cdtalententerprises.com/2021/04/09/panthers-take-care-of-business-gm-fitterer-lands-qb-darnold-to-get-rolling/

Coaches are hired to be fired, and the NFL landscape is littered with unsuccessful college transitions. If Rhule still has any reason to be thankful the last Thursday in November, so will a lot of Panther fans. Tepper’s new futbol team, Charlotte FC, came out of the gate with a record-breaking home crowd of over 75,000. https://www.charlottefootballclub.com/video/miguel-ramirez-talks-match-against-fc-cincinnati-first-win#miguel-ramirez-talks-match-against-fc-cincinnati-first-win. Success there doesn’t mean he’d be at all happy with a Panthers team that puts up less than a serious playoff-level season.

The Panthers Defense is up to Snuff

Two drafts ago the Panthers used all seven picks on defense, and Phil Snow came in with Rhule from Baylor as Defensive Coordinator. Last year their #1 pick was Jaycee Horn, who didn’t play after week three with a broken foot. Chinn-Horn could become a bona fide safety duo, the D moved to middle of pack, and while early raves for doing well against three weak teams to start weren’t reality, the Panther defense finished strong (36 sacks) by many metrics. https://www.catscratchreader.com/2022/1/19/22888030/final-2021-ratings-for-the-panthers-defense-per-pro-football-focus.

In all the messaging from Houston about Foster, it seemed like draft picks, help for the Texan defense, and even McCaffrey, were thought possibilities to go in the pot, so losing defensive progress would’ve replaced QB as a challenge.

Burns is an actual stud, this could well be his blossom year. Will speed rusher be the greatest necessity in draft? Highly doubtful.

McCaffrey Silences the Doubters

To say “It is what it is” about Christian McCaffrey’s two year holding pattern is almost legitimate, but if Kaepernick would be well motivated, CMC is a documented over-achiever https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/panthers-restructure-christian-mccaffreys-contract-reportedly-clear-up-5-5-million-in-cap-space/ Charlotte has paid for the best of what comes next, McCaffrey restructured that $21.5 MM bonus contract so many talk about, so you’ll see how he feels about being sidelined for most of two years.

At NO point should anyone be linking his name as trade bait. He might have made the offensive line look better than it was up until then, but great players elevate the play of those around them. Believing a block held an extra part of a second might mean McCaffrey breaks a big one fires a team up. The Buccaneers have Tom Brady back, you KNOW the belief he instills as a GOAT. Don’t sweat that the Panthers have worn CMC out by overuse, he is coming loaded for payback.

#6 – The McAdoo Offense

Perhaps there are doubts about getting anything from the Giants, but if the Panthers new offensive coordinator gets the benefit of salary cap funds (about $29MM, as noted) going into the offensive line instead of switching parts around every time someone gets injured, that would be progress. Fitterer doing anything except trading down a couple spots while still getting that Stud OLT isn’t going to happen.

Just WHO is going to run *any* offense will be the primary question. Kaep is 34 now, he hasn’t taken a beating in a while, so it’s not a hard thirty-four, and he’s as worthy of being talked about as anyone. The NFL has mostly given up the RPO (run-pass option) that Cam, Russ, RPG III, and several others did well with early, because defensive coordinators quickly decided whacking the QB on every play would make teams leery of putting high value QBs health on the line.

Offensive line play WILL improve, and not getting Foster to Charlotte means lots of other people get paid. DJ Moore is on track to game-breaker status, but only if Panthers QB (Kaepernick?) has time, with ability to move around when necessary. Giants O-lines always had a reputation for grinding power game, Chubba and CMC will be able to work with that, and yes, long balls to Moore/Anderson should be expected.

Using tight ends for blocking may be necessary, more satisfying would be evolving into ninja-level receivers, if watching Greg Olsen tape can be converted to productive pattern running.

#7 – Year 3 of Rhule doesn’t make us Detroit

Detroit allowed Matt Millen to single-handedly wreck the franchise (31-97) over eight years as CEO/team president, a job his linebacking career didn’t prepare him for at all. GM Scott Fitterer doesn’t have such limitations, and he’s at the controls. The necessary help is mostly on the way. Colin Kaepernick, we’ll see how that rolls.

With all due respect to Matt Stafford for escaping 12 years of servitude in Detroit and using his super arm to take Rams to a winning Super Bowl – or the end of the Baker Mayfield run in Cleveland with Foster’s arrival – four years of sub-standard football is enough for Tepper (and fans). Yes, a $62MM coach should do better than 10-23, even if not having an inspirational QB or stud running back sounds legitimate.

That delay with new headquarters in Rock Hill aside, Mr. Tepper has staked out quite a few successful operations in his time as an owner. If Coach Rhule’s leadership of 2022 team is regarded as a serious mistake at Thanksgiving, that would be cause for specific change.

Umpiring a Fall of American Family Baseball, It was often an Honor to Participate

Taking a foul tip in the collarbone is the worst. My equipment being a little loose almost cost me.

The shortage of certain people in many areas extended to umpiring, and when an ex-umpire mentioned at our monthly meeting about possibilities for anyone with experience, I started doing Little League games in Dilworth the next Wednesday.

I’ve done arc-pitch softball in FL and NY years ago, working with youth baseball has been super interesting because of the intense family aspect.

One recent assignment involved a second Blue, who I’d done my first game ever with. He reminded me about trying to get changed into shinpads in my car without undressing – I finally gave up, and did the game with the plastic over the pants. (Not a good look, not repeated)

I’ve put in some 14 hour days since, worked two weekends with blast furnace 96! temperatures, and taken my share of ‘meat shots,’ and umpiring is more than just a welcome cash cow. With about 20 hours game time, $40-50 per game averages $20/hr. with a much more exciting office. It’s fun, not a gripe.

Getting the mask relocated by a foul tip, my standard line is, “I don’t get up for breakfast if I don’t know I’m gonna get hit a couple times.”

Me, a couple times a day while umpiring.
Everybody has a back pack, usually with a pair of antenna-bats.

7 Innings of a Blue’s ‘tudes, Calling it as I See It

Chatting with people near the fence about the difference in early sunshine and cool Fall temperatures this past weekend, compared to the blast furnace 96 I’d done one of their teams games in early June, one Dad’s immediate response was, “Yessir, I remember you – you gave my son some great advice. Thank you,”

That advice involved him twiddling with the grip on his pitch – which all the younger pitchers with small hands do – even while he was going into his delivery. My point was, when you work to get a certain grip, that’s usually a signal – especially if other team has seen the results before – your ‘something different’ pitch is coming.

When you throw it for strikes, the question is, can they actually HIT it while knowing? If not, take your time, set yourself and grip, *then* throw the pitch was my sage counsel.

The umpire schedule organizers tried to tell me early not to chat with the crowd “because one bad call and they’ll turn on you,” but I’ve always been a yakker, so…

My attitude is I’m contributing a little something to the American lifestyle, not just judging balls-strikes-outs. Telling that pitcher, or a first base person to make sure they keep heel in contact with the bag, it seems to make a difference.

Yes, I’ve been surprised at overall support on a regular basis. That so many coaches swear they tell young charges not to question the umpires (You’re right, Hayden, that was too good a pitch not to call a strike, but…), is affirming a rule of order.

2nd Inning

Pregame, I regularly mention players asking for time out and stepping out of the batters box with coaches and dugouts. It’s often coaches trying to break a pitcher’s rhythm, and my sense of sportmanship extends to fact if he’s ready to go, you better be ready to hit. I am not going to grant time very often, and have called three balks resulting in two runs scoring from third.

While batters stepped out without permission, seeing them do so caused the pitcher to stop his motion, and if they don’t release the pitch, its a balk. Its unfair to the pitcher, and letting young minds know how I enforce it (and the high strike) is a good piece of info to put out there. Armpits to knees, yes, use that bat.

I’m willing to listen to a coach appeal a play, say, where several runners wind up after an infield fly pop-up gets dropped (they can run at their own risk). Do NOT keep going on an individual call, coach. Catcher, do NOT pose with a ball that’s over the other batters box line wanting a strike – nothing good will come from you trying to show me up like that. I’ll tell you that, once.

3rd Inning

I was only threatened one time by a spectator, and only once did I get fed up enough to have coaches confined to the dugout. That I could say, “Zip it, or see the game from further away,” and enforce it was a great tool to know was in my bag. That I restored the previous freedoms in the next (title) game was still about fairness.

Having a catcher ask why I’d called a recent pitch a ball, 10 year olds wouldn’t have the stones to ask that if they hadn’t seen coaches question every situation for three full games. https://cdtalententerprises.com/2021/06/29/america-and-family-baseball-joyful-4th-is-umpires-call/ I’ve told that story numerous times, and that *specifically* wasn’t happening on MY watch. Adults need some telling where the lines are too.

4th Inning

The single best thing an umpire can have is consistency, and high-low is easier for others to see than any distance off the plate. That’s why catchers are taught from earliest exposure about framing pitches, making them look closer to the strike zone. “How could that not be a strike?” is the crowd question, what I tell catchers regularly is “I saw where you caught it, and I saw where you put it.”

Doing a 9 year old tournament, where many were doing kid-pitch for the first time, my off the plate (17″) calls of two balls wider wound up taking 2:30 hours to have a victor. Calling it unhittably further outside was unfair, but walk-athons are deadly.

It was the single most brutal five games I umped all year. I had 8-9 bottles of water, a couple Gatorades, and still didn’t need to relieve myself until 9:00 at night. I told a nurse about it the next day, she said I was lucky she didn’t meet me in an ER.

5th Inning

Except for that one bitchy team (plus two other yellers), I was uniformly impressed with how dedicated coaches are to keeping kids in the game. Arriving early and having time to jaw with them is personally satisfying. That Dad and Coach sometimes have to deal with situations around a pouty son is reality. Listen to the constant barrage about hitting the next pitch, or what to do about a passed ball (“You should be here!”) at a game – coaches keep it going even in a rout.

When there was a question of not having enough time left to start another inning and get the home team last at bats, you’ve gotta love the answer: “So we get to practice our defense another half inning? Its our first game of the season, its okay if we don’t get to bat.”

That’s taking every opportunity to help kids get better. If I can help with an observation – “Your catcher is setting up on the outside third of plate, and if your pitcher misses at all, its going to be a ball” – I can be a difference maker too.

6th Inning

After taking two foul tips on the exact same spot on top of forearm one weekend, I changed how I positioned myself from hands on knees to always having the batter side arm tucked behind myself. Plastic only covers so much, then there’s meat shots. Making necessary changes to protect myself (I was also a hockey goalie in college…) was a no brainer.

There’s usually an Oooo! and “You okay Blue?” from the crowd and coaches when they hear the crack! of a chest protector or see the face mask get rearranged. Its more the blast in the bicep or maybe a hand that changes your machismo for a while.

As a physical challenge at 64, I feel good about an occasional thwack! I’m certainly not too good to think ringing the register with a $350 weekend, while talking baseball and peoples kids, is a bad thing in any way. The hard core travel teams are miles from the rec league supporters, most of whom recognize their kids might get pummeled for a season before age and experience kicks in.

7th inning

Yes, its seeing athletics as part of their young lives, getting to relate to some of that bonding and what’s happening between the ears I knew was important when I played Pop Warner football. Doing 10-under games, then 12-13s, the physical difference of two-three years is amazing.

The chunky 10 y/old who just learned a curve ball that week thought, “Maybe we should have a go, Ump.” I said, “Learned a curve ball this week and you want some of this? You must be a confident guy.” “Yep!”

The best way for an umpire to avoid 95% of any coach or crowd BS is to be right on top of the play versus calling it from across the diamond. The kid sliding into third and his coach yells he’s safe, my “Coach, he’s got the glove pinned against the base, he’s out!” means I just turn and walk away.

On a bottom line, “Don’t reward stupid” is legitimate. The slow-footed kid who tries going first to third when there’s a confusing play at the plate almost always deservedly, gets nailed at third, and if its close, he really shouldn’t have been going… Their coach will talk to them about a bad decision.

Congratulations to the Atlanta Braves for winning the World Series so convincingly. Everyone in Charlotte was rooting for them, all the young players for sure, and they epitomize the idea of sportsmanship and the bonding that makes a bunch of young people a team. See everyone again in the Spring.

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…