Practical communication makes a point – for politics, pierogis, poker, and pooches

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While his destroying three sleeping pads by tearing them apart and distributing the insides like this was uncool, getting into my salad bowl required direct messaging.

Perhaps I’m working the P’s a little hard, but historically its one of the things (along with Q’s) we’re supposed to pay attention to.

The point is, whether you’re a communications specialist, content creation writer, blogger, or pet owner, its legitimate to be aware of how any messages are coming through for the intended parties.

While his pushing a bowl around the kitchen like Snoopy, or positioning himself near the front door for immediate petting works for CharlieToo, the swat with a folded newspaper was a simple, hopefully received and understood message I sent yesterday.

Yes, that set off some loud “messaging” with my brother, but I didn’t need to hear about a beagle’s acute sense of smell (again). I’d left the room for thirty seconds to get a beverage, and returned to find several spinach leaves outside the bowl, left well away from the edge of the kitchen table. My message to both was I wasn’t allowing such behavior with my food, and if the bro needed to get discipline classes for his dog, I could still handle some baseline corrections right then.

Poker night and commitment

Having decided to restart Hold ’em poker nights with two subsets of friends, notices were sent to twenty guys about the timing, BYOB and chili situation, cost ($20 to start, re-buys, and chip-up), and directions embedded. All information, starting three weeks before the event, was sent by e-mail and followed up with by text several times.

Two days after the stated deadline for confirmation, there were only four “can’t make it” responses, which is when my ‘no-go’ decision was made.

One ‘yes’ indicated he’d pick up an outlier (who had bailed), one said (at pierogi dinner Friday) he’d come, but I’d already decided to wait and try again next month. One was upset he’d driven by the house – and left three phone messages – without knowing it was canceled, although he hadn’t confirmed when we worked two nights on the prep and pierogi dinner.

While statistically that’s *about* a 30% response, the reality is most similar events will die without a predetermined level of positive commitment. This was easy to track, doing so with blog results is what makes it a business.

Pierogi pickups, oompah! band, and networking

For the first two hours of our group’s second hugely successful pierogi dinner, I worked the take out table, and unfortunately, once I’d gotten through a first pan of those slathered in butter Polish delicacies filled with cheese and potato, and fried onions aplenty, there was a period when the product didn’t come regularly enough to diminish the line of customers.

Although I sent messages with group members who came by, only drips and drabs came though for about half an hour – and somehow it wasn’t a problem

The great part of communications came with the realization that the 15 people standing in line understood I’d done what I could. Every single one was happy when the pans started flowing regularly and they got hot, tasty containers of food – including sauerkraut, garlic bread, kielbasa – and some had never tried a pierogi before!

Did giving the last cookie to one little girl, just before another tray appeared, work out righteously? Yep, it showed we cared, as did giving a piece of kielbasa to anyone who wanted to munch it waiting in line.

Doing my usual “schmoozing” around the tables a little later, it was great to learn that everyone appreciated the evening at all levels – not a single cross word, even though some had waited in a line around the cafeteria before getting served and seated.

When asked, “Did everyone get enough to eat?” smiles and “Great job, you guys!” and testimonials about how many of our (St. Gabriel Men’s Club) other community feedings they’d attended were gratifyingly glowing. Okay, “free beverages” and dancing to a lederhosen-garbed oompah band might have a little to do with that glow, but a $36 family price works wonders, too.

The best communication for me though? The very last couple I talked with went 20191214_200810exceptionally well. She was a physical therapist, so we discussed my two year old knee replacement, and her husband had done a little knocking around for two years before establishing himself as a management efficiency expert with restaurants. When I gave him my card, and explained some of what CDTalent Enterprises did writing-wise, he asked if I’d tried using a particular agency and recruiter, who had kept him busy during his knock around days.

THAT is the essence of networking, finding a commonality and helping each other with additional contacts. If you’re still worried about just talking to someone at a gathering, networking doesn’t have to be in a suit with your name plastered on a lapel.

POLITICS

For what its worth, Trump’s impeachment trial starts today, and IMHO, a *lot* more people will be dissatisfied with how that’s handled than how my lack of pierogies Friday night affected them. While I heard one of our guys pontificating that, “He’s going to be re-elected, you guys are wrong, case closed!” I’ve learned that its impossible to get a reasonable message through to some people, and walking away from situations is the best way to handle negative communications.

Unfortunately, the option of swatting them with a folded newspaper probably won’t get the intended message through.

“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!

 

“Think global, act local” still legitimate message for humanity, new year

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Our group’s second pierogi dinner on January 17th is a model community event, with oompah band and family pricing that served 800 in 2019.

As dramatic a negative as assassinating a Quds general in Iraq on the second day of the new year is, I’ll try remembering the little girl whose mother didn’t complain about another homeless person snoring like a chainsaw ten feet away from her five still awake children that night.

On a cold and raining Thursday, she said they couldn’t sleep because they’d taken naps that afternoon, then offered us blessings for the new year as she and the children boarded a bus to take them back downtown on Friday at 5:30 a.m.

Will four small pairs of colorful gloves and hot chocolate (but no cereal, sorry) make a difference in a child’s life for more than one day?

Two short messages: Yes, “the thought” still counts even after Christmas gift-giving, mostly because very little action comes without thought. Our shelter had a large container of gloves, why should she need to ask when it cost me nothing to do? She can lose six gloves and still be ahead, right? She’ll probably share a pair with a younger brother, so maybe *two* kids have warmer hands, and may that Panthers knit cap I gave another brother be worn proudly.

Secondly, while being aware of the ugly reality now facing so many – from a major piece of  Australia burning, to the deadly acts and accompanying outrage that will threaten the lives of so many, especially our troops in the Middle East – continuing to do what I can for those closer at hand like that family is a legitimate human-to-human plan.

Leadership Charlotte, church groups, YOU

Wrapped around the overnight for the homeless (Room in the Inn), I attended an open house at Queens University for the Leadership Charlotte program, and then Friday evening, the first monthly meeting of the (St. Gabriel) Men’s Club. While there were somewhat fewer than the 178 people who originally signed up to attend the Leadership event, I appreciated the kind of raucous group that filled every table Friday night.

Leadership Charlotte is an operation with over 40 years of bringing together a strong, diverse group that focuses on significant programs across a spectrum of areas to keep Charlotte moving forward. For relative newcomers, its a community effort that helped replace the previous ‘system’ of a small group of enlightened citizens who moved Charlotte from a low-key city of about 200,000 on the NC-SC border to the desirable, powerhouse location nearly a million live in today.

Church Angel’s directory list 17,119 churches of various denominations in North Carolina, but Charlotte celebrates its “Buckle on the Bible Belt” reputation, well, religiously, and most if not all have outreach programs to help the community. From mega-churches to slash store-fronts in retail locales and most corners, it is not a small consideration, especially in these trying economic and political times.

Almost all will agree that the Reverend Billy Graham was a Man of God, and that is probably as good a place to begin and end a theological discussion.

Without praising or forgetting any specific denomination, “helping others” is both a byword and above average place to start showing you care, here and now.

Put yourself out there just a little America. Volunteer to read with kids at the library, bring Johnny’s warm jacket that he outgrew in one year to wherever you learn they are collecting them. Make the lunch bags that Room in the Inn gives to those homeless over-nighters in the morning – you don’t even have to see them to know you’ve done something good. Prayers aren’t really enough, even the little actions count.

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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.