Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Emeka, Stewart, and more

Emeka Okafor has agreed to a new contract with the Bobcats--6 years, $12 million per. $72 million total. (More on the story here at news14.com) What was different on this offer than the one he turned down last year? The length of deal. 5 years versus 6.

If the difference between player and management was length of contract, why won't someone come out and say that? Seriously, there would be a lot less animosity in sports, if people stopped hiding behind things, and just came out and said, "we agree on the dollars, we just need to nail down the length of contract." John Q. Fan would then not have to be bitter about an athlete being offered $12,000,000 (did that on purpose so you could count the zeroes) per season, only to refuse it. The perception becomes "the athlete is being greedy." The Bobcats aren't exactly the number 1 team in Charlotte's heart these days--attendance numbers are not where the team would like them to be, they have yet to make the playoffs, and I still think the city has a Hornets hangover (yeah, it was some kind of party).

The Okafor contract situation (which appears to be resolved) may have widened the divide between the team and fans. I hope not, but it certainly fueled some people I've talked to into feeling like the Bobcats aren't holding their interest anymore. Others say they want so badly to like the team, but they continually screw things up. Here's hoping the answers and some positives are around the next bend for the Cats.

Tony Stewart roughed up a USAC official last week in Indianapolis. OK, that's an overstatement. He grabbed the official's headset off his head, and chucked it to the ground. Stewart then ran into another official (who ran at Stewart--Stewart braced himself and then pushed back at the 2nd guy). It was an eventful night, no doubt. Smoke has been fined $10,000 dollars, and placed on probation for the remainder of the year. Not in NASCAR, but in USAC. This punishment is not a big deal. Stewart crossed a line, and was penalized for it. Stewart has even gone beyond the punishment, and will buy new uniforms and new radios for the USAC officials. What this also does, however, is dispel the notion that Stewart is a jerk. Did he over-react? Absolutely. Is he sorry for it? You bet. Is it excusable? Not in the least. His reaction in the aftermath is a far cry from the driver/person he used to be. In the past, Stewart would do something, be punished, and show no remorse for his actions. If you asked him, the others would be the ones to blame, and his actions were justified. Not anymore. It's a step in the right direction.

Panther training camp continues in Spartanburg, leading up to Fan Fest at Bank of America Stadium this Saturday at 11 a.m. I won't lie, camp isn't fun for anyone. Players, coaches, media, nobody enjoys it. The best part of camp is the fact that each day that wraps up means the season is one day closer to beginning. I haven't been back to Spartanburg since Saturday's opening practice, but by all accounts, the vibe at Wofford is different (over the course of the first 6 workouts), than it has been in years past. I got a sense of that on Saturday, but having not seen it with my own eyes since makes it harder for me, personally, to make that statement.

It does make sense, though, that players and coaches would be in a different state of mind, considering that the heat is on Head Coach John Fox and GM Marty Hurney to get this franchise back into the post-season, or else. The players all seem to love playing for Fox, and simply do not want another coach in their calling the shots. It's as much on the guys in the uniforms as it is on the coaches and front office to make this season successful. It's unity in face of danger, yet they aren't looking scared. They look eager, confident and excited. Pretty good place to be, if you asked me.

Mike Solarte

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