Thursday, November 13, 2008

The calm before the storm

Nuggets on this rainy Thursday...

- Carolina Panthers DE Julius Peppers earned the NFC Defensive Player of the Week award on Wednesday, a nice reward for what has been a fairly spectacular season for him. 7 sacks in 2008, up from his total of 2.5 last season. He seems to have taken the pre-season challenge issued to him by owner Jerry Richardson (in 2007), about being more of a leader. The Panthers face a Detroit team on Sunday that, frankly, if they don't get a win, the season is over. A loss to the Lions (who haven't won a game this season), would be far more devastating than the close win they had over Oakland. Losing to Detroit would get this team questioning itself in the worst of ways. My opinion: The Panthers blast Detroit back to the Motor City--maybe even pitching their 2nd shutout of the season.

- Football is coming to the Charlotte 49ers. The Board of Trustees voting unanimously to get the ball rolling so the school can field a team in the 2013 season. Plenty of folks deserve congratulations on this moment, and I honestly don't know their names. They are the more than 4,000 people who have pledged their support (both spiritual and financial), to this endeavor. The ones the promised to pay $1,000 for the right to buy season tickets, an item the school calls "Forty-Niner Seat Licenses." The school would play in the Football Championship Subdivision (think Appalachian State). with designs on going full blown Football Championship Series (think ACC/Big 12/SEC etc.), down the road. That's a tall order, in my opinion, but why not dream big? It will be fun watching this unfold, and I hope the folks with the 49ers get this thing rolling in the right direction.

- NASCAR Championship weekend in Miami brings mixed emotions for me. I love me some racin', but the last weekend means no racing until February. At the same time, no racing until February means a nice break from the left turns, and the chaos that often follows.

That aside, the news on Wednesday that Dale Earnhardt, Inc. and Ganassi Racing will merge to form Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing in 2009 was a bit upsetting for me. I understand it is the nature of the times we live in. Money is tight, sponsorships are hard to come by. I get it. It just makes me wonder this: Would DEI be in this kind of shape if Dale Earnhardt were still alive?

The answer, to me, is no. DEI would still be a major force (on its own), they would still be fielding 3 (if not 4) very competitive teams, they would still have Dale Jr. driving for them. They would have all of the things any team would love to have. To me, this move is the latest in Teresa Earnhardt's management failures. I said it when Dale Jr. left DEI and went to Hendrick Motorsports. Dale Sr. built DEI for his children. The kids are nowhere to be found at DEI now, only Teresa remains. Dale Jr's business manager is his sister, and he has his own company now (JR Motorsports). Sure, there are a lot of things that likely transpired behind the scenes to cause the split, and I'm probably running off at the mouth (keyboard) here, but still, the once proud DEI label is nothing more than another also-ran race outfit. Shame, too, because any race fan will tell you, Dale Sr. never woulda let that happen.

- Charlotte Bobcats are without Jason Richardson for at least one game, and maybe 2 after he underwent a knee scope on Wednesday. Richardson is by far their best player, and in my estimation, it's really a matter of time before this team becomes competitive in the NBA's Eastern Conference. DJ Augustin is rounding into form, Raymond Felton continues to progress. Gerald Wallace is still the most dynamic player on their roster (and explosive), and contributions are coming from Jared Dudley, Adam Morrison, and even others like the always steady Emeka Okafor.

Talk of Michael Jordan becoming the majority owner of this team in the future is just that-talk. Still, if there is talk, that means people are talking about it (from within). Does it happen now? Later? Who knows. Jordan's visibility this season has already surpassed his appearances in the past. Would that be better for the team? Again, who knows. Jordan as an executive is not something that folks can point to and say "good job." As an owner, it could be a different story. Have to wait and see on that one.

Hope to get a Panther preview up before Sunday's game with Detroit, and of course, the Discount Tire Friday Night Final will have all of your first round playoff action (as long as it doesn't get rained out). C'mon Weather on the One's Team!!! Hook us up!

Mike Solarte

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