Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Panthers, Bobcats, NASCAR...oh my!

Mathematically, they are still alive, but to me, the Panthers playoff hopes are gone. That's fine. I've spent enough time griping about how this team was put together, and the end result. I've accepted that fact. I applaud the efforts of the players, who have gone out week in and week out and done all they could to try and win games.

Seven games to go, starting this Sunday against Baltimore. Another tough assignment for the Panthers offense, considering they are concerned about Jimmy Clausen this week. The Panthers signed Brian St. Pierre off their practice squad on Tuesday. That tells me Clausen is not coming around well after suffering a concussion against Tampa Bay. Say hello to rookie QB Tony Pike as your starter this week, with St. Pierre the backup, and Armanti Edwards as the emergency QB (if Clausen is unable to play). And for all the Edwards fans out there, you have to understand, the Panthers aren't "overlooking" your guy. They have him slotted as a wide receiver, not a QB. They won't just throw him in at QB until he's been looking at the playbook as a QB, not a WR. He hasn't worked out full as a QB in nearly a year, and not at all as a professional.

They could see a running back return from injury, given the release of Andre Brown on Tuesday, but that's something we'll find out at practice on Wednesday morning. Hats off to Mike Goodson for his efforts against the Bucs on Sunday. He ran hard, and got some good up front work to become the team's first 100 yard rusher this season. Took them until game 9 with all that talent back there. Yes, it's been a long year.

Charlotte Bobcats got on the board with a home win on Monday, and now have a few days between games. They head to Miami to face the Heat on Friday. I'm of the opinion the Bobcats have found something, and could be in for a nice stretch. Not saying they are going undefeated or anything silly like that, but I like the way the team played, and there's a good indication that Head Coach Larry Brown liked what he saw too. During the first half, I saw the coach leave his bench seat once. Just once, and that was to calmly work the officials. Generally, when he's not happy, he's up and down, pacing and shouting. A calm Larry usually means a content Larry. Notice I didn't say happy.

Speaking of the officials, the NBA has given them too much power. I understand the league not wanting players to show up their refs, but when Stephen Jackson gets "T'd" up, and even fined for things like he has been nabbed for, it's time to re-evaluate the policy. More than that, sitting courtside on Monday, I heard one ref basically snapping at Minnesota coach Kurt Rambis, and speaking in less than courteous tones. It's a two-way street, Stripes. You can't demand respect from players and coaches, if you aren't willing to show some in their direction as well. Rambis wasn't even hot about a call. He was wanting an explanation about a call that was made, and was trying to point out that the call could have gone another way. The ref shouted (and yeah, I mean shouted), "you asked me what it was, and I told ya..." while turning away from him. Really? Commissioner Stern, please. Step in here, and give the players and coaches a chance to fight for themselves. 99.9% of the time, they won't win their case, but at least allow them to be heard. Give them back their voice.

NASCAR fans, longing for a change tot eh Chase format, may still get their wish, but a 3 -driver battle has taken shape heading into the final race this weekend in Homestead-Miami. Denny Hamlin leads Jimmie Johnson by 15 points, and Kevin Harvick by 46. It will make for an interesting 400 miles in Florida, to be sure. Will one of them try and run another contender into the fence? Will they race each other cleanly? One mistake by the driver, or their pit crew is game over for the season. The margin of error is razor thin. Great drama.

Earlier in the season, NASCAR boss Brian France said the format needed to provide great drama, and signature moments. Looks like it will deliver that this weekend.

Mike Solarte

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