Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hurricanes fire Maurice...and more

From a personal standpoint, I don't like the firing of Hurricanes Head Coach Paul Maurice. There isn't a player in that dressnig room taht can look themselves in the mirror and say they have done all they could to help the team win.

From the professional side, this move just had to be made. The change at the top (Kirk Muller was hired later in the day on Monday to replace Maurice), might be what this team needs, and given the calendar, there is still plenty of time to turn things around.

Paul Maurice is a good hockey coach. He knows the game, and has a solid system. This Hurricanes team simply wasn't responding to the message any longer, and add in teh struggles of late, with the team losing 10 of their last 13, something had to give. If the coaching change doesn't wake this group up, expect even more changes down the road. Yes, I am talking about trades.

What do you know about Muller? Here's what I know. When Muller was a forward in the NHL, he was a guy I hated to see playing against my favorite team. He was tough, gritty, and talented around the net. He played with an edge, and I would suspect he will coach with one as well. No doubt, Muller was a guy I would love to see in my team's corbner, and I think Hurricanes fans will take a liking to him, once he gets acclimated.

Carolina Panthers picked up win number 3, a 27-19 decision over Indianapolis. It wasn't exactly easy, as the Colts were driving in the games dying minutes, but a timely interception by Sherrod Martin sealed the win. Not often to see the Panthers running Victory formation, but certainly a welcome sight. Test now is to maintain the good vibes against Tampa Bay this Sunday. Good thing for Carolina is that the Bucs defense ranks 31st in total defense, something the Panthers offense should be able to take advantage of.

Big weekend of hgih school football championship action coming up. The 4AA title game between Page (Greensboro) and Garner can be seen on news 14 Carolina with a 3pm kick from BB&T Field in Winston-Salem. ALL of the other state title games can be seen LIVE as well. Hope you can see the games, if you can't be there. Here is that schedule:

































Monday, November 21, 2011

The angry voice mail I got...

Came into work today, and found my voicemail light was glowing. The message was left by a viewer named Dave. Didn't catch his last name, but Dave was angry. Really angry. Sparing you the word-for-word message, Dave wants the media to call out the Panthers, and the coaching staff for the losses, specifically, the loss to Detroit.

One of his suggestions was for the media to simply "not talk," to the Panthers in the midst of the losing. As if the media not doing their jobs, would affect the team, and they would start winning.

Not an option.

Where was this anger last season, when they had an offense that couldn't get out of its own way? That was dead last in touchdowns, points scored, and other categories? THAT was the team to be angry at.

Look, I get it. I see Panthers fans every single day, and I understand the frustration. You want to see your team winning. So do I. Makes my job that much easier. A team that wins, is generally happy to answer questions from us, and be very easy to work with. When losses pile up, players don't look forward to media horde entering the room, microphones and notepads in hand. To this team's credit, they haven't dodged the questions (which have been repetitive). They understand the job.

Bottom line, this is a young team. Remember last season when only 2 players were on the roster over the age of 30? Much of that roster remains, and they are still young guys. Add into the mix the defense has been hammered by injuries. There are a lot of places excuses could be made, yet this bunch remains in games.

It isn't much help, Dave, I know. All I can offer in return is this: Troy Aikman went 1-15 as a rookie QB with Dallas in his first season. Dallas went on to big things after that. I'm not saying the Panthers will do likewise, but Cam Newton already has one more win in his rookie year than Aikman had.

Step away from the ledge. It could be worse. Like 2010 worse.

Mike Solarte

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Panthers should be mad

I know I would be, if I were a player on that team.

I know that after being so close in so many games in the first half of the season, I would be mad at myself for not playing better against Tennessee last week, and absorbing the worst loss this team has endured this year.

I know that it would motivate me to try and get well against a Detroit team that is sitting at 6-3, but coming off of a brutal loss to the Chicago Bears last Sunday. A loss that saw Chicago score a PAIR of touchdowns on defense )interceptions returned for scores), as well as a Devin Hester punt return for TD. The Hester thing has become all to common around the NFL, but 2 pick-sixes?

This Panthers team has talent, and they have heart. I would never question those attributes with this group of players. They work hard, and many guys are lean on experience. They are led by a first year Head Coach that has the chops for the job.

As someone that watches this team week in and week out, I want to see fire. I want to see guys reacting passionately when things go wrong. I want them to be mad when they get beat on a play, and then respond accordingly. Respond by buckling down, and playing harder. It's about determination. Will. Maybe guts, too.

This group, if they remain together, will accomplish great things in the future. There will be tweaks, and additions, but overall, there is enough talent in that room to be a playoff team in multiple years. They have to find the way there. The road to the top is never an easy one.

Consider these the bumps that it takes to get there.

Mike Solarte

Monday, November 14, 2011

NBA lockout heads to courtroom

The NBA season now teeters on the brink, after the NBPA rejected the league's latest proposal for a new collective bargaining agreement on Monday, and then filed a "disclaimer of interest," which essentially dissolves the players union.

What does it mean?

Hello, courtroom.

The players held a press conference on Monday afternoon announcing the move, and in that time, they said the negotiation process had completely broken down, and that this was their only move.

It is hard to not come off as taking a side when you write a blog on the subject, but I really don't think I'll have that problem. In not taking a side, I can easily assess blame to both sides. The players have given back (reportedly), on many key issues, mainly 7 full percentage points on that magical Basketball Related Income number (BRI for simplicity purposes). Each point represents a significant amount of money, and the players giving that back to the owners was a substantial release. The players wanted other concessions in order to soften the blow, and the owners were not willing to give in more.

In my humble opinion, the players have moved towards a resolution, but only so far. the owners have moved towards a solution, but again, only so far. Where they have failed to meet, is in the middle. Ultimately, this deal will get done with BOTH sides having to sign off on a deal that is not perfect for either. Thing is now, it's heading to court with anti-trust lawsuits and lawyers, and all the stuff that are sadly becoming more and more of a presence in the games we love.

Should the players accept less than 50 percent of the BRI? I say no. Should they have a bigger piece than 50 percent? I would say yes, but how much? Basketball games do not produce a tangible thing. A widget doesn't come from a game. A stereo, a tv, a car, none of those things. This is all about entertainment. The tangible result of a sporting event is the outcome of the game. A winner and a loser. That's it.

There is no game without players, and there is no league without owners. Certainly, the sides understand that. The GAME is the product. The game is what people shell out their hard-earned dollars to go see. So to me, the players could stand to get a piece of the pie SLIGHTLY larger than 50 percent.

But, with the understanding that players don't have a place to play without the owners, I see why ownership would say they deserve more, since they are taking the financial risk of ownership, which involves meeting payroll, marketing, paying support staff, and all that.

Why is this so contentious? Here's why. The players don't believe things are so bad the system needs to be blown up. The owners feel that the current business model means they would continue to lose money. It has been reported that NBA owners would loss LESS money if a season isn't played at all, so what incentive do they have to get a deal in place now? The answer is none. If it costs less to not play, why would they rush and take a deal they didn't like or want?

How quickly this gets resolved will depend on both sides realizing that they are going to have to choke down a deal that won't taste good to them. Owners and players alike. All the blustering and posturing is going to do is isolate the fans further and further away from the NBA. Unlike the NFL, people will find other things to watch, rather than feel like they are missing out on the NBA.

Me? I miss the NBA. I miss watching the games, and even shooting them from my seat on the floor. I will miss the games that aren't being played, and at some point, the fans will too. Until then, the general reaction from people about this work stoppage is that it's "millionaires arguing with billionaires," and there's no greater disconnect for people in this current economy than that.

Mike Solarte

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Penn State fires Paterno

I made a passing mention of the Penn State situation in the last post, and with the developments of Wednesday, here's a little more.

The Penn State Board of Trustees fired Head Coach Joe Paterno on Wednesday night. The Board making the move, along with removing President Graham Spanier in one swoop. To me, this is the first of many removals from within the football program.

The shake-up has fans of the team unhappy, saying Paterno had done what was required of him, in reporting what he was told to his superiors. That much is absolutely true. He reported it to those above him.

He wasn't fired for that. He was fired for not doing more.

I made the comparison on Twitter last night (twitter.com/MikeSolarte), that Paterno ends up being the real-life equivalent of the two Marines in the film "A Few Good Men." I forget their rank in the movie, but Downey and Dawson (movie spoiler coming) end up being dishonorably discharged from the Marines for "conduct unbecoming of a United States Marine." In the confusion of the verdict, Dawson explains why they were kicked out. It was because, in his movie line, "we were supposed to fight for those who can't fight for themselves. We were supposed to fight for Willie."

Paterno didn't fight for the children, alleged to have been sexually assaulted by former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. That was Paterno's undoing in all this. Paterno wielded more power at Penn State than many would believe, and as a result, when he saw that things weren't being taken care of in the legal system, he should have stepped up the pressure. He should have taken a more active role in seeing that the law got involved.

Instead, he likely felt he had done enough, and carried on, and the school's decision was their decision. In the end, that was the wrong tack to take.

Paterno is not the victim here. Some would say that since he didn't do more, he could actually be viewed as complicit. I'm not sure about that, but I find it hard for folks to defend Paterno and say he shouldn't have been fired. Fact is, anyone at Penn State that had connections to Sandusky, or even had some whisper knowledge of the incidents should be gone as well.

This situation, however, is not about football players, or games, wins or losses, and final scores. This whole thing started when one adult allegedly preyed on young boys, and allegedly committed crimes that are simply unimaginable to me.

There are failures at many levels of this story. Paterno may not have committed the crimes, but he simply couldn't be allowed to stay on his capacity. As the Nittany Lions Head Coach, Paterno was nearly identical to Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. When people think of Duke, they think Coach K. When people think of Penn State, they would think of Paterno.

Those days are officially over, as Penn State's image has taken a monumental hit. How the school recovers from this all is anybody's guess.

Mike Solarte

Follow me on Twitter! twitter.com/MikeSolarte

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Panthers, NASCAR and Smokin' Joe

Tuesday Quick Hits:

- Carolina Panthers are back after their bye week, and they have 8 games left to make something of this season. No doubt, the 2-6 record marks it as a failure, but ask the fan base, ad they will tell you this is the best 2-6 they have ever watched. They have been in every game, leading many of them in the 4th quarter. It's also safe to say that they have also not gotten a key break, or even made a break for themselves in those 6 losses. That comes with experience and confidence, both of which are simmering. When those commodities hit a rolling boil, the Panthers will be a force to be reckoned with. I don't anticipate that happening this year, but the foundation is nearly in place. There are deficiencies on this current roster, but they are fixable, if only in the long term sense. I predicted 6 wins for this team at the start of the season, and I am standing by that. They might surprise me, and win more.

- NASCAR punished Kyle Busch with a $50,000 fine, and probation through the end of the year on Monday. That coming after he was parked for the remainder of the racing weekend at Texas, for his intentional dumping of Ron Hornaday under caution during the Camping World Trucks Series race on Friday night. Parking Busch for the Cup race on Sunday officially eliminated him from title contention (he was 7th heading into the weekend, but now he is mathematically out of it). While many will clamor that more should be done to Busch, my take is they have done enough. This time. If Busch doesn't get the message from NASCAR that acts like these (and there have been others in recent memory to support his pattern of mindless behavior on the track) will not be tolerated, I don't know what will get through to him. Hornaday could have been seriously injured (or worse). The financial cost to Kevin Harvick Incorporated (the team Hornaday was driving for), as well as to his own truck series team for the damage is substantial. Bigger than all of that, however, is his reputation. Sure, many folks hate him, but sponsors love him when he is doing what he does best. Driving and winning. Kyle Busch is talented, in my opinion he is one of the top 5 drivers in the Cup series. When he acts like he did Friday, though, he is a major liability to not only himself, and his competitors, but his sponsors who attach their names, products, and ultimately dollars to him. Tough assignment for Joe Gibbs, because he has had Kyle's back in so many other instances. Standing by him through this one won't be pleasant. And it shouldn't be pleasant for Kyle either. It just shouldn't involve him losing his job.

- I am not about to whip out the broad brush on the Penn State situation as to who is responsible, at fault, etc. Bottom line in that case is this. Wrongs were committed, and proper authorities apparently were not involved. Someone is to blame, and it ultimately will cost Joe Paterno his lofty spot in the coaching world, along with his job. I have been of the opinion that Paterno should have left the game years ago, as he went through some lean times in Happy Valley. The game seemed to have passed him by. In this case, though, many will blame him for not being more diligent in informing those who could have affected the alleged situation(s), and perhaps prevented recurring instances. Sadly, those folks are correct.

- Finally, Joe Frazier passed away at the age of 67 years old. Many young sports fans may not know what Frazier meant to the global sporting landscape. In simplest terms he was the complimentary piece to perhaps the greatest rivalry in all of sports for all time. Before you call me crazy for saying Duke-UNC or Ohio State-Michigan deserve the marquee for best rivalry, consider this. Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali fought three times, in bouts that are considered by many to be the top 3 fights in heavyweight boxing history. Mix in the polar opposite personalities between the combatants, and what you had was real life Balboa-Creed (for you "Rocky" buffs). There was skill, heart, desire, toughness, and that not-so-subtle dislike between the two, it was the stuff of legend. Frazier lost just 4 fights in the ring during his career, and as tough as he was, he was unable to outpunch liver cancer. No doubt though, he was swinging until the end. RIP, Champ.

Mike Solarte