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

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