Monday, September 22, 2008

Week 3: Snap Back to Reality

Brethren: The Carolina Panthers came back down to Earth yesterday and I'm still not quite sure what to make of it. Losing to a desperate 0-2 Vikings team on the road, against a pass rush that looked remarkable, I suppose I'm not terribly upset. I was yesterday afternoon, but it wasn't as if I watched the game and thought, "Damn, we should have won that game." The Vikings outplayed the Panthers, stole the momentum late in the second quarter and never gave it back.

It was incredibly frustrating to watch the Vikings reel off 20 straight and see little to no fight out of the Panthers. Yes, if a few things had gone our way -- if the Jonathan Stewart kick return isn't negated, if John Fox doesn't call a timeout right before we block a field goal to keep it to a one possession game -- we may have had an opportunity to do the Cardiac Cats thing. But there were also a terrible amount of mental mistakes -- 11 penalties, an ineffective offensive line, and letting the Vikings uncork an eleven minute drive that spanned the second half of the third quarter into the fourth -- that truly made me realize Sunday was not our day.

The implications? Hopefully not too much. Four of the next five are at home (I'm going to the Kansas City game in two weeks!), but shit needs to get figured out, that's for sure. The Falcons always give us trouble, no matter their record, and right now, their record says they're just as good as us. I don't believe that, but I do believe we're in for a fight come Sunday.

More thoughts, desde:

Brethren (cont'd): My patented bulleted thoughts regarding the Cats first loss of the 2008 season:

- 1st play of the game for the Cats: completion to Steve Smith. That just seemed right. Too bad Jake couldn't get it to him more as the day went on.

- Jake claims that Smitty was streaking and wide open on the play he fumbled on right before the first half, and that he was gearing up to hit him. I'd like to believe him, but it just makes me angry. I kinda agree with Fowler and wonder how he didn't see Winfield coming.

- Two ominous signs from the week that looking back at I wish I could have taken more heed of: a) The call I received from Chops where he mentioned the last time the Panthers played a back-up coming for his first game of the year, Tony Romo busted us up something fierce and b) Me acting like I know when football lines are absurd.

- I've been to Minnesota more times in 2008 than I've been to Charlotte. I didn't take the pre-game tequila shot with Pam (I did the first two weeks and we won). And still, if anyone wants to blame me for this loss, I'd point them to J-Lew, who watched his first Panthers game of the year yesterday. Silly J-Lew.

Nacho: I sat in The Bar in front of our designated, prime real-estate seats to watch the Panthers play football on Sunday morning, and a funny thing happened. They didn't.

All week I taunted downtrodden Bears fans, exalting how insignificant I thought this Sunday's game was. They're starting Gus Frerotte and won't have [a 100%] Adrian Peterson! Brian McKinnie's still suspended and a rookie's going up against Pep! I might not be too embarrassed to wear his jersey! I said.

Then I wore my Panthers undershirt for the first time this season, watched my first game without my Goose (Ricky, a transplanted diehard Cardiac Cat lover, spent the day of the Emmys at Leonardo DiCaprio's house filming celebrity Obama endorsements. Ricky's priorities are incredibly out of whack. He wrote jealously...) and I totally forgot about Jared Allen. Apparently, the Panthers did the same thing. Not film Obama endorsements. Forget about Jared Allen.

Brethren covered the game too well for me to talk about it, so I'll just say this:

After Johnathan Stewart scored his third touchdown in 2 weeks (while remaining on my fantasy bench) I picked up the Panther bucket I had and beat it ferociously as my velcro Sir Purr hung from my neck. After an appropriate amount of elation, a young woman behind me tapped me on the shoulder. She stated simply, "My uncle played for the Panthers, and I gotta say, you rock. I miss good ol' Panther fans."

"Whose your uncle?" I asked.

"Rodney Peete."

Had I my digital camera, a lithograph, or the syrup-based artistic skills of Jean-Michel Basquiat I would've done something to keep that moment forever. We talked about how without Peete's guidance, there would be no Jake Delhomme and how meaningful and significant his time there was. I don't remember her name because I was drunk on power and Bud Light by then, but she was a Bengals fan and a pretty cool chick to say the least.

Anyway, I hear the Panthers are playing next week, so that's what I'm focusing on. The Dirty Birds look decent this year, but the guy who traditionally beats the shit out of us won't be starting this week (pulled hamstring. Also, he's in prison.) so there's a chance we can pull this out. It'd be a solid win and a great start to a semi-home stand.
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Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Return to College Football

Brethren: It's Saturday morning and college football is beckoning. I haven't had college football beckon me in quite some time. Between the Carolina Panthers giggly-good start at 2-0 (really, we're 3.5 underdogs to the Vikings? With craziness like that, I should just bet on football to make a living), my job, the suck that is Al Groh and Virginia football, combined with a general lack of epic-ness from college football, my Saturdays have been scarce on beckoning.

That changes today.

It mainly changes because the Southeastern Conference has a huge billing today. The Gators go to Knoxville to play the Vols and the two Tigers of Auburn and LSU do their thang in the evening. I am geared up to go to a Gators bar the same way I did last year for the Gators-Vols game; unfortunately, the Cap't and Mammy won't be at the game like last year, but it's still ramping up to be a romp a la the Gators 59-20 win in Gainesville in 2007. Percy Harvin is returning to the line-up and feeling better than ever, the Gators take on their first SEC test, and the Florida boys treat Knoxville like it's Momma's second house.

Yes, college football has come a'beckoning. And with the weather taking a delectable turn to cool breezes and sunshine, today feels like a fine day to return the call.

More musings de college football desde

Brethren: I am truly fired up about this Saturday. The SEC has reaffirmed its dominance over any other pansy conference in all of college football land, and today will be a testament to that. The conference has 5 of the top 10 teams in college football! And today, the consensus #4 team will take its show on the road and show Fat Phil what good football in the SEC East is all about.

Perhaps Nacho will check in, but he lives in a city where everyone worships USC, and despite their demolition of UVA and Ohio State, I'm just not buying what USC is selling. They play in the Pac-10; they're not the best team in the US of A. The top team in the country will be an SEC team, like the past two years, and that's that.

Saturday, I welcome your beckons. Let's get it on.
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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Week 2: Rock N Roll

Nacho: Anyone who read our Panthers preview is probably smugly smiling today, and probably a little richer. Which, I hear, could prove better for the ol' wallet. I'm not advocating gambling on sports, but it just feels a little safer these days.

I returned to my Panther headquarters out in Hollywood this weekend. The most ADD environment one can possibly watch football: Big Wangs. 42 flat screens showing every game being played. We camped out between Lions fans, Colts fans and a few shifty-looking Bears fans.

The game started, we ate humble pie, things looked about as good as they have at home for the past couple years. By halftime I was on the receiving end of some pretty pointed barbs and hilarious insults. I chomped on my barbeque chicken wings and smiled with sauce in my beard: the game is sixty minutes long, kids. Why does every team in the NFL not get this? We're the Panthers. We don't play for three quarters, we play the whole damn game.

Anyway, two more towers of beer and a cheese pizza later the Panthers had eked out another victory, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. There truly isn't a more anti-climactic ending to a pro game than four knees taken, but hey, a W is a W.

For the record, I'm getting a ton of de ja vu recently: in 2003 there was a shitty, war-mongering president named Bush in office and no one could beat the Panthers in the fourth quarter. Welcome back, Cardiac Cats.

and now, for something completely similar...

Nacho cont'd: Jonathan Stewart taught me a valuable lesson about not starting him in my fantasy leagues, and I have a feeling the phrase "Pass intended for Mushin Muhammed" was not said over the PA system nearly as much as last week. The turning point in the game, the moment that made me turn to all those probably-felonious Bears fans and say, "Oh dear, you don't have a chance, now," was when Jake was spearheaded by a Bear defensive back, sprang up, threw off his helmet and started pounding his chest. Minutes later Beason made a spectacular tackle and started slapping his own chest. These two unbridled displays of enthusiasm and testosterone sealed the deal for the Cats.

One last note: Darius Rucker sang the national anthem yesterday. The two other previous times he's sung it, the Panthers have made the post season. These are the things that matter, people.

Brethren: Week Two didn't have the heart-stopping drama like the Week One victory over San Diego did. But it certainly was a roller coaster, and it took me though all the highs and lows of a Carolina Panthers win. I'm physically and emotionally exhausted, and all I did was scream at a TV and drink beer made from the Rockies.

It was an awesome comeback win -- done without our best player, the suspended Steve Smith. I am downright giddy we've got him coming back next week; as Jake said, "we've got our rocket back."

And now to the Brethren patented bulleted thoughts:
- The first half was downright sloppy. I really don't understand the outrageous amount of false starts. I seem to remember at least six. Not cool. Not cool.

- We need a nickname for Jonathan Stewart. Two weeks in, and he's nickname-worthy. I love that he has stated his goal of trying to become the "greatest running back in NFL history." That's badass. And not even remotely outrageous.

- Moose was huge today, and has been a big reason this team has gotten out to a 2-0 record without Steve Smith. What a veteran, a leader. I love the guy. Feels right to have him back.

- The Cap't bought a BeasTON black jersey today. It was an awesome sign for another banner day from the second-year defensive stalwart.

- Chris Harris, at it again with the forcing of the fumble. He is the awesome. Rock.

- Minnesota scares me a bit, as they'll be a desperate 0-2. But fuck that, they should be scared we're getting Steve Smith back. Rock.
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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Week 1: The Start of Domination

Nacho: I am currently sporting the most ridiculous red neck at this moment. It's in the shape of a V-neck. I stood/leaned in the first row at the 35 yard line behind the Panther bench. At a quiet moment I shrieked a complete sentence to Chris Harris, something about "acknowledge my existence!!!" He stuck out both hands as he rode on the stationary bike, and gave me a double-thumbs up. I'll be back in a bit...

Brethren: Wow.

Holy shit, what a first week win. Going into the Whale's Vagina, not a many pundits gave the Panthers of Carolina a chance to win the first game of the season. That didn't matter. Nacho was at the game; therefore, we had a fighting chance. And Jeebus, did we give the Chargers a game.

Much will be said about the heroics of Jake, Dante Rosario, Chris Harris, and the two-minute offense. And at the end of day, they won the game in those last seconds. But what I watched was not a close, two-point win. I saw a team that dominated a ridiculously talented AFC team on the road. I saw a team go up 9-7 at the half when they should have been up 28-7. I saw a team that looked confident. And dominant.

I saw the Carolina Panthers.

Brethren (cont'd): Smokey aka Nacho was at the game, so I'm not sure I can add much more. Here are my patented bulleted thoughts:

- I watched the game in a bar in Murray Hill in Manhattan that consisted of many Panthers fans. We had an awesome crowd.

- I jumped up and down in men's arms after that last-second touchdown. I was so angry that Jake didn't call a timeout when the clock read 0:07. But then he threw a slant to Moose, and called time with 0:02 seconds left. He then did his business, caught Dante's eyes, threw him the ball, and won the game. I was no longer angry. I was estatic.

- Honestly, we won that game several times. The defense produced a TD; they kept LDT under 100 yards; we just couldn't get into the end zone until the end there. We should have won this game going away.

- That said, we beat a consensus AFC playoff team. On the road. As I stated on Deadspin, we are the Carolina Panthers and the NFL has been put on notice.

Nacho: I'm fairly certain I sat closer to a pro football game than anyone in my family ever has. But before all that, I had to get to San Diego. Ricky & I hopped on the 6:33am subway to downtown LA, jumped into the Surfliner to San Diego, and sat next to a old acquaintance we'd met once before: an original Top Cat Panther cheerleader.

We arrived at the Power Party outside Qualcomm Stadium around 10:30 and I made a bee line for the tri-tip BBQ hoagie. At this point, we were about eight beers in, and we were welcomed by the pretty swell Chargers fans. Everyone talked about Brady, & we decided to take a walk of cojones through the tailgates. We were loudly, and rowdily heckled on all sides by drunk Chargers fans. It was as intimidating as the walk Ethan Hawke does through the Jungle in "Training Day".

We found our seats, but moved immediately to the first row, leaning over the railing, and commenced shrieking like banshees. We did not stop drinking, heckling, antagonizing and going out of our daggum minds for three straight quarters. The weather was perfect, the fans were evenly split between really cool people, and fans who made decent villains.

As the 4th quarter swung to and fro, and the Chargers scored with about two and a half minutes, my commentary to the crowd was "But did they score too soon?" The guy with face paint and a cape cocked a worried eyebrow. As Biscuit Defender drove the boys downfield and the clock kept ticking, John Fox didn't make one misstep. This was one of the specific situations in which John Fox had been shitting the bed in recent seasons, and he nailed it.

From my vantage point, I saw that the snap was high, Jake's pump fake fooled me, and then, in one glorious moment, I saw Rosario leap up and nary a Charger was at the same height. As soon as his fingers touched the ball I tuned, ripped my Peppers jersey off, and started waving it around my head like a helicopter. In times of great joy, I revert to the biggest stereotype I can.

The Chargers fans were nowhere to be found, so we led the Panther fans in a chorus of chants and cheers. Walking out of the stadium we yelled multiple instigating phrases, such as "We can't spell, but we win ball games." and, "That's why they make the game sixty minutes, and not fifty-nine minutes and fifty-eight seconds." We were clever.

The trolley system had some trouble, y'know, running but we eventually made our way onto the train home. Where we slept with smiles upon our faces. For a day, we were kings.

One last note: did you know that Sam Cassell would be ejected from NFL games for doing his "you got no mah-bulls" dance from Major League 2? Myself and some Chargers did the dance, and the cops came up and reprimanded my cohort Ricky for it. Thanks, Goodell.

Soundtracks for the Day:

Nacho: The theme from Mercenaries 2 "Oh No You Didn't"
Brethren: "More Time" by Needtobreathe.
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And Heeeere We Go.

Brethren: My brother, aka Nacho aka Smokey aka the most hilarious guy I know, just sent me that text message. He's en route to the Whale's Vagina as we speak, and I'm waking up, trying to understand why my head and right fist hurt, but not caring. I have a bar to get to; Smokey has a game to go to.

Because that time is here: the Carolina Panthers play a motherfucking football game today.

And this time, it counts. See you after the Cats do their thang.
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