Saturday, January 31, 2009

Week 19 And Beyond: The Day the Music Died

Brethren: It has taken me a full three weeks to write this. The absolute stomach-punching atrocity that formed a burning sadness and simultaneous anger in my heart on January 10th, 2009, has finally turned into a compact black hole I'll carry for a long time. But while compact, it's small and it doesn't consume my entire heart.

But for a while there, it absolutely did. After Jake's second interception in the first half and we were suddenly facing a two touchdown plus differential, my world started to fade quickly. We had an entire section of the bar in the East Village reserved and I can take at least 60% of the credit for turning us into an interminably miserable peoples. I was angry. We had worked hard to get to 12-4 dammit. And then it all slipped away as Jake played the worst game of his career and John Fox stubbornly didn't gameplan for the Cardinals' most potent offensive weapon.

A lot has happened since that night three weeks ago. Nearly all the defensive coaches are gone, most notably, the defensive coordinator Trgovac. He's been replaced by the Colts' D-Coordinator, Ron Meeks. Indy hasn't been renowned for the defensive side of the ball in recent years because of Pey-Pey's huge presence in your standard marketing campaigns, but statistically, this guy knows what he's doing. And he has a Super Bowl ring. This will still be a John Fox team, but Meeks brings an aggressiveness to the defense that we clearly lacked in that Arizona playoff game.

The Cardinals have moved on in dramatic fashion, and I've been rooting for them all the way. I always start rooting for the team that knocks mine out of the tournament, if only to say, "hey -- nobody could beat those guys that year -- how'd you expect us to?"

And of course, the most potentially bizarre situation is the elephant in the proverbial room right now: Defensive End Julius Peppers wanting out of Carolina. The Panthers jersey I own carries Peppers's #90 and name, he was the first piece of the John Fox era, he is the most ridiculous athlete to ever hit the Charlotte sports scene; and yet, if he truly wants out and he thinks he has to leave our organization to truly reach his potential, well then fuck that. Fucking Carolina grad. I can turn on him in a heartbeat.

But Pep, if this all works out and you stay on in the Kakkalak and dominate the way we know you can, we're cool. If not, you gots to get the fuck out.

As for me, I spent the rest of the night of Jan 10th getting as weird as possible. Lots of shots, lots of drinks, self-inflicting damage had to be done. I put on my onesie and didn't get out of bed until 5:30 PM the next day, eating only a small sandwich and some yogurt when I did. It was pathetically adorable and I couldn't have gotten over the pain of watching your team self-implode so dramatically when they could have been so great without this exercise in self-pity. Writing this blog every week about the Panthers certainly ups my ante as a fan -- I feel much more personally invested when I'm chronicling the emotional highs and lows of following this team. So when you get that involved, it only hurts that much more when the sudden and finite end swiftly kicks you in the ass.

But life goes on. Players will come, players will go; and we will rebuild a roster that will look different than the '08 version. Fans will turn on Jake the second he throws his first interception next season, but I hope Fox/Hurney don't. I think they should open up training camp for competition, but I suspect Jake would win that. He's Smitty's QB -- and next year, we'll just have to have a better defense and remember that we're a fucking running team that likes to take a chance every now and again downfield with Smitty. Stick to that identity and we should be force to be reckoned with again.

Life has gone on. Nacho and I will continue to check in with the Panthers as the off-season progresses and big news pops up, but we turn our attention to the improving Bobcats and the coming months of non-football sports. And it shall be good.

I missed the concept of the jump with this post, but perhaps Nacho will have some words down there.

(And yes, that picture up top is of Nacho and Brethren, dressed to the ts in our onesies that Mammy gave us for Christmas, drinking scotch. Like all good Southerners. Admit it: we're so hot right now.)

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Bobcats 114, Celtics 106

Brethren: I didn't watch this game at all -- I live with a die-hard Knick fan and so we watched them lose to The Team That Shall Not Be Named (RIP Seattle) -- but sometimes, something happens that makes you scour the Interwebs looking for all the info you can about a game you couldn't watch. The Bobcats beating the world champion Celtics at home in overtime is one of those games for we Bobcats fans.

Both Nacho and I attended home Bobcats games while in Charlotte for Winter Break '08, and yet we didn't write a post about either game. Nacho saw a win over the Wizards; I went to the loss to the Knicks (I actually went to the Knicks loss in NY back in November too). It's just that it's crunch time for us and we'd like to conserve our energy for the Panthers. But that doesn't mean we don't care about the Bobcats or don't have the same rabid fandom for LB's Cats.

Well, maybe not as much as we do for the Silver Fox's, but after the Cardiac Cats go as far as their merry playoff journey will take them, I have a sneaking suspicion we'll be starting the Bobcats Bandwagon, as this team starts to pick up on Coach Brown's style.

Nacho: Likewise, I wasn't made aware of this epic success until I was informed by my cohort Dugan. I believe his message over iChat was "What does Charlotte think they're gonna prove? They're beating the Celtics in overtime." I immediately clicked back over to the GameCast and kept a watchful eye. My coworkers saw me intermittently ecstatic and worried for my Cats. When they prevailed it was quittin' time and I rode home with a gleam in my eye.

I remember when we lost on a Ray Allen dagger last year and how exhilarated I was. To finally get that W is a small, but significant mountain. Dugan humbled me with a message later that was "Next stop: NBA Finals. The Celtics; not the Bobcats."

I'll take thirteen wins any year of the decade....sigh.

Go Panthers!
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Monday, January 5, 2009

Week 18: The Drinking Game

Nacho: After the smoke had cleared and the charred rubble had been picked through, the Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Iggles emerged victorious in the Wild Card Weekend of the National Football League. The AFC also played games, but I'm gonna go ahead and assume you know about that.

So how do the SportsBrethren feel about this rematch of drunk proportions? As the New Zealanders say, It's Business Time.

I think it bodes well for the Cats that they barely eked out a victory at home against the Cards earlier this year. Up until the fourth quarter there wasn't one iota of certainty about how the game would play out. Boldin was back and scary, but Edge James was really a non-factor in the game. That is not so much the case anymore. Edge and Boldin are finding reserves of talent heretofore dormant to the public eye. The Panthers match up a heck of a lot better with Arizona than they do Minny or Philly, so I'm glad for that aspect, but Kurt Warner's Faustian destiny still seems a few years off.

If the game this upcoming Saturday is anything like the depressing-then-inspiring, come-from-behind victory of yore I'll be pleased. The best we can hope for is everybody in the media starts hyping the Cards, so ESPN, FOX, and Blogosphere have at it.

The Cards did some monumental things this season. Won a home playoff game. Won their division. These are things they should be proud of. And use to build momentum next season.

For the record, Leitch never paid up on the beer he owes me, so I've upped the ante to a pony keg. Who knows if he'll be man enough to take me up on it; at this point I'd imagine he's playing with House Money. I am truly glad he got to see a playoff game in the Melted Hershey Kiss, but playtime's over.

Brethren may or may not get around to posting his thoughts on the weekend, somewhere after...

Nacho cont'd: In the meantime, lets bask in the memories.

Brethren: I celebrated my 24th birthday yesterday by drinking several pint-sized Pabst Blue Ribbon cans with good friends at a bar whilst watching the Sunday NFL. In a lot of ways, it was not unlike, oh, every other Sunday this fall/winter.

But you know what I've come to learn now that I'm in my mid-twenties? I gotta ap'reciate what I got in life, especially what I got from 2008: two damn good football teams. No matter what happens this week, I am going to be watching two epic games that I will be heavily invested in.

First, on Thursday night, the Florida Gators play for their second national championship in three years (and third in my lifetime). Now, I've already explained my perfectly legal pro and college football allegiances round these parts, so I don't want to hear anything about that. Now, granted, I haven't written about Baby Rhino and the Gators much this year (at all?), but that doesn't mean Urban Meyer's tour de force hasn't been on my mind. At this point, you'd be a silly, silly man to doubt Tim Tebow and the horde of fleet-footed receiver/tailbacks he has at his disposal. It has been good to be a Florida Gator this year, and I expect nothing but perfection come Thursday.

But whether or not the Gators bring home the crystal ball, I know that football will continue to matter come Saturday night. Football will not be out of my life. When Charlotte plays host to the first home playoff game since a night game against the Cowgirls in 2003, football will still be running through my veins. It's not always that when college football bowl season ends, and ends in epic fashion, that I've got something to look forward to. This year, this football season, I do.

Go Gators.

Then bring on the Buzzsaw.

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