Saturday, January 31, 2009
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 He's been replaced by the Colts' D-Coordinator, Ron Meeks.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.)