Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Stray Cats

When I moved to North Carolina seventeen years ago, I intended to make this my final home.  As a result, I made a conscious decision to root for the home teams.  It took me a while to transition from being a New York Knick fan to a Charlotte Hornets fan and now Bobcats fan. It took me less time to transition to becoming a Panther fan especially as the team was in its second year when I moved here.  I have had season tickets to the Panthers and Bobcats for the past several years and have rooted passionately for both franchises.  Unfortunately, rooting for the Bobcats and Panthers in the past few years has not been easy but it has been fun and a lot different than rooting for New York teams.


The Panthers have truly been the best of times and the worst of times.  I will never forget attending the Super Bowl in Houston having bought a ticket from a scalper to root for the Panthers against the hated Patriots.  No one thought that the Panthers could pull it out and they almost did.

Since that time, most seasons have been disappointing but still enjoyable to watch.

It appears that there will be big changes coming as a result of the firing of Marty Hurney and I admit to having mixed emotions.  When you root for New York teams, you never feel guilty about the firing of a GM or coach.  You typically are excited by the thoughts of the next "savior" 

But, I have discovered that there is more of a sense of community here and I feel more connected to the leadership of the local franchises.  I liked Marty Hurney despite having never met him.  He seemed as much a part of the Panthers as Sir Purr and the late arriving, early leaving crowds at the games.

I, like most, questioned each and every move he made. Isn't that every fans responsibility? I was right about Armanti Edwards but wrong about Cam Newton.  But in the end, I think that Hurney maintained a level of class and professionalism in his role as GM.  And, judging by the reaction to his firing in the Panther locker room, he was quite popular with the players as well.  How many self indulged athletes act truly hurt by the firing of a GM like we saw the other day?

But with the sadness of the firing of Hurney came the exciting news of his "temporary" replacement.  Though it has not gotten a ton of publicity, Stanly County's own Brandon Beane has been named interim GM of the Panthers.  Since Hurney hired him, Beane must feel horrible about the manner in which he achieved this opportunity, but nonetheless, how exciting for a local guy from Norwood to be the General Manager of an NFL franchise in his mid 30's no less.

I guess I will have to keep my opinions more tempered which might be difficult to do but it will be interesting to see where the Panthers go from here.  With the key injuries to Kalil, Gamble and Beason, it does not look like their fortunes are going to change anytime soon!


Though the Hornets gave Charlotte a lot to cheer about for the most part, the Bobcats have done little to bring excitement to this area.

Nonetheless, I had similar sentiments of seeing Paul Silas replaced as I did Hurney's dismissal.  I am unfortunately old enough to remember Silas as a player and he was a quiet, unassuming power forward who played the game the right way.  He seemed to bring that same attitude to coaching though this was not always easy with the type of athletes that make it to the NBA.

The Bobcats hired Mike Dunlap to replace Silas and it appears they may have hit a home run with the new coach.  The team still lacks talent but it appears that Dunlap has been working hard to change the attitude of the team and all reports suggest he definitely understands the game.

The Bobcats start their season next week and here's hoping that they can bring some excitement and perhaps some wins to this area.  

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Dream Teams

The debate over the last few weeks has been interesting regarding the latest gold medal winning USA Men's Basketball team and how it would fare against the original "Dream Team".

Debating different times in history has always been a fun thing to do in sports.  Can you imagine Babe Ruth playing baseball today?  Could the Klitchko brothers have competed against Muhammad Ali, George Foreman and Joe Frazier? 

Here is my take on the 1992 team against today's current group. 

First, there has been a lot of discussion about the age of the original Dream Team with one side claiming that the team was too old and the other side saying that the average age of the superstars on that team was only late 20's.  My personal recollection is that for the most part, that team was past their prime.  If you look up the original Dream Team, the teams core was Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Chris Mullin, Michael Jordan, David Robinson, John Stockton, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Clyde Drexler and Charles Barkley.

Sounds pretty formidable!


If you take a closer look, Larry Bird retired from the NBA the season after the Olympics so clearly he was not in his prime.  Magic Johnson was diagnosed with HIV a year before the Olympics and had not played much competitive basketball before the Olympic games so clearly he was not in his prime.  Even Michael Jordan's best statistical years were before 1992. This is also the case for Barkley, Drexler and Mullin whose best years in the NBA were prior to 1992.  David Robinson, Karl Malone, Chris Mullin and Patrick Ewing had some of their best years after the Olympics but even this second groups best years came prior to the 1992 games.

The next interesting issue is how the game has changed since 1992. 

If you look at the rosters of the teams the USA faced in the 1992 games, you would realize that there is not a lot of name recognition.  In the 1992 Gold Medal Game, the USA faced Croatia who had two very good players, Toni Kukoc and Drazen Petrovic both of who had some good years in the NBA. But the rest of the roster had very little talent.  And  the same could be said for the rosters of the other teams in that Olympics.  People forget that the popularity of basketball in the rest of the world has taken off in the past 20 years and the amount of prominent players from the rest of the world is much greater today.

Now, lets look at the 2012 USA squad.  Lebron James and Kevin Durrant appear to both be in their primes and in the case of Durrant, he is only in his early 20's so we could see him become even better!  Chris Paul, James Harden, and Kevin Love also appear to be younger than their 1992 counterparts.  The inside game for this current team does appear to be thin as both Dwight Howard and Blake Griffin were lost to injury even before the games began. 

Before looking at what might happen in a mythical game, keep in mind that the competition has improved tremendously.  The Spain team that the USA defeated for the Gold Medal in 2012 consisted of not just NBA players, but NBA stars and starters up and down the roster.  The Gasol brothers, Serge Ibaka, Jose Calderone, Juan Carlos Navarro and Rudy Fernandez are names known to even the casual NBA fan.

I think if the there was some way of playing such a mythical game when every player was in his prime than the original Dream Team would probably win.  Magic Johnson and Larry Bird in their primes would have made the difference.  But, in 1992, Bird and Magic had supporting roles much like Kobe Bryant did in the most recent Olympics. 

The real question would be could Michael Jordan at 6'6" score at will against defenders such as Carmelo Anthony or Lebron James who would easily have size and strength advantages over him. And, could Charles Barkley have dominated the boards at 6'6" for easy put backs against the taller current lineup.

My take is that it would come down to the younger, better athletes of today's team who could easily shoot over their 1992 counterparts from the outside versus the better overall players in 1992 who had more NBA smarts and experience.

And though I am in a distinct minority, I believe that the current team would beat the 1992 team simply from an athletic standpoint.  I think Barkley and Jordan would be neutralized by the speed and quickness of today's players such as Durrant and Lebron.  Though I think that Robinson, Malone and Ewing were probably better inside than Tyson Chandler and Kevin Love, I do not think that either of the two teams were built to play an inside pick and roll game.  I actually think that the game would come down to conditioning and that this current team would be able to keep up a run and gun pace better than the 1992 team who really never had to face any highly skilled, formidable opponents.

Shade of Gray 

Is there anything left to add regarding the Penn State situation?

I think the issue that is most difficult to come to grips with is linking the horrible crimes of Jerry Sandusky to the current state of the football team and the alleged crimes of the Penn State leadership.

For many years,  Joe Paterno had as squeaky clean a reputation as any person involved in sports forget just college football.  If there was a Mt. Rushmore of coaches in any sport all time, Paterno would have had as good a chance as anybody to be considered for such an honor.  It was well known and well publicized that he ran a clean program, that he personally paid for the library at Penn State, that his players graduated and that he emphasized academic and intellectual growth every bit as much as better statistics on the football field.

But of course, we all learned that he most likely went to his grave possessing knowledge of Sandusky's heinous crimes and actually played an active role in suppressing the information that could have led to an earlier arrest and conviction of Sandusky.

Unfortunately, we will never know exactly what Paterno knew or did not know and what possibly could have motivated him to keep quiet.  Is there something that Sandusky knew about Paterno that Paterno was afraid the public would find out?  Was Paterno really concerned only with his own legacy and that of his football team?

In any case, as is often the case, the ones who will pay the most dearly besides the poor kids who were abused, will be those involved with Penn State whether directly or indirectly related to the football program.  Whether right or wrong, the football program financed every other sport and almost every other business associated with that university.

In a world of black and white, is it possible to applaud Joe Paterno for his dedication to thousands of students and student athletes over 60+ years of service, yet still deplore him for his lack of candor when it came to the actions of a former assistant coach?  Apparently not.  I am not sure I can recall any public figure in recent times who dropped so far in public perception as Joe Paterno did.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Big Brother

Not that any Bobcat fan should be jealous of the New Orleans Hornets but have you noticed that the Hornets, and the name should belong to Charlotte NOT New Orleans, seems to get in our way like an obnoxious older brother.

Tonight, the Hornets stole Anthony Davis from us courtesy of David Stern and his ridiculous "draft lottery" rule which adds insult to injury for the team with the worst record in the NBA.  Memo to David Stern, the Bobcats lost because they were bad not because they tanked it to get the first pick in the draft! 

And BTW...it looks more unscrupulous that the New York Knicks got Patrick Ewing, that the Spurs got Tim Duncan and that Cleveland got Lebron James than it would have if the Bobcats landed the rightly entitled shot at Anthony Davis.  Instead, the Hornets who are currently OWNED by the NBA get to choose Davis.

It would not be so bad if it were not the team who got Chris Paul instead of us (the Bobcats actually declined a deal that would have given us Paul for what turned out to be Raymond Felton and Sean May).  And they took away Omeka Okafor one of our most talented players ever for Tyson Chandler who decided that he could not play up to his usual level while wearing a Bobcat uniform.

My hope is that the Bobcats will draft Michael Kidd Gilchrist with the second pick though I can only imagine who Michael Jordan will choose with the pick.  Does Adam Morrison have a kid brother?



I love the back and talk between the Panther players and the 49er players.  It started with Alex Smith suggesting that he is the better QB than Cam Newton because his team went 13-3 last year and the Panthers went 6-10.

So Jon Beason called him out on it which led to Patrick Willis defending his QB from statements made by Beason.

I simply wonder whether the Panthers are actively calling the 49ers in hopes of landing Smith in an even up trade for Cam.......End of Argument!


So this is my second blog and I heard basically nothing about my first.  My wife claims that people  told her that they read it but I am not so sure.  I think I might be the only one who did....my wife clearly did not!

All feedback is accepted!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I need to start by thanking BJ Drye and the Editors at the SNAP for affording me this opportunity.  Hopefully they will not be disappointed..
Does it ever seem to anyone else that the Panthers and Bobcats are forever caught in a game of "anything you can do...." 

So the Panthers decided to a couple of years ago to throw in the towel early in the season in hopes of getting the first pick in the NFL draft.  This lead to the firing of  popular coach, John Fox, but allowed the Panthers to draft Cam Newton with the first pick. 

Not to be outdone, the Bobcats managed to record the worst winning percentage in the history of the NBA much to the dismay of popular coach Paul Silas who was told he would not be returning to coach the Bobcats next year.  Let's hope that the Bobcats can land Anthony Davis to be the Bobcats Cam Newton.
I am pleased for the most part with this year's Panther draft but I am left with some questions as always.
It seems as though the Panthers are determined to draft the players that they like without any regard for the strategic part of the draft that teams like the Patriots thrive on. For those who may have forgotten, the Panthers wanted Armati Edwards so bad that they traded a second round pick that turned out to be the first pick in the second round (and the first pick of the second day of the draft) to the Patriots.  Not a great move and a horrible one the day Edwards gets cut this summer. 
This year, the Panthers drafted Brad Nortman,  a punter in the 6th round of the draft.  Pretty good punter out of Wisconsin.  He was rated somewhere between 5th and 10th in the pre draft rankings by multiple sources.  Problem is that only one other punter was drafted this year by another perennial poor drafting team, the Jacksonville Jaguars. 
My main problem with this pick is there is no chance that this guy gets picked if the Panther do not pick him.  So he would have been available as a free agent for the Panthers to sign after the draft.  He and about ten other punters would have salivated to sign with the Panthers as Jason Baker had already been cut prior to the draft. 
I am not sure that the Panthers second round pick, Amini Silatolu,  a Division II  star would not have been available later in the draft as well. Perhaps like other teams, we could have traded our slot in the second round and still gotten Silatolu later.
Cole Hamels is a great pitcher and a member of my fantasy baseball team (you will hear a lot about my various fantasy teams if you are the one or two who chooses to actually read my blog).  I have been following baseball for too many years and I can not recall a pitcher actually admitting to hitting a batter on purpose.  But Hamels admitted to hitting Bryce Harper this weekend and Cool Cole received only a five day suspension which amounts to him missing only one start.  Great for Cole and great for my first place fantasy team.  But not so great for justice.  How does a guy admit to compromising the integrity of the game and get a slap on the wrist.  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would probably have suspended him for the rest of the season....
I love the Yankees.  And I love Derek Jeter.  Jeter is a throwback.  He says the right things, plays the game hard and has remained with one team, just like great players used to do (hey, Lebron!).  Jeter turns 38 in June and is now hitting .397.  He has five home runs and has been crushing the ball.  Last year he was batting .260 for the first part of the season and could not get the ball out of the infield.  Why in the name of Ryan Braun am I worried that its too good to be true? (Stop smirking David Ortiz...I have no doubt about what you've been up to).
Speaking of the Yankees and classy athletes.  I think Mariano Rivera may go down as the most popular Yankee ever outside of New York, which is saying a lot as long as Yogi is still around.  I can not think of anytime that he has ever been anything but friendly, respectful and gracious.  Its a shame that his career may end on a fluke injury as he was shagging fly balls before a recent Yankee game in Kansas City.  He says he is coming back and I for one hope he does.
Finally, I am not sure there are many (any?) who enjoy NHL hockey. But I will go on record as saying that no other sport is as exciting as playoff hockey.  I love the NCAA tournament, and I love NFL football, but this years NHL playoffs have been a series of close games with many going into overtime where the first team to score wins.  And, they play on until someone scores.  Last week, the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals played three overtimes which is equivalent to an entire extra game before the Rangers prevailed.  The intensity and fatigue was evident and the entertainment value unmatched!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Once upon a time, I had a decision to make.  After four years as Sports Editor of the Tufts Daily, my college newspaper, I could either  attend medical school or try to make a go of it as a writer.  I am reminded of that decision as I contemplate my 25th college reunion  next month.  Two of my colleagues at Tufts went “pro”; Tony Massorratti covers the Red Sox for the Boston Globe and Matt Bai is the Politcal Editor for the New York Times magazine.
All in all, I think I may be the luckiest of the three.  I am a family doctor here in Albemarle, North Carolina and get to write an occasional column for the Stanly News and Press.  Here is my first venture into the world of Sports Blogging....