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And They’re Off!

catz n dogz livin' 2gethurr

For all the awesome product the NBA has churned out over the past two years, one of the larger gripes has been the lack of blockbuster trades. Bill Simmons rewarded himself a cookie when he deemed the league the No Balls Association vis a vis these lack of trades. Also, because he was a bit peckish. Alas, with the looming specter of the 2010 Off Season cresting the horizon, many teams found themselves shuffling players like cards as the trade deadline came and went on Thursday. While the biggest name involved was an aging former All Star, significant moves were made all around the league. Most of them were financial strategies meant to prepare for the Off Season but a few will have immediate effects on teams vying for the playoffs. Let’s break those down, shall we?

In the end, no one made more moves than the Knicks. The boys from Manhattan made a series of salary dumps that should net them about $32 million in cap space after the season. They gained Tracy McGrady which would’ve been much bigger news had McGrady done anything of significance ever in his career. They also traded Darko Milic, ensuring there’ll be six more weeks of winter. All in all, the Knicks spent the day sending coded messages to Dwyane Wade & Chris Bosh in the event they don’t land LeBron. (more…)

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Whatchu Starin’ At, Abyss?

longass journeyMid- to late-February

Hey gang, it’s Friday of that week in between the football playoffs and the Super Bowl, and you know what that means: There’s very little in the sporting world to care about!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! The NBA announced their All Star team reserves this week, which is really only significant because Josh Smith was snubbed and Gerald Wallace became the first Bobcat to ever appear in the ASG. Other than that, really old people are reminding us that pitchers and catchers return in 97 days, and the NCAA is playing hot potato with the #1 ranking.

As such, this is the perfect time to reflect on the little things in life. Having personally felt the pang of the recession, this is an area I feel I’m somewhat well-versed in. So, without further ado, here’s a guide to filling the gaping maw that is Late Winter, cuz after the Super Bowl there’s very little to care about for long stretches of time. (more…)

Weak Side Late Assignment: The South Done Rose

you know it, boys

Mickey: If you look around the sports landscape these here days, you have no choice but to come to one conclusion: the South is much better at the sports that matter than any other region.

Disclaimer: We are, of course, referring to the South in the most 21st Century War of Northern Aggression ways. Central Virginia is at its highest point on the eastern seaboard, the Mississippi River is as far west as it goes; Northern Virginia/DC is not the South.

NFL: Since 2002 and the new divisional structure, the NFC South has put more teams in the NFC Championship game than any other division (6). The NFC East likes to talk a big game, but really, it’s just adorable they think they’re better. (more…)

Now I Know How Natalie Imbruglia Feels

Nothings fine, she's torn

what was all that "lying naked on the floor" talk, Natalie?

For all my wacky antics, I’m a guy who generally likes routines. Compartment-alizing my life helps keep things nice and tidy and that makes it all much more manageable. Take the Carolina Panthers, for example. So far, there’s been three major chapters in my life vis a vis the Cats. The honeymoon period from the the mid to late 1990s when the team was founded and burst forth on to the NFL scene. My Dark Period, wherein all sports fell by the wayside while my love for making movies and wearing courds took over. Finally, there was the Relapse/Rebirth Period, from its humble beginnings in a motorcycle bar in Winston-Salem and the magical Super Bowl run that followed, up to and including last year’s thrilling last-second win in San Diego.

January 10th, 2009 felt like the end of a chapter to me. The Panthers loss to the Arizona Cardinals at the hands of Jake Delhomme provided me with nine months to marinate on my emotions towards the franchise. By summer the scars had gnarled over and I was ready to talk myself into another stellar year. Heck, we were returning 21 of 22 starters from a 12-4 team; what could possibly go wrong? (more…)

NFL Week 14 Status Update: Motivation

I will...I will hang in there!

I will...I will hang in there!

Smokey: Sensing my ennui setting in after reading last week’s column, Mickey knew drastic measures must be taken. It was clear I was spiraling into a pit of despair, despite the Panthers solid victory against the Bucs. In a move requiring both cunning and daring, he forwarded along some pithy, far-flung anti-Obama email he’d run across. Suddenly the sullen sulker from the Sunday before found his dander up. And best of all, we had a rematch of our franchise’s only Super Bowl to play!

I spent the rest of the week talking myself into a Panthers victory. “Brady’s injuries are worse than anyone’s letting on! He’s on high-alert because of Tiger & knows having a baby and a mistress at the same time would be bad! This is some sort of trap game! Has anyone’s life ever been enriched by a forwarded message, ever!?”

Of course, the Panthers lost. They lost despite forcing turnover after turnover. They put together mighty, clock-chewing drives, then would counteract them with several 3-and-outs. Now, the clever analogy here is that this game was a relatively minor one on the weekend. People are using the words “woeful” when describing the Panthers, and the Pats are leading their division. For all intents and purposes, this game shouldn’t be a blip on anyone’s radar…

However, it’s my belief that the Panthers, like Mickey, know that the outcome of the game matters less than what you take away from it. My fire for football is hitting it’s late-season stride, and I’ll be in attendance for next week’s game. The Panthers might’ve lost, but have dominated the Monday news cycle. Expect big things from both myself, and the Panthers, for the rest of the season.

(or expect them to frustratingly lose out the rest of the games and enter us into a Big Question sort of off-season)

Mickey: I’m glad I could whack Smokey out of his sulky doldrums, but man, I’m not sure I can equate that game with “motivation.” That was one ugly game to watch. (more…)

NFL Week 13 Status Update: The Home Stretch

That looks nice, doesnt it?

That looks nice, doesn't it?

Mickey: Tis the season of giving, thanking, and remembering, and I found myself thinking about that sentiment quite a lot this past Sunday during the Week 13 slate. The Panthers were putting the finishing touches on an ugly, Silver Foxian 16-6 win against a 1-win team with a rookie quarterback who flinched every time he put himself in position to have success. This win — this win in December, when football wins are supposed to mean more — didn’t feel good. This win didn’t elicit the conquering, Gladiator emotions you’re supposed to feel after a December win.

But instead of moping, instead of wrestling with (once more) how disheartening it is to root for such a stubborn head coach, and instead of nonsensically trying to get myself to believe that 5-7 means we can go 9-7, if we just take it one game at a time, I decided to think back to those long, hard, soul-crushing months when we don’t have football to take up our weekends. I long for NFL Sundays and college football Saturdays with a whimsical spark in my eye. I daydream about afternoon drinking and hangover-curing meals and reveling in the joy of consuming football.

And that thought to remind myself to appreciate football — whether that’s a 5-7 team with a brutal home stretch schedule or a 3-9 team that finds new and hilarious ways to gift games to other (better) teams or an undefeated college team going for defined greatness getting thoroughly whupped — kept my soul smiling as I went to sleep on Sunday night.

Because at the end of the day, it’s still football. Glorious, glorious football. And there’s only so much precious time left.

More Panthers and NFL thoughts if you’ll follow me: (more…)

NFL Week 12 Status Update: The Fickle Broken Finger Of Fate

who will defend our biscuits now?

who will defend our biscuits now?

(Ed. note: Mickey is moving today, leaving the safe confines of The Rock–aka Roosevelt Island–for the far more dangerous environs of Tribeca. We will speak well of him at his funeral.)

Smokey: For a moment, put yourself in the year 1919 or 1920. Imagine the situational gravity of living in the era directly following the first World War. Before this war, if some ish when down on your continent you handled yo biznass. You may get a tribe or two from a few fiefdoms over to help you out, but by and large conflicts existed on a comparatively minor scale. That all changed with The Great War; soldiers fought whose homelands were hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away. In a way, some of the first seeds of globalization were germinated with the deaths of thousands.

It was in that time and that landscape that some pretty amazing literature was born. One such litfant was “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats. In it, Yeats basically lifts images from Revelations to describe post-war Europe. It’s a dark, depressing exercise in allegory that would seem almost pithy after the Nazis got all uppity. Alas, it did give us this verse:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world

Those words strike true in the hearts of countless NFL fans after week 12 of the regular season. The last rays of playoff hopes for a handful of teams fell beneath the horizon of inevitability. Storied franchises like the Redskins and Bills are rudderless (although I have it on good authority that the Bills will spend the rest of their season ruining the rest of your favorite team’s). And despite not having a winless team still around, the bottom of the NFL barrel is looking gamier and more pungent than recent history’s. (more…)

Grizzly Friday Morning

putting Cool Ranch Doritos in the end zone was a brilliant maneuver.

putting Cool Ranch Doritos in the end zone was a brilliant maneuver.

So the Panthers laid an egg on “national” tv last night when they lost to the Miami Dolphins in Carolina. It was definitely a game we could have, and should have, won, but the chips fell differently. Our porous run defense has been exposed for, like, three straight games now. This team has lots of problems, and sits at a disheartening 4-6. On the bright side, it’s really hard to root against Ricky Williams and his stoner speed.

I’ve read enough in the past few weeks to understand the destruction a full game of football does to a human body. It takes a full week of getting professional medical attention from trainers who are very skilled at their jobs. Which is all a long way of saying I kind of hate these Thursday games. Surely, more football in my life is ALWAYS going to be good thing, no one argues that. But this past Sunday the Panthers won a physical game against the Falcons and were given three days of rest before being asked to do it all again. The Dolphins had the same schedule and found a way to win, so bully for them. But as I watched last night’s game transpire, I couldn’t help but feel for the linemen, those guys had a helluva Sunday and were asked to go bang the shit out of their heads a mere half-week later.

This is where my mind goes when you sit watching your team rely too heavily upon Jake Delhomme. It was a heart-wrenching cock-punch of a loss, the kind the Panthers seem to specialize in. We’ve got the ten days to rest before taking on the Jets, and if the squad’s healthy, that should be another big win for us. Only time will tell.

Man, is there anything sadder than a fan of a losing team on a Friday?

NFL Week 10 Status Meeting: Falcons Near & Far

Smitty emits his barbaric yawp.

Smitty emits his barbaric yawp.

Smokey: Mickey and I had wildly different experiences concerning Atlanta Falcons fans this weekend, but since mine is anticlimactic and boring, I’ll go first. The Panthers toppled the division rival Falcons with a solid ground game, and remembering that Steve Smith plays for them. It was all very thrilling. The biggest story of the day was that Jordan Gross, the All-Pro component to our offensive line, is out with an ankle for this Thursday’s game against the Dolphins.

There was but one Falcons fan in my sports bar on Sunday, and he was an absolute prince. He wore a Keith Brooking jersey, which I respected, but talked a tad too urban for someone who probably went to Emory. Irregardless, we spoke at halftime and had nothing but pleasantries between us. I almost felt bad as I cheered on Carolina through their second half, but in the end I didn’t. It was a self-esteem boosting win and proved that if the Panthers can run into some decent QBs on their off days, we just might be able to salvage a Wild Card spot out of this season. And now, without further ado, here’s the better story from the weekend… (more…)

Captain Jax Will Get You High Tonight

yes, thats a tattoo of a gun and cross

yes, that's a tattoo of a gun and cross

Outstanding news from the warfront: Stephen Jackson is Charlotte-bound in a deal that ships Raja Bell and Vlad Rad to Oakland. Everyone’s gonna use words like “embattled” and “disgruntled” when they describe Jax because he’s been looking for a trade for a while. It was on my radar, but I didn’t pay it much mind because it’s the Warriors and it’s Nelly, and really, all I knew of the situation was that Bill Simmons thinks the fans up there are pretty awesome and they’re being dicked over.

The NBA’s got a bit of a me-first problem, but that’s the nature of the league. Can you imagine a scenario where Joe Mauer says he’s the best athlete in Minnesota and Adrian Peterson gets him run out of town? With the end of the decade nigh, a lot of Top Ten lists are gonna be coming out, and there damn well better be one that includes Stephen Jackson in some capacity. The man’s done just about anything you could ask of an insane him playing professional sports. Let’s take a walk down memory lane and have a slow, dawning sense of doom as we take a deeper look at the final piece to a playoff-run for the Bobcats, shall we? (more…)