Say what you want about Jake Delhomme – and people certainly are today -- but the guy sure can inspire a lot of emotion. So far today I’ve seen and heard tears, utter joy, and some just plain meanness as Panther fans celebrate with each other or commiserate about Delhomme’s release from the Panthers.
As for Delhomme, he had an extremely hard time getting through his Friday afternoon news conference at the beginning -- crying, wiping his eyes and looking down repeatedly. As tears streamed down his face, he said something I think we all knew: "I wear my heart on his sleeve. And this is me."
Delhomme said he was "blindsided" by Carolina's move to release him Thursday but that he also held "no animosity whatsoever" toward the team. He originally thought the "You're fired" call that came from the Panthers Thursday was simply to tell him he would start the season as No.2 to Matt Moore, not that he was gone.
On a Charlotte radio station today, a talk-show host talked about how much he loved this day and had longed for it. He said it felt like a national holiday and urged listeners to call in with song requests to say goodbye. His request was “Hit the Road, Jack,” which he gleefully modified to “Hit the Road, Jake.” Meanwhile, a national columnist for CBS Sportsline resurrected the "Jake the Fake" nickname he once bestowed on Delhomme before rescinding it several years ago.
Panther head coach John Fox and general manager Marty Hurney both choked up when talking about how much Delhomme meant to them and how difficult a decision this was – although they were also the ones who fired him.
No one sits on the fence about Jake, which is something you can say about just about every interesting person you run into in this life.
There’s pro-Jake (I’ve long been in that corner in an overall way, although I did call for him to be benched very early last season, after Carolina started 0-3). There’s anti-Jake. There's no neutral-Jake.
"Not every script you write is going to have a happy ending," Delhomme said Friday. "That's life."
Yes, it is. I believe the Panthers just made a big mistake jettisoning Jake and should have kept him around for 2010 as a reliable backup to Matt Moore, as I wrote in this earlier blog post. But judging from the online polls, most fans think this was the right move and I’m dead wrong. We’ll see.
The anti-Jake crowd may well be right, and I respect your opinion. We'll have to agree to disagree. But it’s amazing to me how many people are so concerned for the Panthers about saving theoretical money for a salary cap that doesn’t even exist right now.
As for Delhomme himself, once he was able to start talking, he handled himself classily in his Friday afternoon press conference. You knew he would.
Too bad others delighting in his firing -- so openly reveling in his misery, both online and on the radio and everywhere else -- can't do the same thing.