Thursday, March 19, 2015

Goodbye and good riddance to Greg Hardy

I have heard from a few disgruntled Panthers fans today who wish that the team had given Greg Hardy another chance. Instead, the Dallas Cowboys will now employ the Kraken.

If you have missed my earlier columns on this issue, here is one of them. To me, this is exactly how it should have turned out for Carolina. Goodbye and good riddance to Hardy, who to me is just too much of a character risk to hijack a salary cap a second year in a row.

As I expected, the price for Hardy was not reasonable at all -- the Cowboys have gambled huge money on him. The reaction in Dallas, understandably, has been swift and stern from media types, but we all know given owner Jerry Jones' past actions that he is going to win at all costs (on and off the field) and figure that can take care of his public relations issues later.

For Carolina, though, this is the way it had to happen. The Panthers were already the No. 10 defense in the NFL without Hardy last season. Time to move on.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Winners to be announced soon in Why Sports Matters contest

Thanks to all who sent me entries in the "Why Sports Matters" contest. I got lots of entries and have had a few unexpected work assignments lately, so my judging has fallen behind. I originally wrote that I would be announcing winners on Wednesday, March 18th. That won't happen, but I will announce the winners in the near future in this same space and also publish them. Thank you for your patience, and in the meantime enjoy the NCAA tournament! (UPDATE: All winners were published in the newspapers of April 12 and April 19th and can also be found at this link.

Friday, March 13, 2015

On Bob McKillop, Dean Smith, Bill O'Reilly and a strange New York cabbie

NEW YORK -- I am in the Big Apple about to watch Davidson in the Atlantic 10 tournament and just wanted to note a couple of things:

1) My story on Bob McKillop and the masterpiece he has painted with the Davidson Wildcats can be found here. One random fact I didn't know about McKillop until we did the interview for this story: he went to high school in New York with Bill O'Reilly, now a celebrity TV host for Fox News. McKillop said O'Reilly's personality has basically not changed at all from then until now.

2) Mark your calendars for Tuesday, March 17 from 11 am to 1 pm. At that time, The Observer is going to have a book launch for our new book celebrating Dean Smith's life. "Dean Smith" More than a Coach" is a 128-page book containing photos and stories from 50 years of The Observer's coverage of the man who was coach of UNC from 1961-97 and who passed away in February. Ron Green Sr., Ron Green Jr. and myself -- who all contributed stories to the book -- will all be there in The Observer's lobby (600 South Tryon Street) for those two hours to sign books and chat with UNC fans. The book is $14.95 and a portion of the proceeds for all books sold that day will be donated to the Dean E. Smith Opening Doors Fund at UNC.

3) If you entered my writing contest in honor of this blog hitting the 5 million mark, thanks so much. I got a lot of great entries and am sorting through them all. Winners will be announced by or before Wednesday, March. 18th.

4) OK, quick New York story. I love New York, but sometimes you just have to shake your head at it. I arrived at LaGuardia Airport Thursday and needed a ride to Manhattan. Hopped in a cab. The driver drove like most New York cabbies do -- badly, in other words -- but I didn't notice too much because it was so common. However, he made the bad mistake of cutting across four lanes of traffic with no turn signal in front of one of NYPD's finest.

So here came the blue lights, and the siren, and the cab had to pull over. You better believe he used the turn signal that time. The policeman came to the car, got the cabbie's license and registration, had him roll down the back window and apologized to me like this: "Sorry for the delay sir, but this man has your life in his hands, and he's being very careless with it." Ten minutes later, the cabbie had a ticket. "I'm giving you one, but you should get four," the cop grumbled.

And here's the best part: For those 10 minutes while we were stopped in that yellow cab on the side of the road, both of us annoyed for different reasons, the cabbie never apologized for our delay. Never spoke a word, in fact. But, until I noticed and pointed it out, he kept the meter running.

Monday, March 9, 2015

On Ginn return, Davidson Speedo guy and Bilas prediction on Kentucky

3 notes on a Monday:

1) I applaud the Panthers for getting Ted Ginn Jr. back after his disappointing year in Arizona. Ginn gives the Panthers another speed threat and had a great knack in 2013 for the big play at the right time (including this TD in 2013 against New England). I thought the Panthers never should have let him go -- they struggled constantly with getting the ball deep in 2014 without him -- but certainly he will be more affordable now. This is a good move, as was the signing of tackle Michael "Blind Side" Oher. Both are affordable veteran players worth the risk. The Panthers are off to a solid start in free agency, but many questions remain.

2) In case you missed this, Davidson had a swimmer named Luke Burton Thursday night who stripped down to a Tuxedo-themed Speedo -- he calls it a "tux-pedo" -- and made a lot of people laugh with his antics while VCU was shooting free throws until he got kicked out of the game (won by Davidson, 82-55 -- the Wildcats are, incredibly enough, Atlantic 10 regular-season champs). My original video of Luke Burton's dance has now climbed to No.5 on the all-time Observer list of most-clicked videos, and Burton's hilarious interview explaining his thinking after he got kicked out is quickly catching up to the original one in hits. You can see them both by clicking here -- the shorter video is at the bottom, and the longer one at the top.

3) I talked to Charlotte resident and ESPN analyst Jay Bilas for a couple of stories last week, including this one on the delights of March Madness. While we were on the phone I asked Bilas if he thought Kentucky would go 40-0, winning both the SEC title and the national championship. He said he thought the Wildcats would, but said while they were unbeaten, they were not unbeatable.

Said Bilas of Kentucky: "If they finish the year undefeated and win the national championship, they will be considered one of the all-time great teams and it will be one of all-time great accomplishments.if they finish the year undefeated and win the national championship, they will be considered one of the all-time great teams and it will be one of all-time great accomplishments.

"They absolutely can. I think they will. They're unbeaten. I'm not one of those who think they are unbeatable. They can be beaten. I look at them kind of like UNLV in 1991. they are the best team. that doesn't mean they are going to win, but they are the best team.

"If this were the NBA and a 7-game playoff series, they would not have to worry. But it's not, and they are subject to being beaten."

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Greg Olsen gets paid first? Well, OK....

The Panthers seemed to skip a few people in line today, signing Greg Olsen to a three-year extension that will keep him with the team until 2018.

Olsen's contract wasn't up until after this season, so it's a little surprising to me that he was the player the Panther paid first -- only because there are more pressing deadlines. But it must have been the most doable contract on their plate, for Olsen has made no secret of wanting to stay and God knows the Panthers need him. He and Wesley Walls are the two best tight ends Carolina has ever had, and Olsen's rapport with Cam Newton helped him make his first Pro Bowl in 2014. Olsen is also such a high-character guy that it's hard to measure, although I tried in this column from last September.

Sometimes, we talk so much about problems with the local teams we forget about the solutions that are already there and need to stay there. Olsen, Thomas Davis, Luke Kuechly, Cam Newton -- all those men need to get paid, too. And, of course, OT, WR and secondary problems must be addressed.

So good for Olsen. He absolutely deserved this contract. Man, the guy made his first Pro Bowl (at least one year too late) and then immediately scored two touchdowns in it.

But this was just a warmup for what must be to come.