Don’t Get Your Hopes Up

Well at least not yet.

Sure, the Panthers won today. But remember it was against the 1-10 (now 1-11) Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Was there anything to cheer for? Sure, Matt Moore did ok. At least he didn’t throw five interceptions. Bucs QB Josh Freeman did that. He didn’t actually win the game, but he didn’t lose it either.

The Panthers defense had a pretty good game today taking away three passes from the Bucs in the red zone stopping them dead in their tracks. Peppers showed flares of his old self and worthiness of the Franchise tag he holds.

Jonathan Stewart held his own and actual excelled as the starter showing not only the Panthers but the entire league that he is worthy of a starting position.

Was there anything to worry about? Sure. There is still some very suspect play calling coming in from the side lines. The conservativeness of the coaching staff is wearing on a lot of fans, this one included. Matt Moore is much more capable of airing it out down field and should be given that chance to prove it.

Another thing to worry about? Jake Delhomme will be back as the starter. I don’t see any way around it. They signed him to a five year, forty-five million dollar contract before the season started. You can’t cut a guy like that and right now he has no trade value at all. He will have to come back.

Maybe, just maybe he will be relegated down to backup status and Matt Moore will continue to be the starter. And Matt will be allowed to attack the defense and move the ball down field. And not just be on the field to not lose the game.

But I won’t get my hopes up.

Well at least not yet.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr Wins NASCARs Most Popular Driver

Again.

For the seventh year in a row, NASCAR fans have selected Dale Jr as the Most Popular Driver.

Really? I don’t see it.

I don’t think Jr really does either. And it shows in his racing.

In fact a few years ago he skipped the award ceremony all together. He said he learned a lesson from that and has personally accepted each one since then.

He hasn’t been the most dominant of drivers. Bill Elliott wasn’t really either, but he has won a Championship. He has won the MPD award 16 times. So many in fact that they will rename the award after him when he retires from the sport.

Richard Petty has won the award 9 times. We all know how popular and successful he was.

Bill won the award a record 10 years in a row. In 2001 it went to Dale Sr, the year he died, and then back to Bill in 2002.

Enter Dale Jr.

Since 2003, the fans of NASCAR have given this award to Dale Jr for what can only be explained as a proxy for his dad. His performance on the track certainly hasn’t justified it. I know it’s not all about what goes on at the track and I’m sure Dale Jr has made an impact in the lives of others be it his charitable work or the like, but I still just don’t see it.

His heart just isn’t in the sport anymore. He said upon receiving the award this year “I can’t thank them enough (the fans), so I guess I’ll just keep showing up.”

So you are only showing up to race because of us fans? Really? I mean I know this is a fan sport, but you have to have some other reason to go out there and risk your life by driving 200 mph with 42 other cars inches apart besides us fans.

He also said, “There’s a big sense of that I earned this, that I deserve this because of my family name.” You got that right.

“My father, he gave me a hell of a gift in popularity, so my job has been to try to be an asset to the sport and to maintain that gift and it’s integrity.” Then why don’t you try winning a few more races or at least be in contention to win a few more races.

He has been with Hendrick Motorsports now for two full years and has only won one race in that time, none this year.

Dale – it’s time to start being a winning driver and not just a popular driver.

Again.

An excuse to bench Jake Delhomme?

It has come to everyone’s attention that Jake Delhomme, the beleaguered quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, seems to have broken a finger on his throwing hand late in the game Sunday against the New York Jets. It allegedly happened on a pass to Dwayne Jarrett which was thankfully completed.

Video shows Jake running to the line of scrimmage after the play waving his right (throwing) hand to get the team ready for the next play. Please don’t make yourself sick all over again by watching the whole video. The play in question starts at 2:17 of the video.

Jake continues to play the game and shows no sign of any pain for nine more passes or in the after game interviews.

Hmmmm.

I wonder if this is Coach Fox’s way of benching Jake and saving face at the same time? He doesn’t have to bench him because of performance, because, let’s face it, Coach Fox will never do that. Jake doesn’t have to be the laughing stock of the NFL (he almost is, but I think the Cleveland Browns has that position wrapped up). And best of all, it just might be good for the fans.

I hope that last part doesn’t surprise anyone. How many times has a backup QB come on in the middle of a season (or at anytime for that matter) and taken over the team and gone on to greatness? Can anyone say Tom Brady? Tony Romo? Hey, what about Jake Delhomme?

Yes, Jake is one of those QBs who stepped in for either an injured or poor performing starting QB and went on to greatness. In his case it was Rodney Pete who was hit in a game and suffered from internal bleeding that let Jake loose on us all. He took the Panthers to the Superbowl in 2003 and to the playoffs in 2005 and 2008. We all know how that one ended.

Maybe it is Jake’s turn to be replaced by an up and coming backup quarterback.

Problem is…we don’t have one.

It’s that time of year again

Yes, the holidays are upon us. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday of the year! The smells, the sights, the pumpkin pies! And with Christmas now right around the corner I have put on the Christmas theme for my blog and will leave it up through the holidays.

Speaking of which, my wonderful wife has just baked three of the most scrumptious pumpkin pies to date! One is actually a pumpkin banana meringue and I have to wait until tomorrow and an entire car trip to Fort Bragg before I can have any! Bah, hum-bug!

We are going out to Fort Bragg to see Suzanne’s sister and her family. Aaron, her husband, joined the Army this year and he is now stationed out there. We are very proud of his decision and fully support him. They have just arrived last month to their new home and a new state. We were very surprised that they wanted to host Thanksgiving dinner…but who are we to argue with that 🙂

Well, now that the NASCAR season is over I will refocus on my other favorite sport and post more about the Carolina Panthers. It’s not looking good for the home team. After going 0-3 to start they went 4-2 over the next six games to get to 4-5. Then Miami came to town. To get to .500 all we needed to do was what we did against Atlanta just four days earlier, but it didn’t work out. Not that the Panthers did really anything wrong, but it seemed that they couldn’t keep thing going.

They did have some great moments. Steve Smith’s touchdown catch stands out to me. It was a great catch at a great time to cap off a great drive. I know I have been critical of Jake on this blog before and have called for him to be replaced, but I am willing to give him a couple more weeks.

This Sunday they play at the New York Jets and then back at home against division rivals, the Bucs. If they can squeak through these games with a couple of wins and depending on Jake’s performance in those games, I will get off his back. But I see no hope in making the playoffs this year with the last four games being against the Patriots, the Vikings, the Giants, and the Saints.

If you had asked me last year if we could roll into the playoffs with wins against those four teams I would have said no problem.

This year?

Maybe next year.

4

That’s a great number isn’t it?

It’s my favorite number.

It’s my lucky number.

And now, it’s Jimmie Johnson’s favorite number.

Congratulations Jimmie, Chad, and the 48 Team!

Our thoughts and prayers are with Rick Hendrick and his family as his niece is having emergency liver transplant surgery in North Carolina. He was not able to be at the race.

Jimmie Johnson is under-rated and under-appreciated

I didn’t say that, but I wanted to.

No, the man who said that is a very respected individual in his own right. He is a 27 year veteran in his profession and is extremely respected by his peers. To have this man speak words like this about Jimmie Johnson is remarkable, but not hard to believe. This 50 year old, who holds such high esteem for 34 year old Jimmie Johnson, is none other than Mark Martin.

Why do I feel this is important to share? Well for starters, Mark Martin has never won a Championship and is arguably the best driver to have never won a Championship. He has finished second 4 times. Who were those drivers he finished behind? How about none other than Dale Earnhardt twice in 1990 and 1994, Jeff Gordon in 1998, and Tony Stewart in 2002. All while driving a Ford for Jack Roush.

For Mark Martin to say that he doesn’t mind coming in second to Jimmie is putting Jimmie in the same category as the other three drivers he has played second fiddle to. Nice company wouldn’t you say?

Only three other drivers in the history of NASCAR have won four or more Championships (Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon). Jimmie is one race from joining that club too. In fact all he has to do is finish 25th or better. For Mark Martin to win the Championship he has to win the race and Jimmie needs to finish 31st or worse. When Jimmie starts his engine, Jeff Gordon will be eliminated from winning the Cup altogether. And since Jimmie qualified on the pole, that seems a fore gone conclusion.

Three men at the top of their sport. History would be made if either of them won the Championship, but none so memorable than four in a row. For Jeff Gordon to win his 5th is awesome enough, but not spectacular. It would be Mark’s first in his long 27 year career and would be to him what the Superbowl win was to John Elway. Heck, even Dan Marino didn’t win a Superbowl so Mark won’t be alone in that category if it doesn’t happen this year.

But for Jimmie to win an unprecedented fourth in a row. It may never happen again.

How does that stack up against other sports? Well in baseball for example, only the New York Yankees have won four in a row (twice) and one those was actually five in a row. The Green Bay Packers won 3 NFL Championships in a row (twice), including the last NFL Championship and the first two AFL-NFL World Championship games which would later be renamed to Superbowl I and II.

The Chicago Bulls won three in a row (twice), the Lakers have done it (twice, once in Minnesota), and the Celtics stand alone with eight wins in a row and 9 of 10 in that same stretch.

In the NHL you have two teams who have accomplished four in a row, the Montreal Canadiens and the new York Islanders.

So where does the 48 team fit into this?

My response? They fit in right along with the rest of them.

Don’t believe me?

Just ask Mark Martin.

Jimmie and the 48 team does it again!

A few months ago I wrote about how well the 48 team did in Pocono to overcome engine problems and stay in the race and not get a DNF. Not only did they finish the race that weekend, they made up lost laps and finished thirteenth. Jimmie Johnson passed 17 other cars on the lead lap to do it. I said enough then about how great of a champion he is.

I’ll say more now.

After watching the Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway Sunday, I have a renewed since of Jimmie and Company’s efforts to not only be competitive and win races (even when they don’t), but to win Championships. I’ll admit. I was scared on lap three when he was spun out and went into the wall. Hard.

Not scared for his safety, but for his points lead. Luckily the car wasn’t that bad. Sure, they pretty much rebuilt the car. New complete rear end. New front end, including the steering and suspension. They had to rebuild the body of the car. They had to make sure it met basic NASCAR rules for the track.

Oh and it took them only one hour and ten minutes to do it. Laps lost? 112. Points lost? At that point his 184 point lead was down to 30. He would eventually make up five spots and with Mark Martin’s fourth place finish Jimmie has a 73 point lead.

But you already know all of this. You’re a NASCAR fan right? You watched the race right? So why am I telling you all of this?

It has come to my attention that there are people in this world who don’t like Jimmie Johnson. I can’t figure out why. I think it has something to do with people believing he is unstoppable or infallible. Well they can put those ideas to rest.

He can be stopped. He can loose races. He can loose control of his car, although he almost saved it. He is not unlike every other driver. He is more like them than most people are willing to say.

And when the chips are against this team, they don’t pack up and go home like other drivers. They buckle down and get to work. Seeing Chad Knauss in the garage taking off tires and getting under the car and directing what was going on in there was just as much of an awesome sight as seeing Jimmie cross the finish line in first place.

I just hope I get to see that again this year.