Panthers-Bucs Game Another Piece of Sportswriters Life

Sportswriter isn't at all like being Norwegian Green agent Bahnd Jens-Bahnd, .

“Sportswriter isn’t at all like being Norwegian Green agent Bahnd Jens-Bahnd”

As the Panthers prepare to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers today, this piece will be in homage to a venerable Tampa sportswriter, Tom McEwen, read often during the years while gaining my own muscles as a writer there in the early ‘80s. Mr. McEwen always began his columns discussing his breakfast fare, so:

With a second cup of post-church java in hand, sitting down to an awesome 3-egg omelet– filled with half a thigh of leftover grilled chicken, chopped up with a decent amount of firm Ruskin tomato for color, handful of baby spinach, plentiful shredded Parmesan, and laced with tabasco (as usual) on a less-rainy-than-predicted Sunday– feels righteous. Two pieces of buttered rye toast with honey and a perfectly ripened, juicy but not drippy, organic pear and the sports page, all is well with the immediate world around me.

Well, all is well now that a new $112 battery has been installed in Ol’ Blue, the PT Cruiser that required a jump this morning to get out of the driveway. As long as memories are running rampant in advance of Panthers-Bucs game—and very aware of that upcoming 40th reunion next weekend—one quick thought about hitches (like dead battery) and church. On the first day of a newbie 10 year old altar boys first 7:30am Mass long ago, Fr. O’Hara announced post-Gospel reading that he was too sick to continue. Walking through a swirling February snow to the rectory to get another priest is a memory that has obviously lasted longer than this mornings inconvenience will.

About the game: Well, the Panthers are now 4-0, tied with the Atlanta Falcons atop the NFC South. That they won the division with a 7-8-1 record last year shows just what hope every new season brings to fans. Unfortunately, even having #1 overall selection in the 2015 draft– Jameis Winston, ex- of Florida State, a Heisman Trophy and national championship winner like the Panthers Cam Newton– on their side doesn’t figure to raise the now 1-3 Bucs from the depths that having the opportunity to make such a selection indicates. It’s impossible not to think about interviewing a young, strong-armed black QB during those early Tampa sports writing days; Doug Williams was frequently running for his health behind a line not much better than Tampa’s current one.

On what turned out to be a brilliant, sun-shiny day in the second half, Winston threw four interceptions, balanced somewhat by a two TD, 26-of-43 for 287 yard effort that is his best overall game production early in a rookie year. His first INT became Panther cornerback Josh Norman’s second pick-six of the year, and Norman grabbed his fourth INT of the year a bit later. Winston might have had a worse day, but the Bucs fumbling a handoff was attributed to a running back. At least Jameis figures to still have a job on Monday—kicker Kyle Brindza missed three more FG attempts and an extra point– and coach Lovey Smith can’t protect that type of production much longer. On the other hand, Norman, Defensive Player of the Month for September, continues to make a strong case for a major cha-ching! improvement in his contract next year.

Cam Newton was average on the stat sheet, 11-22 for 124 yards, but with a pair of TD passes to Ted Ginn, Jr., the first such game of Ginn’s career. Cam’s 51 rushing yards– much like in his outstanding first year, and definitely a hoped for asset after a $103 million commitment by the team this off-season–kept the sticks moving, and have the Panthers back to ‘highly respectable’ if not feared status early. Freak plays like tight end Ed Dickson’s grabbing a Jon Stewart pop-up fumble and turning it into a 57-yard touchdown rumble seem to come through when teams are playing well overall.

While Panthers fans will continue to worry about the concussion protocols that have kept star linebacker, Luke Kuechly, out of three games since the opener against Jacksonville, they now have an off week before facing Seattle. Jared Allen, an $823,529 bargain added during the week, brings major experience (12 years, 134 sacks, 4 Pro Bowls) to a front four that lost sack-master Charles Johnson for eight weeks last week. Linebacker Thomas Davis’ final pick of Winston, and AJ Klein’s steady play replacing Kuechly, bode well for the defense, but even more than two December games vs. arch-rival Atlanta, the Panthers need to overcome a play-them-tough-but-lose history against the Seahawks. With a whiff of playoff fever already in the air, you can’t get back to any Super Bowls without expecting to see them along the way.

Two Weeks to 40th Reunion: What Would Boehner Say at Such a Time?

Boehner might've been a hard working SOB, but its got to be a relief to leave

Boehner might’ve been a hard working SOB, but its got to be a relief to leave

In two weeks Linton H.S. 40th reunion will be over, and a couple beers killing time in Schenectady (actually, at brothers in Ballston Spa, NY) until an early Tuesday flight, will allow plenty of time for reflection about what comes next. I’m planning on wearing a tuxedo that Saturday, mostly because I haven’t gotten nearly enough wear out of it the last three years, and while  a little trimming of hair for neatness is possible, no sense taking it down too far– there’s juuuust a perfect amount of ‘silver foxes’ at 58.

Everyone will recall how ‘Nam went down the spring we graduated; that’s still a huge historical event, and staying out of that unholy mess comes through clearly every time I see a documentary about it. People generally looked pretty good at the 25th on Thanksgiving weekend in 2000, and it was great to be remembered as ‘one of those journalism people’, because that was clearly a personally important part of life. That was almost a year before The World Changed with 9/11 attacks. At least I can say I’ve finally gotten a book published since then. A script anywhere close to being read? Nope. Kids or wife? Nope. Get hurt in the stock market or real estate=The Great Recession? Ehhh, can’t deny employment situation took a whack. Retail for a while, still haven’t really gotten stuff back on track like I’d want, a problem for lots of people. Ready for retirement? Yikes…!

That’s kind of the deal at this point, what’s actually Next? and even though he’s 65 and doesn’t have a 40th reunion coming up, I wonder what soon to be ex-Speaker of the House John Boehner would tell people if he did. You’d HAVE to want to ask him whuzzup? at some point, especially about both crying at the Pope’s visit and having to put up with the Tea Par…excuse me, Heritage…’scuse me…Republican Party’s refusing to do A SINGLE DAMN THING that might’ve helped this country since 2008 if it meant in ANY way that the Democrats and President Obama *might* get credit for it. Yeah, just putting my opinions on the line, but its legit to ask, right, J.B.? (Bartender, two more over here!)

Okay, John, you were only Speaker since 2011, but with the perspective of constant knife-in-your-back-ness from ‘fellow Republicans’ like Senator Cruz, shutting down the government over whatever they didn’t like– this time around it being the defunding of Planned Parenthood-– does it seem like one heckuva relief to be outta the chair? Third time to the edge, geez, aren’t we starting to look like those 50-odd Italian governments that collapsed over no confidence votes, or Greece, going to the ballot box to see which of two really lousy choices the country wanted?

If you were coming to my reunion J.B., I’d be willing to buy you a shot or two and listen, even if I’d probably say something about that tan we always saw on TV. I bet Danny Smith would grab us, get us out on the dance floor (no sweat, I’ve got my knee brace on) with 8-9 ladies and declare, “Hey, we got ’em surrounded!” Mostly, I can only imagine that while I missed out on some real ugliness that Spring of ’75 in Viet Nam, you saw more fraggings coming your way in Congress than you ever would have believed possible.

If the Pope or Holy Spirit indeed helped move you to that decision last week, take the last train out of Washington, John. When every Republican candidate for President stretched to the max in putting their religious convictions on display during debates to stay on the public radar, just knowing you won’t be around and having to take all that lip/blame when the Grand (a-h)Ole Party crash lands in 10,000 miniature, discordant pieces has to help the relaxing begin.

Keep Looking, The Good Stuff is Out There to Read-Learn From

While I’m very willing to comment on a know-nothing or left-headed piece by bloggers or writers of any strain, when something really damn good shows up, there’s almost a moral obligation to give it the attaboys! it deserves.

In the last week I’ve come across three pieces in particular, on extremely different topics, and that seems like exactly the reward surfing the web should provide. I’m including the exact locations, but with enthusiasm of the moment, the subjects were:

* How some college courses, rather than stretching the thought processes of students, are *constrained* by the milque toast-namby pamby-political correctness of students who are, it seems, willing to object IN LEGAL ACTION to something that strikes their sensibilities as un-good. Wow! even regarding classics in literature, and the idea a professor needs to give ‘trigger warnings’ about material will just floor you.

* The second was titled simply ‘What ISIS Really Wants’, and while its a LONG piece, I can almost guarantee you won’t find a better and more complete assessment of information to get you clued in. It gets to the religious bottom line about why the caliphate draws ‘true believers’ from everywhere; doesn’t *rationalize* the brutality, and puts genuine perspective out there about WHY there are so many Muslims in the world that won’t speak against the savagery ISIS so clearly displays. That its brand of belief doesn’t adjust for 21st century sensibilities vs. original Koran about beheadings and slavery is stuff that counts.

* The last was about how to make the small changes in your daily schedule that allow for increasing your time/productivity as a writer, and I almost wept (okay, hyperbole) at its clarity. That I’d put 90% of Melissa Chu’s‘s ideas into effect about two years ago and DID gain the consistency and oomph! that made a difference meant it was Truth, and I promise, you will want to read . When she writes about stealing hours to invest in your freelance gig, I *know* setting the cell phone for 7:05, having coffee in hand by 7:15, and cranking on my editing/blogging with a personal deadline of 10:15 because I had to get a quick shower and something to eat before my shift– that’s the Real Deal.

It’s never been easier to get your thoughts out to the world than with this electronic wonder we work with, although Ben Franklin et al– who wrote and published their production– had a good lock on it. I can re-post this 4-5 different places and touch different audiences, and while I’m expecting there will be more frequent reasons to pooh-pooh less inspired efforts, I’m quite satisfied that The System is kind of working the way it needs to regarding at least a corner of what the world needs to know.

Glenn S.

Come on Guys, It’s Legit to Like Amy Schumer!

Two things sealed the deal for me regarding Schumer: One is knowing she WROTE ‘Trainwreck’ vs. just acted in it, much like the immediate respect I had for Matt Damon (ok, and Ben A.) so long ago with ‘Good Will Hunting’. Second, and it had me laughing almost as much as Fallon when I heard it on the Tonight Show, was her texting Katie Couric’s hubby, ‘I want to have anal tonight’. Relating that she turned the phone to a friend and said, “Oh, look what happened!” and the friend saying, “That didn’t *happen*, you DID it!” had Jimmy pounding his hand on the table and practically screaming at the idea.

Really, the possibility of hanging with a woman who is AWESOME enough to see a cell phone and actually *do* something so over the top to a major personality, what’s not to like guy-wise? I bet at least ONE of those depth chargers she and Bill Hader scarf down in the movie was the real deal, too. Probably the first one, just to get in character.

Not having seen her stand-up routine (but highly motivated to do so soon), I can only imagine it’s as fast and loose as what I’ve read about, and if the trailer material for movie is even close to her Reality, again, what’s not to like? Also on the ‘Tonight Show’, she mentioned an ex-boyfriend showing up at an event with some sleek new woman, physically the offspring of a panther and something else, and she was self-deprecating enough to say (motioning around the thickness in her own midriff), “Come on, wouldn’t you really want some of THIS?” because she is not a dainty female. She’s got to be right at the edge of what Rick James was talking about with “the type you don’t bring home to Muth-ahh,” but as a bona fide Joker in a world that seems overly concerned with being seen doing something outside the pale, geez!

Forget whether you can convince your couch-riding buddies to do a slightly stupid (or *risky*, ooooo!) deal, I’m betting there’s no need for cameras to facilitate remembering what happened when she’s around. Legally its probably a better idea not to have them either, just in case some particular edge scrapes up against a more formal ‘DO NOT’. If Ashton Kuetcher ever tried to Punk her, the episode would’ve been a short one, because she’d say F- it! and have the antagonist in for a couple pops, and then he’d have to watch over his shoulder for the payback. It might be a burden to constantly be ‘on’ for the minions who are in search of wild & crazy, Belushi and many others have found early graves driving in the fast lane, but its difficult to imagine her as the white picket fence and three kids (I can hear her saying, “one of each” now) type.

Somewhere there are guys (or ladies, if you take that line in movie to heart) she spent time with in the past who will think getting in touch with the tabloids and spilling about something they did together years, or even a couple weeks ago (hello, Michael Phelps), is going to create a payday. Really, what would shock you to hear about Amy any more than a former Olympic decathlon gold medalist standing up on the ESPYs to receive an award for courage because the world was allowed to watch as they changed sex, and then got their new self on the cover of Vanity Fair?

Okay, that she *doesn’t* actually think anyone who plays sports is an intellectual dwarf, that would probably surprise me, but I’d love to know how many takes it took before LeBron didn’t bust up when she says that to his face in the movie. On the totally flip side, that she stood next to a cousin who’s a Congressman and spoke emotionally–the next day– about gun control after two young females were shot/killed while attending the premier of ‘Trainwreck’ is not your average actress.

On the Verge of Restoring My Sports Writing Credibility

670px-bank_of_america_stadiumHaving neglected my own blog because I’m posting on Pulse and upping my profile (got to #2 in my category a few weeks ago) rank by responding to numerous subjects/slices of opinion on LinkedIn, I’m also working through the technology on a site that will put me back into the ‘getting paid for the effort’ area for my long time expertise in sportswriting –

It’s not a done deal yet, and the semi-hangup is having to (as in *mandatory*— pieces don’t go through without it) link to two other pieces. Not MY work mind you, just anyone who has done something for the same outfit, and that’s not something I’ve felt comfy with. It’s not collaboration, its simply this new site (about two months in business, Euros don’t you know) trying to ensure their writers get more views, which will increase how much they get paid. Now, I’m not against more $$ at any point, but when I’m done knocking out something on the local Carolina Panthers, trying to put (in my humble opinion) *legitimate* links in when the possibilities are about fantasy football or the futbol played in the rest of the world, I’m not crazy about that.

The lure of getting my opinions in front of thousands of readers is driving me though. Back in the early ’80s I earned my writing muscles while writing several features a month for IT’S SPORTS! magazine in Tampa, FL– muscles but not much cash. When I arrived in Charlotte 20 years ago, there weren’t the possibilities for publication there are now, and this city is *busting* with all levels of sports, even beyond the headlining NBA (Hornets) and NFL (Panthers) teams: there is AHL hockey (Checkers), an International League baseball team (Knights) that lead the league in attendance with their classy new stadium last year; lacrosse! a mens and womens soccer organization with a mission (non-profit!) you probably wouldn’t believe, and of course, NASCAR is still kinda big hereabouts.

I know I’ll get the hang of that linking thing soon, and I’m goal-oriented enough to state that I want to be read and considered an EXPERT about Charlotte sports in places like Belgium or Wisconsin. If you’re reading this now, please try and find me on again soon– I’ll make sure its worth your while.

Glenn S.

3 Ways of Teaching: When It’s Right, It’s Golden

As schools begin disgorging students for the summer, a few teaching moments from the past seem worth recalling. Although I’ve never been more than a substitute in any public school system, its legitimate to feel good about knowing you’ve conveyed a specific fact in an unforgettable manner along the way. As a scholastic fundraiser, career sales person and writer-content creator, certain Aha! moments have helped me remember actual teaching is a pretty amazing thing.

Cooking class of eight 1st-3rd graders. While working on a (successful) mayoral campaign in upstate NY, my folks ‘suggested’ I do something job-wise, so I became the Cooking Instructor at a Girls Club. It was about a two month gig: four classes a week, right at 100 minutes a class, from explaining what we’d be doing for the day, aprons and hands washed, through practice peeling or whatever, produce food,  eat, clean up, out by 5:00. Eating was an essential part of the learning for sure.

Getting eight-1st-3rd graders through a spaghetti dinner from scratch felt amazing. Opening cans and stirring were kitchen skills I knew many of these young students would actually be called on to do at home. We cooked the meat and seasoned the sauce– they knew things were hot, we were careful while ladling the burger into the sauce. The ultimate moment, because *everyone* wanted to break up their own spaghetti, was pausing slightly in my explanation of holding in the middle– because one girl didn’t and sprayed pieces all over the counter–and finishing, “so that doesn’t happen.” Lesson locked in. The one about tossing spaghetti at ceiling to check for done…

Ballston Spa Pop Warner cheerleaders My first fundraising group out of training, our product is cookbooks, and its 48 cheerleaders who want to earn money for their football jackets. Girls don’t know what they’ll be selling, but everyone brought a list of at least 30 potential customers. We always drape the product until a certain point—no sense having anyone decide what you’re pushing is the wrong thing and they’re not doing it.

I ask the girls if they knew what the best selling book in country (overall) was, and while there were some guesses from mothers, nobody said ‘the Bible’ until I did. As I turned to unveil the cookbooks, to show them what #2 was, a little voice said, “We’re gonna sell BIBLES!” and after I swallowed a laugh, kept them REAL excited about why these books were a great idea.

It wasn’t the girls that got taught something that day, it was me. My company had prepared me for this, I did as we practiced, and BAM! everything worked just the way it was supposed to. All 48 girls earned enough for jackets, I had important first start under my belt, and having learned I could 100% trust the system, I confidently began three good years of fundraising.

Judy with a goalie stick is easy. As Head Coach of the Women’s Ice Hockey Club team at Brockport St., I did whatever I could to help our goalie, Judy. Just before we played a (supposed) mens ‘B’ team (no checking or slap shots) to tune up our team for the season, I reminded her to keep her stick on the ice—she had a habit of waving it, often because in intramurals, making one save was usually adequate. Playing against obviously stronger and more experienced men, with our first-time-ever-all-together defense, we couldn’t move guys out, so they kept poking at the puck when Judy made saves.

At the end, a solid 11-5 moral victory of a loss, we counted 73 shots on goal. After she skated to the bench, Judy pulled up her mask and said, “Guess I kept my stick on the ice, huh?” Perfect! Is ANY lesson better learned than a measure of success in adversity? Hey, if it didn’t kill you, you get to use the experience whenever similar situations come up again.

JA class-5th grade noise levels. I was a volunteer for school-related Junior Achievement, a 5-week program. The last session, it turns out the teacher won’t be there, it’s a substitute. As we get into things, the noise level just keeps going up, you can’t hear the group presentations or questions. The third time I whistle for attention, there’s a second of quiet, but they’re not looking at me—its another teacher from down the hall.

“WHO is doing the shrill whistling down here?” she looks around. I don’t recall if anyone actually *pointed*, but I admitted I had. Teacher digests that a second, turns back to kids and says, “WHY was this teacher feeling he needed to whistle to get attention?” That she might need to tell Mrs. Whoever what happened– and it mattered to those kids– taught me the whole system isn’t broken yet.

Best teaching moment in a long time came as a reading tutor with WyzAnt. In my first session with 8th grader, I asked her to pay attention to the punctuation, take pauses when dashes, commas, semi-colons, or periods showed up vs. run things together. By the 3rd session, I could tell she was consistently pacing the way I was reading along.

Teachers make a difference; remember that when you get a chance to act like one.

Four checks in a Row: Why Ringing the Register Counts

poker plus01

A week shy of ten months from my last check in retail– a situation friends tell me is worse than before I Ieft– that first smallish-but-accepted-at-the-bank one with my name on it accomplished more than just stopping the bleeding. Coming the day of our Men’s Club annual banquet, it allowed telling EVERYONE I was finally done with that streak of zeroes. Never underestimate how important telling friends-supporters that things have improved is as Reason #1: Especially compared to whining, we ALL like to hear the pressure is off anybody.

If you give the brother you live with a Newcastle Ale because four paydays seems a decent enough indicator of ‘Success’ to celebrate–and still fits with overall economics– its also worth giving a karmic nod to being on the Hopeful Side again. Those who had kids school tuition, a mortgage, or even car payments (which weren’t part of my calculus); who benefited from programs regarding unemployment– North Carolina went from 26 to 14 weeks of benefits in the one week I hesitated before registering; had a swipe card for food programs, or paid rent at cash advance rates, take a short bow for surviving Real Economics 2015.

In ‘Outlaw Josie Wales‘, Clint Eastwood tells Sandra Locke that at some point in the coming battle, “when you don’t think you’re going to make it, you gotta get mad dog mean,” and that translates to staying above water most of the Great Recession 2007-14 with a BPBPJ (Bill Paying, Benefit Providing Job), then looking credit card debt in the eye from September to March. On the bottom line, this whole unlikable recession didn’t get past #4 on the Worst of Times Ranking– Schenectady ’84 and Charlotte ’03, that was real Despair. Hell, I still had $6,800 left on my secondary card; that option, at any rate, wasn’t available before.

Compared to pursuit of return to executive assistant role after that retail stint, this new situation is esoteric– reselling of woodworking machines– and definitely sales. The experience of moving between databases to research/find what customers call in about is getting easier; in some ways its like real estate, because whatever I list gets me a piece of eventual profit, in others its very much a training rate of pay. Last week I listed 16 machines; yesterday I input and tagged pictures to seven in about 2 1/2 hours. That’s administrative, but its a production job, and I’m in a position where competence with transmitting needs-information will mean I get my share of whatever happens with I was actually second guy in the door when Kurt (boss) started back in 2006; I’ve been involved with him on two other projects over the years, and hey, we’ve played basketball for like 16 of my 20 years (Memorial Day) here in Charlotte. That trust level, *knowing* he generates cash, that’s as good a reason to work with somebody as any nowadays.

I was almost as thrilled with three checks earned during same stretch as a reading tutor with WyzAnt— that my students grandma told me she’d gotten a 100% on vocabulary test after two sessions counts as some psychic income– but deciding, without any hedges, that you’ll have a quantity of $$ goes beyond just thinking about it; doing what needs doing to HAVE cash demands acknowledging it when Plans become Truth.

$87 being auto-paid to some multi-billion dollar company that sweated you with late fees during dry times is nowhere near as satisfying as having CASH money in your pocket when the check arrives for a wine, tasty snacks, and Oreo cheesecake weekend dates on Lake Norman. Oh yeah, weekends are *much* better after ringing the register.

That’s elementally understood, right? It can’t just be a guy thing.

Glenn Shorkey