Welcome to Tom Talks, the sports talk show of the printed page. You ask, I answer. Let’s go to the telephones.
Tom, Nick from Norwood.
Like Kevin Norwood, the new Carolina Panthers’ receiver?
No, like Scott Norwood, the former Buffalo Bills’ kicker, or like beautiful Norwood, the gateway to Lake Tillery. Do you think the South Carolina-North Carolina game was good for Charlotte, or did the empty seats detract?
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Promoters promised big money to the schools and because of that, perhaps, charged too much for tickets. But it’s never about who doesn’t show. It’s about who does. The game was taut and entertaining and the result probably was inevitable. The Tar Heels were the better team. The Gamecocks had the better coach. Because Steve Spurrier is the better coach, I picked South Carolina this week on 730 AM to win. They did.
Tom, Rick from Ronda. When a player is cut by the Carolina Panthers or another NFL team, do you think they take pride in making it as far as they did, which is further than almost everybody else has who has picked up a football, or are they crushed?
Players don’t measure themselves against those that don’t get an opportunity to play in the NFL. They measure themselves against those that do. They went through a camp or multiple camps, stayed in the same Wofford dormitory as Cam Newton, ate in the same cafeteria as Charles Johnson. They were part of it. And then they weren’t. They’re crushed, I assure you.
Which cut was the biggest surprise?
Jordan Todman, the running back and special teams ace.
Tom, Carole from Cabarrus County. Were you impressed with the Charlotte 49ers’ road victory Friday against Georgia State?
I was absolutely impressed. Brad Lambert is building a program there. The 49ers ought to draw a big crowd Saturday for their home opener against Presbyterian.
Tom, Paul from Pineville. NASCAR just opened the vote for the Sprint Cup’s most popular driver. Who do you like?
I’ve always liked the underdog. My pick might be a little reckless but I’ll go with Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Tom, Ruth from Rennert. You act as if you know. But do you have any idea what it’s like to be cut by an NFL team?
I walked off the Panthers’ practice field Tuesday, and in front of me I saw a big man walking so slowly he could have been using a walker. In his left hand was a sheath of papers and in his right was a dark green garbage bag with the contents his locker. As he passed, several of the security guards and construction workers asked how he was doing, and the big man couldn’t even pretend. I caught up to him and was going to ask him a few questions. But when I saw his face, I stuck my tape recorder in my pocket and left him alone.
Isn’t that your job?
It is. But think about it. This guy was one of the few. He practiced and he played and he probably allowed himself to believe he had a chance to be a Panther. Wouldn’t you? Don’t you have to believe you’ll be the underdog that makes it? And then he was told he hadn’t. He shook some hands, turned in his equipment and walked out of Bank of America Stadium into whatever comes next.
Tom, Oscar from Ossipee.
Ossipee sounds like a verb.
You sound like a fool. I assume you plan to pick football games again for the Charlotte Observer and the John Boy & Billy Big Show. Since Pittsburgh plays at New England Thursday, who are you picking?
I like the Patriots by 4. They’re on a roll. A U.S. District judge this week threw out quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension. I’m convinced Brady was complicit in Deflategate, but I’m moving on. The NFL did what it always does when it prepares a case. It plods, stumbles and overreaches, and as a result the NFL’s lawyers never had a chance. If I crashed my car into a tree, and the NFL represented the tree, a judge would find the tree guilty.