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Nice guys like Panthers’ Luke Kuechly finish ... with $62 million

Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly has a nice-guy reputation, a $62 million contract, and headphones that work.
Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly has a nice-guy reputation, a $62 million contract, and headphones that work. AP

Welcome to Tom Talks, the sports talk show of the printed page. There’s no smoke here. I’ll answer your questions factually unless I lack facts. Let’s go to the phones.

Tom, Colin from Cooleemee. Luke Kuechly just signed a five-year $62 million contract extension with the Carolina Panthers. I know the man can play. But why do all of you insist on writing what a nice guy he is? Nobody is as nice as you make him out to be and, more importantly, football fans don’t care.

Some care. Some are happy to know that the team in which they invest their support, their emotion and often their money employs people they’d be proud to meet. As far as niceness goes, Kuechly couldn’t be nicer if he studied film of nice people and practiced in front of a mirror.

So, like, he doesn’t have a bad side?

OK. A source says that on a pleasant day in October 2013, at a vacant intersection on Poplar Ave., Kuechly jaywalked. Until I see film I refused to believe it.

Tom, Cecil from Cedar Rock. Are you ready for a full day of NFL games for the first time since Dec. 28, which was approximately two years ago?

I love opening day. The feeling supersedes pro football. When the Charlotte Hornets play their home opener on Sunday Nov. 1, the day before the Panthers host the Indianapolis Colts, I’ll be excited. The Hornets’ overtime opener last season, their first in the modern era as the Hornets, was mesmerizing. If you were there, you remember, and you probably always will. The beauty of sports is that seasons don’t linger. You start fresh every year. If only life were like that.

Tom, Candy from Coats. I’m a longtime caller and a first time listener -- something like that. I’m a fan of Charlotte high schools and N.C. colleges. Anybody I ought to watch for?

Kendall Lamm, who played for Butler and Appalachian State, made the Houston Texans’ roster as an undrafted rookie. He’s a tackle, 6-6 and 305 pounds. What’s it like in practice against that defensive front? The Texans play at Bank of America Stadium next week.

Tom, Cal from Cove City. What do you think of the New England Patriots’ latest scandal? In the first half Thursday Pittsburgh coaches heard the New England radio broadcast through their headphones. Can we call it Headphonegate?

You can not. To qualify as a gate, more evidence is required.

Tom, Curt from Conetoe. Are you finally ready to acknowledge that the Patriots win not because they cheat but because they are better coached and have a better quarterback?

The Patriots go into almost every game with the better coach and the better quarterback. But I found the recent ESPN report about Spygate – now that was a gate – well reported and compelling. New England coach Bill Belichick came off poorly. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell came off worse. I don’t see how Goodell keeps his job. Well, OK, I do.

Tom, Kevin from Crossnore. Any idea how much money people will bet on football this season?

According to a report released Wednesday by the American Gaming Association we’ll bet $95 billion on NFL and college games. Less than $2 billion of it will be legal.

Why so much?

A team plays one game a week. It will cover or it won’t. The teams will combine for more points than the over-under or they won’t. It looks easy. Then there are the trick bets and the parlays. How many people do you know who aren’t in an office pool or, more likely, a fantasy football league? There are many reasons the NFL is the dominant sport of our time. Betting is one of them.

Tom, Salad – that’s a nickname – from Casar.

That’s really bad.

I know. You’ve picked NFL winners for years. Do you have a system?

The NFL power structure changes annually and I try to jump on the changes before the betting line catches up. Two weeks ago, though, a friend who really knows football shared with me his system. While I’m not entirely sold, I was influenced this week when I made my picks.

Could you give us a tip?

Yes. Always tip your servers at least 20 percent. That should be the baseline.

That’s it?

Here’s another. Thirteen NFL games will be played Sunday. Enjoy them.

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