Welcome to Tom Talks, the sports talk show of the printed page. You ask, I answer. Let’s go to the phones.
Tom, Georgia from Marietta.
Thanks. I know that readership for your Tom Talks column jumps when you begin with a question about Cam Newton, so I’ll ask a gratuitous question. Do you believe that Cam is an MVP candidate?
Newton is better than he’s ever been and in this, fifth season, he’s been discovered. Writers and broadcasters tire of promoting the same candidates. So here, at least in the context of the MVP conversation, is somebody new. Newton runs the offense for one of the league’s six undefeated teams. He moves chains and helps win games. Aaron Rodgers is the best player in football. But where would the Carolina Panthers be without Newton? It’s not absurd to mention him.
Tom, Sam from Saratoga. Glad the Observer sent Rick Bonnell to China with the Charlotte Hornets. If you had a chance, would you have gone?
Rick does great work. To assist him, I would have ridden my mountain bike. I love going places I’ve never been. The closest I’ve come to that part of the world is Sydney, Australia.
That’s not close.
Charlotte is 8,337 miles from Shenzhen, China, the team’s first stop. Sydney is a mere 4,569 miles away. That’s close enough.
Tom, Greg from Greensboro. I build my Sundays around the Panthers. Since they’re not playing, what should I do?
You could wash my car.
Hey, buddy, I’m serious.
So am I.
Tom, Jackson from Stonewall.
That’s better than Georgia from Marietta.
Thanks. Kind of proud, I must admit. How did Luke Kuechly look at the team’s final pre-bye practice Wednesday?
He looked like he always looks (fit) and sounded like he always sounds (courteous). He didn’t practice, of course. Hope he returns next week but only, obviously, if the neurologist deems him ready. The doctor will know.
Tom, Lyle from Lowgap. Why doesn’t anybody in the print media in this town defend local teams when they’re criticized by the national media? I’m tired of hearing that the Panthers are the least of the 4-0 teams, and I’m even more tired of the lack of response from people such as you.
If somebody in New York, York, S.C. or York, Pa., rips the Panthers, why does it matter and what does it have to do with me? Are you really so fragile that you allow the opinions of strangers to get to you?
So, how do you react when readers rip you on message boards?
I don’t read message boards. Email and Twitter are more valid, the readers less anonymous and less bitter.
Tom, Roxy from Roxobel. Former Panther Greg Hardy said this week that when he returns from his suspension Sunday he’ll come out with “guns blazing.” Since guns played a part in his suspension, are you upset by his choice of words?
I don’t know how old the “guns blazing” cliché is, but it’s older than Hardy. I don’t think his choice of words was intended to subtly remind people of the pile of guns on which he allegedly shoved his victim. Hardy isn’t subtle.
Tom, Mike from Mount Holly. Isn’t Week 5 too early for a bye and wouldn’t the Panthers prefer that it came later?
A later bye would be more convenient. But when practice ended Wednesday some players shot off the field as if propelled. I watched a 300-pound man charge off, his gait closer to a sprint than a trot, and he wasn’t going to slow down until he reached the locker room. I asked another player what he planned to do during his five-day break. He said he was going home for a few days. Drive or fly? He said fly, and he planned to treat himself to a first-class seat. He earned it. His teammates and coaches also did. Wednesday was the last day before school let out, and nobody complained.