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Panthers are popular, but Kevin Harvick and Frank Kaminsky? Not so much

With TV ratings up 11 percent this season, the Carolina Panthers and Cam Newton (1) may have never been more popular.
With TV ratings up 11 percent this season, the Carolina Panthers and Cam Newton (1) may have never been more popular. AP

Welcome to Tom Talks, the sports talk show of the printed page. Every week I get email from readers who want their name and town included. This week I heard from a guy I know who told me that a town I used last week doesn’t exist. If so, I pity the poor woman who claimed to live there.

Tom, Helen from Hertford, which is a real town.

Thanks. A Hertford is a cow, right?

Whatever. How much more interest is there in the Carolina Panthers this season than in seasons past?

According to information supplied by the Panthers, the Carolina-Philadelphia Sunday night game drew the fourth-highest rating for any regular-season game in team history. Viewership is up 11 percent from 2014.

Tom, Kent from Kannapolis. Do you think Kevin Harvick should have been penalized last week for what he did at Talladega Superspeedway? His car obviously was slow but he wouldn’t get out of the way, and NASCAR did nothing.

Harvick did what most of his peers – the elite drivers – would do, and that’s refuse to slide over and give up. Although his machine was overmatched, he hung in. He competed.

Tom, Cari from Cary. Do you know what the odds are of the Panthers winning the Super Bowl?

According to Bovada, the odds were 50-1 against the Panthers when the season opened. They were 20-1 before the Carolina-Philadelphia Eagles game. They are now 16-1. The New England Patriots are the favorite at 3-5. Six teams have shorter odds than Carolina. Along with New England, they are Green Bay, Arizona, Cincinnati, Denver and Seattle.

Oddsmakers hate the Panthers.

Oddsmakers don’t hate the Panthers. Some of you won’t believe this, but referees and officials don’t hate the Panthers, either. The job of the oddsmaker is to entice people to bet as much on one team as they do the other. The numbers indicate that the betting public needs a little push to back Carolina.

Tom, Farah from Fuquay-Varina. Are you glad to have the NBA back?

Hi, Farah. I’m thrilled. I was especially thrilled when I saw the opening night tribute the Los Angeles Lakers offered to Flip Saunders, the Minnesota coach who died last Sunday from cancer. I was at the University of Minnesota when Flip played point guard there. I never met him. But the class with which he handled himself is evident in what his players, former players and the NBA family say about him. Behind 27 points and 14 assists from Ricky Rubio and 14 points and 12 rebounds from Karl Anthony-Towns, the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Lakers by a point. Cool to see Kobe Bryant (24 points on 24 field goal attempts) back. It was cooler still to see Flip’s team, and in some ways it will always be his team, win.

Tom, Gil from Granite Quarry.

That’s not a town.

OK, Joe Geography. How do you determine if a place is a town?

If it has a Marriott it’s a town.

You saw the Charlotte Hornets’ opener. It’s clear the Hornets should have drafted Justise Winslow and not Frank Kaminsky and that this will be another frustrating season.

I heard from readers who made that claim. Winslow played 26 minutes for the Miami Heat and grabbed seven rebounds, scored five points and had two assists. Kaminsky played six minutes for the Hornets, had one rebound and failed to score. I wrote on draft night that the Hornets should have taken Winslow. But that’s over. It was one game. Give the man a chance.

Tom, Renee from Raleigh. What did you go as on Halloween?

I went as a sportswriter.

What did you wear?

A shirt I didn’t pay for.

Tom, Hal from Harmony. What’s the most impressive thing you saw in sports last week?

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was penalized at Talladega because a crew member went over the wall early. Earnhardt, who failed to stay in the Chase, could have publicly eviscerated the guy. He uttered not a single critical word. That’s restraint. That’s class.

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