The Carolina Panthers will put their single-game tickets on sale to the general public next Saturday via Ticketmaster at 10 a.m. The Panthers have won 13 home games in a row – including all 10 during the 2015 regular season and postseason. That’s more than twice as long a home winning streak as any other team in the NFL.
With that in mind, here are the five home games I look forward to the most on the Panthers’ 2016 schedule:
1. Arizona, Oct. 30 (Sunday): The rematch of the NFC championship game played in January will also come after the season’s only bye week for Carolina.
2. San Francisco, Sept. 18 (Sunday): The home season opener, coming 10 days after Carolina starts the season with a road Super Bowl rematch at Denver.
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3. New Orleans, Nov. 17 (Thursday): With Drew Brees on the field and the Saints defense often terrible, the Panthers-Saints games usually produce points in volume and seem cooler at night.
4. Tampa Bay, Oct. 10 (Monday): You pay a price for “Monday Night Football” in Charlotte on Tuesday morning, but the price is well worth it.
5. Minnesota, Sept. 25 (Sunday): The Vikings are a tough out. They were a playoff team last season and would have beaten Seattle in the postseason had not Minnesota’s kicker shanked a 27-yard field goal in the final seconds.
Unanimous MVP for Curry? The NBA doesn’t publicize when it is giving out its biggest awards for some reason, preferring to sprinkle them throughout the playoffs. But the Most Valuable Player award was announced last season around the time the second round of the playoffs started, so that is approaching soon.
Now there’s no doubt that Steph Curry – the former Davidson standout who has put together one of the greatest seasons in NBA history for a team that went a record-breaking 73-9 – will win his second straight MVP.
Talk about balance and symmetry: In the 2015-16 NBA regular season, Curry made 402 three-point baskets and 403 two-pointers.
What I’d really like to see, though, is for Curry to get all 130 first-place votes and win unanimously. It’s never been done before, although LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal each fell one vote shy, and would be a fitting tribute to Curry’s truly extraordinary year. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed for his ankle.
Bad break for Batum: Speaking of injuries, I was sorry to witness Nic Batum getting hurt in the fourth quarter Wednesday night – for Batum personally and for Charlotte in general. The Hornets are a much better team with Batum on the floor, as well as a more exciting one. As I have said before, this has to be Job One for Charlotte in the offseason: Re-sign Batum to a max contract.
Congrats to Olympians: Charlotte has deep connections to four men in the swim world who will be inducted into the North Carolina Swimming Hall of Fame Friday in Greensboro – David Marsh, Cullen Jones, Ricky Berens and Mel Stewart.
Marsh is CEO of SwimMAC as well as its director of coaching. He has shepherded the career of dozens of Olympians over the years. Marsh also will be the head coach of the U.S. Olympic women’s swim team for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Jones, a freestyle specialist who is still competing, is a two-time Olympic gold medalist who has achieved his greatest success under Marsh. Berens grew up in Charlotte and, like Jones, won gold medals in both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. Berens is retired from swimming.
Stewart also grew up in the Charlotte area and for many years ruled the 200 butterfly as his own – he won that event in the 1992 Olympics. Stewart has since helped create a popular swimming website called SwimSwam.com. The fifth inductee is Raleigh’s Erika Braun, one of the best Masters swimmers in the country.
RIP, Prince: On a non-sports note, it’s hard to imagine the world without the flamboyant, weird genius of Prince. “Purple Rain” is one of my 10 favorite albums of all time.
In “Let’s Go Crazy,” the first song on that album, Prince sang about an afterworld of “never ending happiness” where “you can always see the sun, day or night.”
I hope he has found it. Rest in peace.