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Ask The Old Guy: It beats the alternative

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CHARLOTTE — OK, right off the top, it feels like we need to make one thing clear.

That was one game, one win, and it doesn't fix all the problems that have accumulated this season, which will need to be addressed soon. We're not going to pretend it's anything more than it was, which was one result.

But even though sports writer math doesn't get too complicated, the one thing I know for sure is 2-12 > 1-13.

By beating the Falcons on Sunday in a monsoon, the Panthers were able to talk about the primal fun of splashing around the rain, sliding around, making a mess, and getting soaked. Had they lost that game, however, it would have been miserable, and they'd have become acutely aware of how wet they were, how cold it was, how hard the wind was blowing, and how long it was going to take to dry all this equipment out.

Instead, it was kind of a party atmosphere, a moment of reprieve during a long season.

The same is true for the fans. God bless the people who came to Bank of America Stadium Sunday. They are the hearty sort. They're also the kind of people who will help you move a couch or change a tire on the side of the road. They do not flinch, nor do they waver. If you show up in those conditions, you have earned the right to celebrate when things get better. If you sat out in those epic conditions for three hours, you're my kind of people. Showing up is the first step to success because you can't win if you're not present. You might still lose, but not being there guarantees it.

So, hail to those who were here and a part of it all. Colds may have been caught, but memories were definitely made. My social media mentions were full of parents who took their kids and husbands who took wives to their first games together. Nobody remembers the camping trips where it only rains a little, and now all those folks will be able to talk about the time they did the thing with their people in all that rain, and oh yeah, there was a football game, too.

The fact that it ended on a game-winning drive by Bryce Young and a last-second field goal by Eddy Piñeiro makes it that much sweeter for all of them.

So enjoy the moment; don't let anyone diminish it. It doesn't mean everything's OK, but for that instant, everything was fun and normal. It's OK to let that be OK for a few minutes.


Can we designate the All Black Everything as our home-when-pouring-rain uniforms? They look amazing in the rain and also we are now 2-0 in the rain in them. — Nate, Charlotte

Nate is now fully Nate from Charlotte and not Nate from Grand Prairie, Tex., and he speaks for all of his fellow citizens who want to see more of the black-on-black-on-black.

Sadly, it can't be an every-week thing because, honestly, I don't know how many deluges like last week any of us can take. But for a special occasion, it does look cool, and in the rain, all the pictures look that extra bit cooler. (It also helps that we have amazing photographers in Chanelle Smith-Walker, Kenny Richmond, and Myicha Drakeford, plus the part-timers who help us on gameday. Don't believe me? Check out this Game Angles gallery.)

Under the current league rules, teams are allowed to wear their alternate helmet a maximum of three times, and it's tied to either their alternate jersey or a color-rush ensemble.

That means each season, you have three cracks to wear either the blue jerseys (with black helmets or regular) or the monochromatic black. And since they end up opting for blue for road games in hot weather, that limits the inventory a bit.

If everyone would either play in a dome or guarantee a monsoon, it would be easier to plan these things. But since you don't want to risk heat-related illness in Florida in September, these are the cards we've been dealt.

So mostly, I would advise you to treat them like you would any other special occasion. Savor them because you never know how often they might come around.

Jaycee Horn, Frankie Luvu


I have never been slow with my criticism, and there is no need to be slow in admitting my error in judgment. My hat's off to our rookie QB. I have been waiting for this game, as have we all. Well-played, indeed. Our DC and his crew deserve game balls to all. Our OC and HC had good days also, and win No. 2 sure feels good.

I hope we use the offseason wisely and get this train back on the tracks. We all desperately need it. Happy Holidays! Putting this week's column together should be fun again, enjoy. — Stephen, Columbia, SC

Putting this Mailbag together every week is a privilege because it allows me to connect most closely with the people who care the most about the product. And just like the ball coaches say, you have to be the same pro when conditions are bad as when the conditions are good, whether that's the weather or the win-loss record.

(Although, I can tell which of these questions came in right after the game because the spelling and punctuation get a little unconventional when you're trying to type with clammy and frozen fingers. Don't worry, people, I've got you. [Well, me and Grammarly. Or is it Grammarly and I?])

As for Stephen's main point, it was good for Bryce to have that kind of game, as it was for other people to see Bryce have that game. It's charitable to say that he has struggled in the passing game lately. So, throwing off that yoke and being a perfect 5-of-5 for 68 yards on that final drive says something about him.

Teammates and coaches talk about having that kind of faith in him, but even the strongest faith gets tested when there are no results backing up your beliefs. But when they talk about Young, it sounds like they're describing someone far older than 22 because he exudes the kind of steady calm you have to have to deal with these kinds of things.

But he also needed to make some plays, and he did that Sunday. He didn't just sputter along; he was dealing, and he was dealing in conditions that were not conducive to passing the football.

So credit to Bryce. If you saw the look of relief on his face postgame, you could tell how much he needed that one. It was also his second game-winning drive of the season. Only six quarterbacks in the league have three or more, and Young now has as many as Patrick Mahomes, Dak Prescott, Josh Allen, Trevor Lawrence, and CJ Stroud. Now, does he need to win some games in a less dramatic fashion? Obviously. Having a couple of clutch drives isn't everything, but it's not nothing, either.


Do you believe Bryce Young has proven people wrong about his durability? I mean, he has been sacked an average of four times so far. That's an upside, isn't it? — Blake, Mint Hill, NC


Because of his size, I think some people thought he was some kind of delicate flower. But Young has taken some shots this year and continued to get up, and other people have noticed that, too.

Because things haven't gone well, some of the positives have gone unnoticed, and this is one. He's capable of playing football and continuing to function after being tackled. This is true.

He's also got a little salt about him, which that dead-level demeanor doesn't always reveal.

The first-down signal at the end of those scrambles might not make him Cam Newton, but there's a little juice there, and if the conditions around him improve, it's reasonable to think we might see a little more of that, too.

Bryce Young


Frst-time writer and a long-time reader. As I try to flush this season and be optimistic, I was hoping you could review the cap situation for the Panthers for the next couple of years. Are we strapped? Are we ready to go on a spending spree for overpriced free agents? I'm more of the school of building through the draft and then getting a few free agents as the cherry on top once you have a team you think can compete for the big prize. Thoughts? — Steve, Morrisville, NC

Love a good first-time, long-time. Welcome, Steve.

I think all teams would prefer to build their rosters primarily through the draft, mostly because it's cheaper that way. Then, you can fill in the blanks in free agency.

The one thing that's generally true of free agency is that everyone is in the market for a reason: either their existing team didn't want them, or their financial demands weren't consistent with what the original team had valued them at.

As far as cap room, the Panthers have plenty of it to do what they need to do this offseason. It's reasonable to think help at wide receiver and possibly guard would be on the menu, along with some other fill-in-the-blanks needs like extra cornerbacks, other offensive depth, etc.

But they're in a spot where they can spend based on decisions made in previous years.

Some of it will likely be on their own, as Brian Burns can probably expect the franchise tag if they don't get a deal done, and a Derrick Brown extension seems likely as well. Because of the way cap charges prorate, those deals will bring their cap numbers down and not up, creating additional flexibility. Frankie Luvu's also pretty high on the list of guys they want to keep.

Without putting too fine a point on it, they have the kind of room to retain those three stars on defense and still make other moves to improve the offense.


So Darin. I'll ask you a question this week. Promise. But first. Everyone should take a look at The NY Times history of NFL teams. For old guys, it comes with a magnifying glass. I've ordered a bunch for my family for Christmas. We're a diverse group. So there are the Panthers, Vikings, Cowboys, and Falcons. It really is a great idea, considering that once upon a time, the Times had a great sports page. The Panthers have a lot to be proud of.

I decided to do a deep dive into our losing season. At halftime, we've been down by less than a touchdown or ahead in nine games this season. Shockingly, except for the Saints game we're almost dead even in the fourth quarter. So I'm just not buying into the "we're terrible" mantra. Here's the question. Where does the focus go in the offseason? And I'm talking players, not the head coach. I think we have a lot of good ones, especially on defense. Thoughts? Predictions? — Jimmy, Wilmington, NC

The existing parts on defense, including Burns, Brown, Shaq Thompson, Jaycee Horn, Donte Jackson, Vonn Bell, and Xavier Woods, make this an attractive roster for any new coach. There's a reasonable assumption that the side of the ball should still be good.

So I think after they do whatever business they're doing with Burns and Brown and Luvu, then much of the focus will be on the other side of the ball.

Obviously, they're looking for upgrades at wide receiver, and without a first-round pick, that limits the scope of options (though scouts say this is a deep group of receivers who could be available in the mid-30s). So it's probably fair to think a significant spend there is possible.

But there are a number of areas they could work on offensively. Time and health will help (since Austin Corbett and Brady Christensen would be considered upgrades at guard, and they're already on the roster). But another offensive lineman to the mix, a receiver, and possibly some tight end and running back reinforcements could happen.

Austin Corbett, Brady Christensen

Hello Darin, I hope all is well with you and your family. I was reading your "Monday Brew" article last week, and as I was reading, the coach mentioned individual mistakes. It reminded me of my old cable guy days again as I met a really cool guy (Ed Brady) who played for the Bucs back in the '90s. Yes, he played for Sam Wyche. In our short conversation, he educated me about how success in playing special teams is very dependent on mental assignments.

That being said; I got a chuckle on coach Tabor's willingness to give the players a break on Mondays. That is the sign of a great coach and his awareness of his players. In the last couple of games I've watched, the players seem to be having fun as the games have been more exciting, in my opinion. Have you noticed any changes around the players since the coaching changes? If so, do share; I'd like to hear a short story. Also, if you happen to talk to a coach, tell him to thank you for me, as I'm a huge fan of his coaching style, please, and thank you. Keep Pounding! — David, Farmington, MO

Thanks, David (also, I sent you an email a few weeks ago you never replied to; send me your shirt size and address, and I'll get your Friend Of The Mailbag merch headed your way).

What you're picking up is real. Tabor has a well-honed ability to read the room. I think it could have something to do with having to coach the entire roster already in his special teams duties. You have to be a master communicator to get the linebackers, running backs, receivers, and DBs all speaking the same language. He gets it. Not every coach does.

If it seems like they're having fun, that's genuine, too. The season's a mess. They all know that. So rather than beating them down, he's chosen to keep the atmosphere light. And if you win, everybody gets to dance.

Things as simple as the kangaroo court system of fines in the special teams room create a real sense of kinship there. Players can get fined for blasphemy, taking themselves too seriously, not wearing shoes, missing a day because they're having a baby, arguing about ping pong rankings, or anything. And when guys feel like there's a common cause, it makes it easier to come to work.


What up, D? In order to get off the speculation and future train of thought, can you give us some insight into the locker room? Like which guys not in the same position group are friends that would surprise us, or any other cool anecdotes we don't get to see. Who is the best at ping pong? Which player has the messiest locker? You get the idea. — Cody, Four Oaks, NC

Lockers are grouped by position this year, so a lot of the hanging out is done with your own kind. Then again, I just walked by the locker room earlier today, and Chuba Hubbard was playing ping pong with Piñeiro. Those two don't have a lot in common (except winning a game together last week).

I've been around much better teams with less healthy locker rooms. Sometimes, the people you'd least expect to be bad for chemistry are. The game will find you eventually, and the long haul of a season tends to reveal character.

But again, it hasn't been angry or toxic in there, considering the record. They still play cards down by the defensive backs area, with Burns and Bell and other regulars in the game.

And linebacker/kicker Kamu Grugier-Hill is the undisputed king of ping pong in the room. Well, it's undisputed now. Practice squad receiver Derek Wright was his closest competition and the only guy to beat him this year. But Wright's out with a torn ACL now, so Grugier-Hill's alone at the top.

"I'm 32-1, and the one was a lucky, lucky game," Grugier-Hill said. "I need more competition. It's been a lonely year sometimes. It's not even fun."

So if there are no players of his caliber, the natural next question is who the worst is. (Another journalism is about to be committed.)

"There's a lot," he replied. "Eddie is pretty up there, Laviska Shenault Jr., pretty horrible. Ihmir Smith-Marsette, horrible. I mean, we'll be here all day talking about the guys that are bad."

Piñeiro acknowledged that Grugier-Hill is the best but strongly disagreed with being lumped in with Shenault.

"I've beaten a lot of people; just beat Chuba three straight," he said, pointing to a broken paddle as evidence of his degree of domination. This may not be an achievement, however, as even Hubbard's BFF Tommy Tremble noted, "Chuba is pretty bad at ping pong." (He might have said it less delicately, but this is a family Mailbag.)

Asked about the offensive linemen's games, which happen at a much slower pace, Grugier-Hill shook his head: "Not good ping pong."

He admitted that Christensen is pretty good, or was. Since he's out after right biceps surgery and was in a big brace for a bit, he's taken to playing with his left, and he's actually better than a lot of his teammates with his off-hand. (Piñeiro claims he's beaten Christensen with both hands. You challenge someone's ping pong skills, and they will bow up and passionately defend themselves.)

But here's the thing about these human beings. They're human beings. Mostly, it's about trying to keep things as normal as they can be in an abnormal situation.

"I think, especially in the situation we're in, it's helpful mentally to just stay a little loose, have a little fun, and just stay focused," Grugier-Hill said as he sat nearby guys playing with a massive Jenga set. "We're preparing just as much, if not more; we're doing extra things with each other, trying to get ready for our opponents and stuff. But in the meantime, it's not helpful to be all uptight."

Kamu Grugier-Hill


Darin, not a question this time; my last two were not answered, and I know I am only one of the thousands in your mailbag. Still, I am a loyal hometown fan from Germany, and I would just like to make a small correction to last week's mailbag. Daniel, from Husberg, Germany, isn't your first fan from Germany; still waiting for my surprise in the mail. I have been a loyal Panthers fan since Carolina got the franchise. As a military retiree, I have lived in Germany since 1996 with my German wife and have watched every Panthers game, win or lose, either on the PC or Game Pass; I attended the Panthers/Bucs game in London and the Panthers/Niners game live in Charlotte in 2022. — Kenneth, Stuttgart, Germany

Germany's a big country; there's room for more than one Panthers fan. And while you've been a friend of the mailbag for a while, I'm not sure you've ever been a Friend Of The Mailbag. Capitalization is important, Kenneth.

But as long as we're working on international shipping, we can take care of that. Congratulations, Kenneth, now you're official as an FOTM, and we'll get the appropriate honorarium on the way to you soon.

The number of shipments to Germany has been hitting another gear lately. Who knows what's next? In the meantime, enjoy this picture of Johnny Hekker in lederhosen.

Johnny Hekker


Hey Darin, thank you for answering my question last week! It made my day (Jordan and Jake gave me a shoutout on their show as well!) We won this week! Holy cow, what a sweet feeling. My wife has me on video doing the Apache dance in front of the TV. I'm not especially superstitious, but I'm not dumb enough to discount the existence of forces beyond my control or understanding, which is to say I believe in capricious luck and in the power and importance of mojo on a sports team. I don't know, man. I'm just saying: I wrote a letter, and we won that week. So here is another letter — here is me doing whatever it takes (in addition to not washing my stress-sweat-funky Panthers T-shirt from Sunday, which I will be wearing again this coming Sunday) to keep a potential streak alive!

This brings me to my question: are there any fellow practitioners of the mystical art of luck in the Panthers organization? Staff or player, is anyone embracing the illogical to engender a bit of good fortune or continue the streak from Sunday? Is anybody else planning to wear an unwashed (and possibly rank) T-shirt this weekend? — Daniel, Husberg, Germany

A) You have to respect the streak, Daniel. That's just science.

B) Great thing about last week's laundry. The game took care of the pre-wash cycle.

The equipment staff has been working overtime to make sure everything's clean (and dry) since Sunday, and equipment manager Don Toner and his staff are miracle workers. Toner is never heard from, always working, and pictured below.

And I point this out because for the last few months, I've been asked to pinch-hit to do coach interviews on our television show, The Panthers Huddle. Tabor walks in every week wearing the same gray hoodie. So I asked him off-air how many he has and whether he keeps a rotation.

"Nope, just this one," he said. "They wash it for me, so I don't have to worry about it."

Everyone has their own little superstitions, but it's a long season, and nothing ever works forever. Take, for instance, Hekker and JJ Jansen flipping snack waffles 93 minutes before kickoff to determine Hekker's coin toss call. They had won three straight trusting the snack waffle, and losing in New Orleans did not deter them moving forward since the snack waffle will be no worse than a 60-percent winner even if they lose in Jacksonville, and coin tosses are by definition 50-50 propositions.

There is a time for magic, and there's a time for cold, hard math.

Don Toner


Hey Darin, I hope you and your family are well. I was born and raised in Trinity, NC, and after 26 years in the U.S. Navy, my wife and I settled in Tucson. I am a passionate Panthers fan, and I get the NFL Sunday Ticket every year just so I can catch our games. The team is in chaos! What premier head coaching candidate would want to come here? We have no first-round pick, we may have a new GM, we are invested in a QB the new head coach didn't draft, and many of our "core" either haven't done well (Ikem Ekwonu) or can't stay on the field (Horn), and our premier pass rusher may not be under contract. Our owner has an itchy trigger finger regarding job security, doesn't hire the interim head coach who went .500, which was the best 12-game record since he bought the team (Steve Wilks), and seems to be playing GM and coach himself. I will say Scott Fitterer may have had some questionable draft picks; he has done a masterful job in managing our salary cap. I firmly disagree with going into the process with a predetermined set of skills outside of their ability to lead and communicate their vision and identity for the team. Does David Tepper not have anyone who provides an alternative opinion? As a retired Senior Chief, I would apply for that job! Keep Pounding! — Scott, Tucson, AZ

You're hired.

Again, we'll go back to the top and start by saying I'm never going to tell you that down is up or bad is good. The results speak for themselves.

But there's also a difference in what we know about this and what we feel. When a team gets sideways the way this one has, there are a lot more feels. And those feelings have caused some things to become exaggerated to comical proportions.

I'm willing to bet they find a coach. I have no idea who it will be, but the notion that no one will want this job is untrue. The number of teams that would have drafted Young first overall last year is at least in the high 20s, if not the 30s. If anyone tells you differently, they're lying to you, and sadly, lying to people in exchange for money is more lucrative than it ought to be.

Presumably, that new coach will certainly be someone who believes Young is worth working with. He will walk in the door with a more stable football operation than existed here previously, from the weight room to the athletic training staff and sports science and cafeteria to a scouting operation that is deeper in human talent and modernized in a way it wasn't before. Also, an ascending star in Derrick Brown who is also one of your hardest workers.

Obviously, some of those things could change. And nobody wants to hear about cutting-edge sports science equipment when the record is what it is. But turning this into an irredeemable grease fire is just pushing people's emotional buttons for attention, and people do it because it works. (That's part of the reason I try to leave my feelings out of my football and also spend less time on social media than I ever have.)

Is the situation ideal? It is not. But they have a quarterback people like under a cheap rookie contract, a sufficient amount of cap space to have a busy offseason, a solid base of defensive talent, and premier (i.e. expensive-to-fill) positions like pass-rusher, impact defensive tackle, cornerback, left tackle and quarterback filled by players they've drafted. Ekwonu is still good at football when used correctly, and so is Horn when he's healthy, but people get mad when things go poorly, and the collateral damage doesn't always make sense.

If we get to March, and no one has agreed to become head coach, hit me back.

Derrick Brown


Hi Darin. I want to start by saying thank you for the Mailbag. Your level-headed take on what has been a less-than-ideal season has been much needed. Since we have been eliminated from playoff contention and don't have a head coach, I have obviously begun thinking about the team's future. I think we were on the right track by hiring a former player as a head coach, but I don't think we went far enough. So, with that in mind here is what I have come up with:

New head coach — Greg Olsen (he already said he would do it and can't take it back), OC - Steve Smith — (if anyone knows how to get the most out of a short guy, it's him), DC - Luke Keuchly (all that experience with Greg's kids' pee wee team has kept him sharp, and we all know it),

Obviously, we have lots of other legends to call on to round out the staff, but I think this would be a great foundation to build on. At the very least, people would show up just to see the coaches. I guess my question is, will you pass this obvious Super Bowl-winning idea on to the coaching search committee and save them a lot of time and effort on far inferior plans? — Kyle, Carolina Beach, NC

You're hired.

Nostalgia is a hell of a drug.

There are many former players who become excellent coaches. There are many more former players who have no idea how to coach people beyond what they know worked for them, and if they're talented enough, the coaching didn't always matter.

And there are a lot of former players who have no interest whatsoever in the kind of hours it actually takes to be a coach.

I get the sense that Olsen is a lot more serious about this notion than some people imagine, and Kuechly is a guy who will never be far from the game.

But I can tell you for a fact 89's never getting into coaching (Source: My two ears).

As long as we're having fun here in the silly season, there are a lot of guys who could join the all-star alumni staff. Send me your thoughts to the next couple of Mailbags.

Steve Smith Sr.


Hey Darin, my wife and I are making the trek to Jacksonville for the New Year's Eve game to hang out in the pools with other Panthers fans. The thought of needing to get into bathing suit shape during the holidays is daunting, but we're cutting back on the Nog. Anyway, we first wanted to invite you to come tweet from the pools (if it's good enough for RGIII, surely it's good enough for you). And second, what would you consider to be the coolest fan feature of any NFL stadium? — Howard, Charlotte

As someone who isn't ashamed of Dad Bod, I can tell you without hesitation that Nog Bod is already a huge hit in Duval. And if you don't believe me, walk around downtown Jacksonville and yell, "Play Free Bird," and see who hollers back.

It's a business trip for me, but I'd consider coming down to visit pregame. If you're the kind of people who would travel out of state to sit in a pool to watch football, then you are obviously the kind of die-hard who walked across the street and sat out in the rain for three hours last week, and as we've already established, that makes you my people.

I've actually thought a lot about the other part of your question.

The coldest feature of any NFL stadium is the new press box at the Superdome, right up at the top next to the industrial-strength AC vents. You have to wear layers when you go to Louisiana.

The coolest would probably have to be the pirate ship in Tampa. I mean, come on, it's a pirate ship. It has cannons. And maybe even cheap corn (it's a Buccaneer). Did I mention it's a pirate ship?

I'll look for you in Jacksonville. Based on your discussion about your bathing suit shape, I'll assume this trip will be Rated AAAARRRRRRRRGH anyway.

Egg nog


Haven't chimed in on the Panthers in a while. Mama always said, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." So... Anyway, since I can't talk about the Panthers, I figured I'd talk about another Home Team: the Carolina Hurricanes. The last couple of years, they have been the "Yen" to the Panthers' "Yang", the "Zig" that eased the pain of a very "zagged" football franchise. They haven't been as good this season as most experts predicted so far, but it's still early, and they have a great coach in Rod Brind'Amour. I wonder if he knows football. They have a B. Burns also. Except his Mama named him Brent. I was thinking today, how sick would it be if someone took a Burns Panthers jersey and did a mashup with a Burns Canes sweater? Like half and half... That would be the ultimate two-sport fan ensemble! Of course, Brent Burns is a 20-year vet, so how much longer will he play? And Brian could be playing somewhere else next year. If I had the Burns swersey made up, I can almost guarantee that they will both be gone next season. I feel personally responsible for Kuechly retiring and McCaffrey getting traded. Both happened right after I acquired their respective jerseys. Bad timing, I suppose.

Sorry for the meandering message. Just sitting here on a melancholy Thursday night, hoping for a win Sunday against the hated Falcons. I'll have the Canes afterward to ease the pain. Hopefully. P.S. I miss Jeff from Fuquay Varina. — Chris, Greensboro, NC

It's all Chris' fault, everybody. Now we know who to blame.

Actually, my eyes glazed over about halfway through that one. I don't speak hockey (though I used to know a weirdo who aggressively flirted with cocktail waitresses whom we called the Odd Man Rush). Maybe Luke DeCock of the Raleigh News and Observer has a mailbag. Ask The Ivy League Guy, maybe. The merch comes from Brooks Brothers.

But yes, I also worry about Jeff from Fuquay-Varina. We haven't heard from him in a minute.

Brent Burns

And on that note, let's go lightning round, brought to you by the patron saint of the lightning round Jeff from Fuquay-Varina, to close it out this week.

You don't actually look that old. Are you sure you qualify to be called an Old Guy? — Miles, Durham, NC

That youthful glow is just from clean living. I've got shoes older than you, Miles.

What's the current update on Tarik Cohen? Is there any chance we can work him in over the next three weeks? — Michael, Valdese, NC

With Justin Houston gone now, there's a possible designated to return from IR spot available now. I can tell you this: Tarik's busting his tail to get himself well. He impressed with his workout when they signed him, and he's impressed with his work ethic since then. I don't think you can rule it out.

Hey Darin! I was at the game this Sunday, and it was a blast being able to just go and sit right in front of the end zone for 45 cents! What an excellent job by the event staff for not caring about where you are supposed to be sitting! Anyways, my question for this week is: Have you ever seen the rain? Or at least before this week when both your 'Neers and 'Thers won in a Clearwater Revival of their seasons? — Zach, Charlotte

I don't recognize either of those disasters of contractions, Zach. I'll never call Twitter anything but Twitter, so I promise you I'll never say 'Neers or 'Thers out loud.

Grew up in the Scouts and OA. So yes, I have seen the rain. If your area is experiencing drought conditions, send me out with a backpack.

Now GET BACK TO CLASS, ZACH (in your assigned seat).

Darin, Let me be the first: WAY TO GO PANTHERS! We are so happy for you all! Most of all, I'm happy for the offensive line and for Bryce Young. They had a really good day today. Much needed, and I know they must be on top of the world! "Maybe" this will give the Panthers some confidence as they close out the last few games of the season. Sure hope so!

So, Darin, my only question is, where are you going tonight to celebrate? I'll (oh, I hate the pun) "in spirit" raise up a toast to you and the Panthers: KEEP POUNDING GUYS! We love you. Merry Christmas to all! — Jim, Timberlake, NC

See, I knew when I got home the other night that the egg nog I keep in the fridge was a little lighter than I left it. Now I know. Jim got into it.

That'll cover us for this week. Enjoy the holidays and the time with your people, no matter the weather. That's the important part: finding people who are with you even when it rains. Sometimes, that's a football analogy.

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