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The untold story of the Panthers' P.I.G. tournament


SPARTANBURG, S.C. – It's as much a part of Panthers training camp as the sweltering heat, souped-up four wheelers and white bean chili.

But its story has never been told.

Until now.

The game is P.I.G., and if you've been around the team at Wofford College over the years, you've likely heard rumblings about it. But the tournament has always been shrouded in secrecy, a competition privy only to the players.

For Commissioner Ryan Kalil, the time has come to discuss the game and its legacy.

"Two reasons why I'm sharing the story this year," Kalil said. "One: Social media is at a point where guys have been posting fragments of it the past couple years. The second reason is Cam Newton. We had a huge spat about his involvement in the league, and I want to show that it is just as popular without him."

Before we get to that drama, let's look back at the creation of a training camp tradition.

"Years ago, Jordan (Gross) thought of it as a way to mix the locker room because it's divided into all the position groups," Kalil said. "He thought a tournament would be a great thing for team fellowship. More and more guys kept getting excited about it."

Kalil purchased the first mini hoop, which has since been upgraded, for the shortened version of the basketball classic H.O.R.S.E., and the games began. The rules are simple yet complicated, if that makes any sense.

A player shoots and his opponent must mimic a made shot to the best of his ability. That includes all the theatrics leading up to the release of the ball. A miss results in a letter. If you're first to three letters, P, I and G, you're eliminated.

"If there is any gray area or a rule I forget, I call (Gross) and consult with him," Kalil said. "He'll have the answer or he'll help me come up with an answer."

Games are played in small windows of time available before practice. Linebacker Thomas Davis  -- 2015 champion -- is the No. 1 seed and prohibitive favorite this year.

"There are a lot of trick shots. Guys are bouncing it off the walls, off a fan, saying things with a certain inflection," Kalil said. "Someone like Cam is all about the theatrics leading up to it, and then he does a simple shot. Part of his strategy is to get you so caught up on all this dumb stuff you have to do, when you go to take the simple shot you're so flustered you lose your concentration.

"Layups seem like a pretty easy thing to do. It's not. It's not so easy. That ball bounces all over the place. If you haven't practiced layups, that's gonna get lots of laughs when you miss."

As the game evolved, players began increasing the degree of difficulty with athletic maneuvers leading up to the shot. That's when Kalil had to enforce a "no jumping rule" in the interest of player safety.

There is also a strict code of conduct.

"If you throw a ball out of anger while playing, it is an automatic letter," Kalil said. "Can't do a practice shot after you catch a miss. Automatic letter.

"Spectators are encouraged to get in the heads of the competitors. But you can't interfere with a shot. Some guys will cross the line."

The tournament is organized on a cardboard bracket, complete with seedings based on prior years' performance and Kalil's scouting reports.

"Winner gets the bracket from that year," Kalil said. "When you lose, you have to autograph the bracket. Every winner has gotten it framed."

The immensely important task of carefully creating the bracket/trophy is given to a rookie offensive lineman each year.

"If it's not perfect, he has to do it over," Kalil said. "We have never had a rookie get it right on the first try, except for this year. Taylor Moton – the first one."

Now to Newton's contentious departure from the league.

While Kalil was discussing Newton's exit, the franchise quarterback who took home the P.I.G. title in 2013 walked into the lunch room. Below is the exchange that took place between Newton and Kalil:

Cam: "There comes a point in every athlete's career when, Drake says it best, 'The moment I have stopped having fun with it, I'll be done with it.' We're blindly being led by these fictitious rules that loom over the game. I've been the cash cow for that association for too long."

Ryan: "He's given me a lot of excuses for why he's taking the year off. But I personally think he's trying to strong-arm me for a bigger piece of the league."

Cam: "A lot of things do happen behind closed doors."

Ryan: "He wants to make the point that he brings a crowd, and I can't argue against that."

Cam: "But it's not even that. I would like to be known as the P.I.G.'s Paul Wall – The Peoples Champ. I get everybody involved, I use props, and he won't let me use props, I would do certain things …"

Ryan: "He was standing on chairs and doing crazy stuff, and I banned it. He thinks it was all about him and it wasn't. I continue to enforce rules to protect the players. The integrity of the game. I get it Roger. I get it. You can't please everybody."

Cam: "Even Roger Goodell finally came around and allowed people to start doing things that made it fun for the fans. … And look, in my P.I.G. career, I'm supposed to have at least three cardboards, and I've got one. One of them was so bogus and disrespectful."

Ryan: "He's talking about the championship game."

Cam: "I would rather not even be affiliated with this mess. They make up rules as they go. At the end of the day, I'd love to be a part of the P.I.G. association, but I'm just not moved. I gave them everything I've got. I brought the crowds. And I peeked over there the other day and there were like three people watching a game."

Ryan: "It has suffered a little bit. But the game goes on."

(Cam exits with a laugh)

Ryan: "I'd also like to mention that Cam tried to form his own league. A rival league. But it failed. He couldn't organize; he didn't have the funds. He tried to use my stadium, and I told him to go get his own. And he couldn't get the players. They were loyal to my league, and I basically strong-armed them. I said, 'Anybody who jumps ship will forever be banned.'"

All of that said, all of the drama and betrayal factored in, is Newton welcome back if he wants to compete next year?

"Always," Kalil said. "Always."

Fans are encouraged to download and fill out a 2017 P.I.G. bracket. Commissioner Ryan Kalil will reward a perfect bracket.

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