A former Panther told me he'd heard that I wrote a piece defending Carolina after Peter King ranked the team as the NFL's ninth best in his Monday Morning Quarterback segment on SI.com. The former Panther meant it as a compliment. But I couldn't take credit.
Unless there are extenuating circumstances, I would never react in print to another writer's work. King said the Panthers were a quiet and suspect 8-2. And let's be honest. The schedule has been user friendly. The Panthers have taken advantage. They've played six games at home and only four on the road. They've beaten Kansas City, Oakland and Detroit.
I've been impressed with Carolina's work. The Panthers have been opportunistic. They're undefeated at home and .500 on the road. If the Panthers sustain that, they finish 12-4 and open the playoffs at Bank of America Stadium.
Readers also have emailed to talk about the lack of respect the Panthers get, and they use King's ranking as proof.
I don't get it. I think people manufacture things to get offended about.
I'm not good at caring what other people think. I don't see any advantage in ceding that kind of power to people I don't know. I have a constituency of family, friends, co-workers, supervisors and readers whose opinions I respect. If I write a good column, they'll tell me. I wrote something I liked a few Sundays ago and I heard from everybody from which I wanted to hear. I was gratified with their response.
But to worry about what a guy from Sports Illustrated thinks, or what a stranger thinks, I just don't understand. A writer in Philadelphia ripped Charlotte before the Panthers-Eagles game for the NFC championship, and I was assigned to attack his city. But I like Philadelphia. I thought the guy's piece was funny, albeit over the top, and I wasn't offended. Why would I care what that guy thinks? Why would you?
Do any of us measure our worth by checking with strangers? Do you like me? Is my hair OK? Am I worthy?
The NFL is not the BCS. If the Panthers are the NFL's ninth best team, the next six weeks will give them the opportunity to prove it.