The criticism from readers about my Ric Flair pieces (a column and two blogs) was overwhelming. The most common refrain: You moron (idiot, fool, traitor) why are you writing about Flair when the Panthers are in the playoffs?
Fans who are new to the Panthers apparently believe that if you write for a newspaper, or use Charlotte's roads or breate Charlotte's air, you need to produce (news)papers that attest to your Panther loyalty.
I like Flair. I've known him since the 1980s. He was always great to my kids, and he's always been good to me. He's great with his fans. When the Panthers played in the Super Bowl, I asked defensive end Mike Rucker, a wrestling fan, who was more popular, Flair or Jake Delhomme. Mike looked at me as if I was a moron, an idiot or a fool, but not a traitor, and said Flair.
I still don't know the impetus of Ric's trip to Wisconsin to meet with the San Francisco 49ers. I would guess his employer, Vince McMahon, of the WWE asked him to go and Ric complied.
As I wrote, there might be a connection between the WWE and the 49ers. Wrestlemania, the WWE's showcase event, will be held at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Cal, in 2015. The 49ers will play at Levi's Stadium in 2015.
If I abandon a friend because he tells the 49ers he loves them, I'm not much of a friend.
The last time the Panthers and 49ers played, San Francisco was favored by six. I picked Carolina by 1 and they won 10-9.
I've yet to pick Sunday's outcome. The game at Bank of America Stadium is close in so many ways. Carolina's defense is ranked second, San Francisco's fifth. Carolina's offense is ranked 26th, San Francisco's 24th. Mobile quarterbacks, good coaches -- the teams share many qualities.
I hear repeatedly that oddsmakers don't respect the Panthers, since the 49ers, a 2-point favorite, are the only road team favored in the NFL this weekend. But oddsmakers don't care about respect, or a lack thereoff. They win if they entice as many bettors to put their money on Carolina as they do San Francisco.
To do that, they set the line at 2, although I don't know if it will stay there. The 49ers are the defending NFC champions, and they suddenly are the popular pick to win everything. It's boring to repeatedly pick the No. 1 seed, boring to get on the bandwagon and pick Seattle and Denver. So now everybody has spontaneously and daringly decided to pick San Francisco.
Wouldn't you loved to have been at courtside in Pyongyang, North Korea when Dennis Rodman's traveling Old Stars played the North Koreans?
True, by showing up you enhance the credibility of a dictator. And I'm anti-dictator. I've covered too many of them; often they coach a college team.
Dictators aside, the atmosphere would have been compelling. I've covered everything from football and basketball to Olympic fencing, motorcycle ice racing and senior's boxing. (Avoid the latter.) But to be there, at courtside, in North Korea, would be -- I have no idea.
Wonder what kind of food they served the free press there before the game? I suspect the press isn't free and the food isn't, either.