In professional wrestling, a good guy is a babyface and a bad guy is a heel. In wrestling, as in life, a heel often turns good and a babyface often turns bad.
Ric Flair, who has won almost as many championships as the Carolina Panthers have won games, apparently has turned heel.
On Saturday night in Green Bay, he strutted -- you think Ric Flair enters? -- into a room in the Appleton, Wis., hotel in which the 49ers stayed. As "Thus Sprake Zarathrustra," better known as the theme from "2001: A Space Odessey," played, and as Flair's image was flashed on a screen, Flair strutted into the room.
The 49ers looked thrilled, and Flair looked thrilled that they were. Flair told the 49ers he loved them.
These are the 49ers who will play the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte Sunday. Panther receiver Steve Smith once bought a Ric Flair robe. Had hoped to see Smith run onto the field beneath a shiny robe full of shiny faux jewels, or maybe real jewels. Perhaps Smith will Sunday.
Flair has lived in Charlotte since the 1970s. He became a star wrestling for the (now defunct) Charlotte based National Wrestling Allliance off South Blvd. He's a sports fan. He was a fan of the Charlotte Hornets and is a buddy of South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier.
Although Flair's roots are in Charlotte, I'm told he lives in Atlanta.
Flair said it could be dangerous, being in the same town at the time the 49ers are. You have a curfew, right? he asked.
As he pumped them up for Sunday's game against Green Bay, which the 49ers won, he told them to be limousine-riding and high-flying, two of his trademark lines.
"Ric Flair's heart is with the 49ers all the way to the end," Flair said.
As he talked, he "wooed." The woo is Flair's trademark. He used to drive to Raleigh to woo at Carolina Hurricanes' games. He used to woo on the scoreboard at Carolina Panther games. I don't know if the Panthers paid him. But Flair owned season tickets.
After allegations from a divorce he went through were published, Flair no longer appeared on the scoreboard. Maybe that was a coincidence.
So, has Flair the babyface turned Flair the heel? Will Flair, long a Charlotte proponent and Charlotte nightlife fixture, pull for the 49ers against the Panthers?
I called Flair Monday morning. I didn't get him, but I left a message on his answering machine.
How did the message end?