I discovered this startling revelation while waiting in line at Bojangles’ preparing to order a grease-filled chicken sandwich of which neither my doctor nor wife would approve.
I live 20 minutes west of Charlotte in the city of Gastonia, famous for being the home of Sun-Drop and James Worthy. Being right smack in the heart of ACC country, we know our basketball and, when Charlotte was awarded an NFL franchise in 1995, we have a love affair with professional football.
Bojangles’ and the Carolina Panthers are definitely linked, with Cats’ quarterback Jake Delhomme and star Pro Bowl receiver Steve Smith acting as spokesmen for the fried fowl franchise.
I had just placed my order for a Cajun Filet Biscuit Combo when the manager noticed I had a copy of the local paper under my arm. He did not ask me about health care, swine flu, or the nuclear threat. He wanted to talk about something really important: the Panthers.
Our city was abuzz over the shakeup in the Panthers front office. Mark and Jon Richardson, sons of owner Jerry Richardson, both stepped down from their positions in high–level management.
The restaurant manager, I’ll call him Mr. Bojangles’, asked why I thought this happened. Before I could answer, suddenly, out of nowhere, another Bojangles’ employee appeared. He had his own take on the situation.
“This is Michael Vick’s fault,” the man with the greasy apron announced.
His manager asked him the obvious question before I could.
“How in the world is this Michael Vick’s fault?”
Mr. Greasy Apron gave this confusing reply.
“I heard the guys on ESPN talking about Michael Vick and then the very next story was about those Richardson boys. And you know the Panthers play the Eagles the first game.”
Mr. Greasy Apron had obviously inhaled too much flour. At this point I just wanted to get my chicken and exit stage left.
I changed the subject to Delhomme, whose five interceptions had doomed the Panthers in their crushing playoff defeat to the Cardinals last year.
“Bojangles’ business may pick up if they get a new spokesman,” I said in a clumsy attempt to steer the conversation away from Vick. “Delhomme has seen his better days.”
Then I heard another voice cry out from behind the counter, “Oh no you didn’t talk bad about my Panthers!”
I assured the teen girl with the Bojangles’ cap that I was also a Carolina fan and surely didn’t mean to disrespect them.
As she placed my chicken sandwich and fries on the tray, she remarked, “The Panthers play Michael Vick’s team in a few weeks.”
In a span of two minutes, a quarterback who has not taken a regular season snap in two seasons was blamed for front office changes in a faraway franchise and called the face of his new team.
Vick may be blamed for many things this year: the Eagles’ defensive deficiencies, Brian Westbrook’s sore toe (or whatever his injury of the week is), Andy Reid’s indigestion, perhaps even global warming.
If the Eagles fail to land in the playoffs this year, the blame will rest squarely on the shoulders of PETA’s public enemy number one: number seven in your program.
The roadblock that may keep Philly at home when the playoffs begin could involve the position they hoped to strengthen by signing Vick.
Quarterback Donovan McNabb was reported to have signed off on the Vick deal, but there have already been rumblings of discontent in the Eagles’ lair.
Reports from their very first preseason game together have McNabb complaining that the WildVick formation disrupts the rhythm of the Eagle offence. Buckle up, Donovan. You ain’t seen nothing yet.
The root problem for Mr. McNabb may be the realization this is no longer his team. In just a few weeks, he has become the second most popular quarterback in Philly. The plethora of No. 7 jerseys that dot Lincoln Financial Field testify to the fact that Donovan is playing second fiddle now.
At least that’s what the young teen chicken slinger says. I believe she’s right.
I’m glad that my beloved Panthers have a chance to win in week one. Superman was sent a package of kryptonite from the evil Commish that will sideline him for the first two weeks of the season.
After that, watch out NFL world! The Eagles’ Top Dog will be turned loose.