TJ Hatter
Author

The Homer's Guide To The 2014 Carolina Panthers

Aug 13, 2014 8:40 AM EST

The internet has made socialization occasionally weird but also better. Oftentimes, it's made it great. You now have the opportunity to bond with people who are similar to you without being in close physical proximity to them. That's an amazing evolution in human interaction.

It's been awesome in my life personally. Writing for this site, and a few others, I've virtually met a bunch of awesome new people that I can grab a drink with if I'm in their town. My editor Evan Grossman is a fantastic person and I'm honored to be working with him. Joe Scumaci is like a fraternity brother to me. Scott Daniels is a really smart guy who I'd trust enough to ask for advice. Josh Grossman is a witch doctor who I use to jinx people I don't like. Dan Harralson and Eric Wickstrom and I all talk on Twitter and email regularly and I love reading their work.

I've never been within 100 miles of any of them. 

But they're friends of mine now. Real friends. I'm old enough to know that that is mind-boggling. For all the criticisms of the internet that exist (there are many, and they are legit) the most underrated part of it is that it's been amazing at finding people who have similar interests. That's a good thing. Loneliness is a hard thing to talk about and write about. It's possible to be lonely in a room full of people, particularly if you're on an adult playdate when you've been dragged somewhere full of people you don't know or don't like — a family reunion as an example — and you don't want to be there. It's possible to be lonely in a house full of siblings. It's also possible to be lonely when you live alone. The internet helps fight loneliness. It connects people. It is the best thing it does.

Depression, which is often driven by loneliness, is a real and terrible thing. It impacts rich and poor alike. As we saw on Monday, it even impacts those who have the ability to light up a room full of people

Fight loneliness.

Do not ever let it win.

I have friends in close physical proximity, but I don't feel any closer to them than I do Evan or Joe, etc. You shouldn't either. Find something you're passionate about and find people who share your passion. Because where we live doesn't matter anymore in making friends. It's about what you like and what you can share with the world. 

As promised, this was an uplifting opener to this column, which is supposed to be about football and Drew Magary's "Why Your Team Sucks" articles. 

Onward.

The Team:

The Carolina Panthers, who've had themselves a pretty decent run since expansion. Seriously, these guys were in the NFC Championship game in their second year of existence. That's a pretty fancy beginning if you ask me, which you didn't. The team also has a Super Bowl appearance and while it has had to suffer through some lean years, it really has been a positive emotional investment, which is rare for most sports fans.  

2013 Record:

12-4. Riverboat Ron Rivera gambled his way off the hot seat and into the hearts of Scumaci's everywhere. By the way, props to Joe for totally calling that this was going to happen in a joint podcast we did late last season. Expect more of that glorious level of analysis when we do our weekly "Two People Arguing" routine this coming this season. The playoff loss may have been frustrating but, by and large, the season was fun on several levels — particularly since it provided positive answers to the nagging questions that proceeded it.   

Your Coach:

Good ole Ron Rivera. It was nice to see Rivera have some success, because it was totally due to playing against type. Rivera was in the stages of updating his LinkedIn profile in September and did what many should do when they think they're going to get fired: He said "screw it" and attempted to go out in style. You've gotta like it when that actually works. He's gone from relative anonymity to internet meme and it is awesome.   

Your Quarterback:

Cam Newton, who had the kind of progression you see in good quarterbacks in their third year. We knew Newton was freakishly athletic, but what we didn't know was whether he could be a more accurate passer. He also balanced his run attack to buy time for playmakers to compliment his ability to generate yards. He started putting it together towards the latter half of 2012 and blossomed into a very consistent quarterback last year. The only issue remaining is this: Who, precisely, is he going to throw to this year?    

Why Your Homerism Might Be Legit:

I'm on record as saying this season might be a regression, particularly because, unless the Carolina front office has some wizardry up its sleeve that I'm not aware of, Cam Newton is going to have to do the football equivalent of drawing blood from a rock. But it's possible he can do that. Newton is your answer at quarterback, Panthers fans. Don't let any talking head or keyboard warrior talk you out of that. He's a leader on that team, he gets fired up and he's a few pieces away from leading a gangbuster offense to complement a stout defense into a solid window of championship contention. 

Again, feel free to post comments supporting — or trolling — below. The Bataan Death March of Homerism continues tomorrow with the New Orleans Saints.