49ers

Panthers asking for it with wild new statue of owner

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Panthers asking for it with wild new statue of owner

For reasons that evade, well, reason, the Jerry Richardson statue outside the Carolina Panthers’ stadium has become a matter of much discussion about narcissism, bottom-kissing, legacies and the vanity of powerful people who worry about them.

And all I can think of is all the statues of Joseph Stalin that were eagerly commissioned while he was alive and destroyed with extraordinary zeal within months of his death.

We will not discuss whether having Richardson standing between two panthers (allegedly representing offense and defense, as well as North and South Carolina) is an eyesore. That’s for art majors and the lesser of our nation’s hot-take dealers.


But Richardson’s right to have his pals build him a statue is not in dispute here. You can argue about what he’s done to earn it, and how many hundreds of millions of public dollars contributed both voluntarily and compulsorily made him statue-worthy, but someone wanted him to have this, so he has it.

[NEWS: Panthers owner Richardson receives statue outside stadium]

What is at issue is the more visceral matter of why he would want it at all, knowing what we do with statues and plaques and honoraria, which is “melt them down and do it again as soon as it’s safe to forget the original awardee.”

After all, Stalin shaped global politics for a century with a level of savagery almost unmatched on this planet, scaring those under his thrall to the point where he may have had the most statues commissioned of him in human history.

And as soon as he died, they came down, were melted, and got turned into decorative wrought-iron fencing and smaller statues of less offensive people. His legacy as a mass-murdering bastard kicked the ass right off the statuary, as it should be.

Statues are yesterday’s business, anyway. In a disposable age in which everything can be saved on cellphones (the ultimate diminution of the human experience), a statue is a needless redundancy that serves largely as a shiny bombsight for flocks of geese.

Sports owners think in terms of statues a lot, though, and just a tour around most modern stadiums and arenas will tell you that. Most of them honor players because people are far more attracted to a bronze rendition of Willie Mays hitting a home run whole in a near-genuflect -- it’s the human form at its best -- but a ring of statues is now considered as important to stadium construction as number of bathrooms.

But a metallurgic representation of an owner, even one standing behind animals who in real life would shred the human into delicious bite-sized bits just for amusement is merely a testimonial to the assumption that the owner is as important to the customer as the player, and that is demonstrably false based on this old truth: At no time in human history has anyone ever bought a ticket to a sporting event and asked to be seated as close to the turnstile as possible.

The games and their practitioners are what matter to the people who will admire the statue on a day-to-day basis, not the guy who handled the financing or blackjacked the local government to help get that done.

More to the point, the owner gets paid off in other ways, starting with the pay. The owner gets to name the stadium after himself (or herself, in those cases where a woman owns a team), even though most owners have sought out more money by selling said rights. In fact, Richardson has the stadium at North Carolina-Charlotte named after him, but that wasn’t done at his behest.

Moreover, a statue is a mythical representation of what is being sold inside, and sports are myth. Business is anything but myth, and owners like Richardson who believe they are part of the mythmaking machinery essentially forget or ignore what their assigned role in sports actually is.

Specifically, they get our money, not our hearts.

Richardson is an unusual case here, since he is one of the rare owners who played the sport at the highest level (he was a flanker for two years with the Baltimore Colts of the Johnny Unitas Era), and maybe thinks of himself as a player in his soul.

But he’s not that unusual because all the other players with statues didn’t have the statues put up themselves. He is wearing a suit. He looks like he’s going to a competition committee meeting, and the panthers look like they are there to keep reporters away. Mythologizing that aspect of the endeavor conflates the owner on an equal plane with the players in the hearts and minds of the customers, and that is plainly nonsense.

In short, all the honorifics Jerry Richardson is and has been may well be worthy of can be debated, but a statue is, well, just asking for it.

At some point, owners pass, and Richardson has said that upon his death he wants the team sold outside his family to anyone with the money who will pledge to keep the team in Charlotte.

The solution? Put the statue in Richardson’s office at the stadium, so that the one person most interested in it can admire it all day long, and after he passes, his family can take it with them. Otherwise, the public (and the occasional bird) will make its own determination of the value of the statue, and that can’t be guaranteed.

Just ask Joseph Stalin.

49ers veteran expected to play in Pro Bowl thanks to Eagles

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USATSI

49ers veteran expected to play in Pro Bowl thanks to Eagles

Veteran 49ers left tackle Joe Staley is expected to benefit from the Philadelphia Eagles’ trip to the Super Bowl.

Staley, originally chosen as an alternate, is expected to be named to his sixth Pro Bowl to take the place of Eagles Pro Bowl tackle Lane Johnson.

The Pro Bowl will be played Sunday, Jan. 28, in Orlando, Florida. Members of the Super Bowl participant Eagles and New England Patriots will not play in the All-Star game. The Eagles advanced to the Super Bowl on Sunday with a 38-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

The other Pro Bowl offensive tackles representing the NFC are Dallas’ Tyron Smith and Los Angeles’ Andrew Whitworth, who replaced Washington’s Trent Williams.

Staley got off to a rough start last season as the 49ers opened on a nine-game losing streak. The idea of his career coming to an end began to creep into his mind, he said recently on the 49ers Insider Podcast.

But Staley said he had a talk with coach Kyle Shanahan that got him refocused for the remainder of the season. The 49ers finished with a five-game win streak to finish with a 6-10 record, and Staley played well down the stretch.

“I’m so far gone from where I was in that moment early in the year that I’m just focused on next year and, hopefully, years after that,” said Staley, 33, an 11-year NFL veteran. “I feel like I can still play.

“I think this last half of the season I played some of the best football of my career. I feel very confident in what we’re doing schematically with the people surrounding us, and it shows in my own play.”

Staley would join fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who was the only 49ers player named to the Pro Bowl when the teams were announced in last month.

Foles frenzy: Eagles fly over Vikings to meet Patriots in Super Bowl LII

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Foles frenzy: Eagles fly over Vikings to meet Patriots in Super Bowl LII

BOX SCORE

PHILADELPHIA -- Hey Philly, maybe it's time to forget Carson Wentz. Nick Foles might be good enough to win the Eagles their first Super Bowl.

Foles was on fire Sunday night against the stingiest scoring defense in the NFL. Philly made big play after big play on both sides of the ball in a stunning 38-7 rout of the Minnesota Vikings for the NFC championship.

Next up after their most-lopsided playoff victory: the Eagles' first Super Bowl appearance since 2005, against the team that beat them then, AFC champion New England.

Foles replaced the injured Wentz in Game 13 and finished off a rise from last place to first in the NFC East. There were plenty of doubters entering the playoffs, but the former starter in Philadelphia (15-3) under another regime has been brilliant.

His best work might have come against Minnesota (14-4) and its vaunted defense that was torn apart in every manner. Foles threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns, showing poise, escapability and moxie in going 26 for 33.

In doing so - helped greatly by the Eagles' domination on defense and a spectacular weaving 50-yard interception return TD by Patrick Robinson - Foles ruined the Vikings' hopes of being the first team to play in a Super Bowl in its own stadium

Instead, the Eagles will seek their first Super Bowl crown in Minnesota on Feb. 4; their last championship came in 1960.

OVER AT HALFTIME: Minnesota made it look easy at the outset, driving 75 yards on nine plays, each of which gained yardage. The payoff was a 25-yard throw from Case Keenum to Kyle Rudolph well behind linebacker Najee Goode as Philadelphia's defense looked confused on the play.

That didn't happen again for Philly.

Defensive end Chris Long had a huge hand in Robinson's 50-yard interception return. Long burst in from the left side and got his arm on Keenum to disrupt the throw for Adam Thielen. The ball went directly to Robinson, who sped down the left side, then made a sharp cut to the right and got a superb block from Ronald Darby to reach the end zone.

Inspired, Philly's D forced a three-and-out, the Foles led the Eagles on a 12-play, 75-yard masterpiece of a drive. LeGarrette Blount showed all his power and escapability on an 11-yard surge up the middle for a 14-7 lead.

Turnovers, something Minnesota rarely committed with an NFC-low 14 during the season, hurt again and not only ended a solid drive, but set up more Philly points. On third down from the Eagles 15, Keenum was blindsided by rookie Derek Barnett, and the ball bounced directly to Long.

It was only the second strip-sack the Vikings have been victimized by all season.

A blown coverage - another rarity for Minnesota - on third-and-10 allowed Alshon Jeffery to get wide open for a 53-yard TD, and Philadelphia tacked on Elliott's 38-yard field goal to make it 24-3 at halftime.

DANCING IN THE LINC: Fifty seconds into the final quarter, with the score 38-7, Eagles players on the sideline and waiting to kick off on the field were dancing up a storm and fans were chanting "We want Brady."

They get Tom Brady and company in two weeks.

BACK TO THE BIG GAME: Long won the Super Bowl last year with the Patriots, as did Blount. Now they return on the other side.

QUICK DRIVE: Philadelphia got the ball with 29 seconds remaining in the first half at its 20. Foles hit passes of 11 yards to Jay Ajayi, 36 to Ertz and 13 to Ajayi before Elliott's field goal to end the half.

THIRD DOWNS: Minnesota was the league's best team defending third downs and was third in converting them. Yet Philadelphia went 10 for 14.

NEXT UP: Minnesota returns home to watch two other teams play at its stadium for the Lombardi Trophy.

With the entire stadium singing "Fly Eagles Fly" during the NFC trophy ceremony, Philadelphia can look forward to facing New England in Super Bowl 52 on Feb. 4