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Courtesy of Forbes

Charlotte, North Carolina, my home and where the Carolina Panthers reside (for now), is currently undergoing massive upheaval as a result of a tax revaluation by the Mecklenburg County Tax Assessor’s Office. This is the first revaluation since 2011, and Charlotte has only continued to increase in its population to the tune of roughly 54 people a day. This population growth coupled with a lack of supply in housing stock (both affordable and otherwise) has led to the kind of real estate speculation that spells disaster for working class neighborhoods. 

The Tax Assessor’s Office reported that commercial property jumped by an average of 77% while residential jumped by an average of 43%. As a result, people are making tough, kitchen table decisions like appealing their revaluation or moving before a property tax rate is set in July. The revaluation has turned an affordable housing crisis into a nightmare with horror stories of affected neighborhoods devastated and residents despondent with the choices ahead of them. 

There was a story released this past Thursday that one major fixture of the region is also feeling the squeeze: David Tepper’s Carolina Panthers. 

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Graphic by Brian Kraker

Another year down. Another year older, but perhaps none the wiser? Maybe that decision doesn’t belong to you alone. It felt like nothing did, most of the time. From Tide Pods to the Philly Special to countless acts of cruelty and many more of plain senselessness to the continued existence of the Golden State Warriors to having 12 years left to stop the sun to inexplicable blue lights over Astoria, everything that happened felt like it was going to happen anyway, sooner or later, and we were all left to bear it as best we could. Same as it ever was, but different.

Still: we would be equally bereft of sense to assume that darkness would drive out darkness. You may have heard that only light can do that. For all the bad and rot everywhere, urban, suburban and rural, at home and abroad, there were the moments in between that made everything we experience every day that kept us together, however briefly. If we experienced them together? All the better.

As Bootsy Collins said in 1972, “Balance is my thing/The snow, wind and rain must come.” With that, we delve into the year that was, with an eye toward the twelvemonth ahead.

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Photograph by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

I’m not at all qualified to discuss sports, professional or otherwise. Or, at least, not in the view of the people who believe Colin Kaepernick’s unemployment is anything other than a morally righteous comeuppance, an inevitable reaction to a decorated athlete of color speaking his mind. How dare a person have thoughts beyond their scope of expertise? Can’t he just keep quiet, perform for the fans and accept his sizable paycheck? Why doesn’t he #sticktosports?

Given that thought process, none of us are qualified to form an opinion on, really, anything. Your dentist shouldn’t tell you what he thinks about the Mets’ starting rotation, nor should your accountant divulge his thoughts on Gary Bettman’s perpetual dismantling of professional hockey. Drill the teeth, find the tax breaks, shut up and do your job. Most notably, of course, the current POTUS wouldn’t be anywhere near his position had much of his base applied to him the same logic they – liberally – apply to athletes, given his complete lack of political experience and expertise prior to assuming the role[1].

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Regardless of what happens on February 5th, the 2016-17 NFL Playoffs have undeniably been an offensive showcase. Some of this was due to the best defenses in the league (Denver, Baltimore) inexplicably missing the playoffs in favor of a Ryan Tannehill Matt Moore-led Dolphins team[1]. There were also multiple playoff teams with legitimate game changing defensive stars (Earl Thomas, Khalil Mack, and J.J. Watt) who fell prey to injuries. With the road cleared, the NFL’s streaking QBs and star skill position players drove down the field on nearly every possession. Al Michaels surely hopes everyone bet the over.

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Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Nothing quite inspires hope in a despondent NFL fan base like the arrival of a talented, young quarterback. While most fans know a promising QB prospect cannot carry a team to a championship alone, the league’s history has shown time and again how teams with great talent at the most important position tend to overcome any competition lacking it by mid-January. Last year, Denver provided a great blueprint for circumventing this trend when they dragged a broken Peyton Manning through the playoff gauntlet, but there are exceptions to every rule. It is impossible to deny that building a championship-contending football team typically starts at the quarterback position.

Still, it is also clear that, as more focus is placed on this position, the more everyone from fans to team executives lose sight of the bigger picture. The “top-tier QB or bust” rule seems to be causing problems around the league because it has changed with the latest collective bargaining agreement. Conventional wisdom now says: As soon as a franchise’s quarterback shows serious promise at the pro level, said franchise must go into “win-now” mode.

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Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

Has anyone else noticed that something seems a little off with professional football, lately? Sure, the NFL is still showing up to work on time, and credit is due, it now even shows up on three days a week instead of just two. Technically, it is still doing its job just fine, and it is definitely not disrupting anyone else’s job either. Hell, it even cracked a smile a few times last week, but… there is just something missing.

This league used to be so passionate about its job. Now it seems to be punching the clock and waiting until the end of the year to really put in the real effort. There is some noticeable sloppiness too: more penalties, a drop in primetime ratings and two ties in one year. That is just not the league everyone has learned to count on for so many years. That’s not the real NFL. Without prying too much, is it time to ask the league some tough questions about its performance?

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