Against All Odds

A Pivotal Panthers Moment

The date was April 26, 2003. Some fans may recall that this was the day the Carolina Panthers chose Jordan Gross eighth overall in that year’s draft. That particular day in Carolina Panthers’ history became a pivotal moment for this franchise as we not only gained a pro bowl caliber left tackle, but we went on to play in the Super Bowl that subsequent season. But, for Aron Ralston, that day means something completely different. Do you happen to remember his name? If not, then I’m sure you will recall his story.

Between A Rock And A Hard Place

April 26, 2003 was just another beautiful spring day for Ralston, who was enjoying a hike alone in Utah at Blue John Canyon, when he entered a slot canyon, a canyon that is much deeper than it is wide. While working his way to the bottom, a suspended boulder became dislodged, simultaneously pinning his arm against the canyon wall, rendering it useless, and more importantly trapping him entirely. It wasn’t long before he realized that the only way he would be able to extricate himself would be to cut his arm off with his multi-tool knife. To make matters worse, he had failed to alert anyone where he would be hiking that day. By the fourth day, Ralston had finally cut deep enough to reach his bones, but was dealt a setback because his knife was now extremely dull and unable to saw through the bones. To add to his dire predicament, he was about to finally run out of the water he had been so carefully conserving. Would this be his last day?

To Live or Not To Live, That Is the Question

Most of the fifth day was spent by making more failed attempts to saw through the bones in his arm. That night, after taking his very last sip of water, Ralston realized that his end might be imminent. With this in mind, he decided to videotape his final goodbyes to his loved ones. To his surprise, Ralston made it through the night, and after waking at dawn, had a revelation related to physics: By using the force of torque, he could break his ulna and radius, which would ultimately allow him to completely sever his arm. Six hours later, a now one-handed (armed) Ralston, amazingly climbed out of the slot canyon he had been in for the last six days, and rappelled down a sheer 65 foot wall, and was finally rescued by a search helicopter as he was hiking back to his truck. Although dubious in comparison and much less important in significance, the Panthers recently had to cut off an arm to survive. Let me explain.

Letting Go Of The Past

At the end of the ‘09’-10’ season, Jerry Richardson and Marty Hurney let the proverbial axe fall down on John Fox, the most successful coach in the Carolina Panthers short history. On the one hand, it was a sad day because we, as Panthers fans, had so many fond memories of Foxy. How could we forget how well he had led this team to three NFC championship games and Super Bowl XXXVIII? On the other hand, it was a happy day because we were able to put a period on the end of a tenure that had experienced more than its share of hiccups. Perhaps the most egregious moment of Fox’s stint with the Panthers was his embarrassing loss in the second round of the 2008 playoffs to the Arizona Cardinals, especially after earning a bye and an extra week to prepare. That night was most likely the beginning of the end for the Panthers former coach. I believe this was also the point in which Mr. Richardson, the head of this organization, decided that he would have to cut off the current arm of his team to ensure the overall future success of his franchise. After the following season, Fox was gone, and the Panthers search for a better version of their old arm was officially on.

A New and Exciting Future

We all know the rest of the story, right? Ron Rivera was hired and he immediately hit the ground running. One of his first self-assigned duties was to evaluate what he had in his pantry by poring over game tape. It quickly became abundantly clear to him (and everyone else) that a franchise quarterback was at the top of the grocery list. “Armed” with the number one pick and a gutsy general manager, the Panthers were more than able to check that item off the list. We can only imagine what the 2011 draft would have looked like if our old arm (Fox) were still attached. Maybe we still would have ended up with Cam, but would we have had Chud and Shula guiding him every step of the way? I doubt it. Even so, would he have been willing to take the calculated risks that Rivera took all of last season? Not likely. Am I saying that Rivera is already a better head coach than Fox? By no means is this the case. It’s much too early in Rivera’s head coaching career to even make such a silly comparison. However, the future is currently bright, and there’s a buzz surrounding this team that is palpable.

The Best Is Yet To Come

In conclusion, I’d like to get back to the inspiration of this post, Aron Ralston. When I think of his experience, the most important lessons I can come away with are this: Never give up. Don’t let yourself become comfortable with the status quo. If you do reach that point, make some changes. Maybe you’ll have to cut something or someone off along the way in order to survive. But, when you finally do decide to let go of those people or things that have held you back, don’t be surprised by the freedom you’ll find when you leave them behind. After surviving against all odds, Ralston can truly say that the best was certainly yet to come because in 2010 he became the proud daddy of a boy named Leo, which is translated, lion. Interestingly enough, the Panthers witnessed the birth of their own lion a year later, and Panthers fans across America can truly say, as well, that the best is yet to come. How about you? Is your best yet to come?

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