It was a beautiful summer day in Hendersonville, but all I could think of was running for the nearest computer. I had been at summer camp for a few weeks and had missed a lot.
While I was swapping CDs with other campers (Eve 6’s “Horrorscope” is still somewhere in my CD case), the Charlotte Hornets selected Kirk Haston in the first round of the 2001 NBA Draft. On my 13th birthday, WCW World Champion Booker T invaded the WWF (now WWE) at the King of the Ring pay-per-view.
So when I had the chance, I rushed to the site of the next available computer with working (dial-up) internet. While about 25% of my time in front of the computer was spent waiting impatiently for a page to load, I was able to fulfill my need for information that fueled my career as an adult journalist. Kwame Brown was the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, Edge won the King of the Ring crown (can you believe it?!?), and “Shrek” topped the summer box office.
And even though I’ve only spent two summers in the beautiful landscape of North Carolina, the state, especially Charlotte, has always been a place I’ve loved to visit for football and fun. Now I’ll happily call Queen City home and write the stories that summer camp kids read when they have access to the internet – hopefully with better service than me.
It’s an absolute honor to join the Charlotte Observer as the paper’s newest beaten Carolina Panthers reporter.
As a newcomer to town, I obviously come at a difficult time. The Panthers are already three games into their 2022 campaign and, well, things aren’t particularly stable after an injury-filled preseason. I feel like I’ve arrived in the middle of the dance, but at least I have plenty of new friends (and talented journalists) to partner with – namely Ellis Williams and Scott Fowler – as I begin to document the final chapter in the whirlwind history that was the Matt Rhule era.
Arriving late is nothing new to me, as I have been thrown into chaotic situations throughout my career. I started my NFL writing career in 2015 as a Jacksonville Jaguars reporter for a TV station that created the role specifically for me after spending years blogging with SB Nation. For three seasons, I covered the worst of the Gus Bradley era and the best of the Doug Marrone era, including a mad dash to the AFC Championship Game.
During the 2018 preseason, I was hired by NJ Advance Media as a reporter for the Philadelphia Eagles, and didn’t start until week 2 of the season, taking a trip to Tampa Bay even before moving to the northeast. I spent the next four seasons in the southern suburbs of Jersey while covering for the Eagles after their Super Bowl LII victory. My time on the beat featured the rise and fall of Doug Pederson and the hiring of Nick Sirianni.
After the Eagles’ loss in the playoffs to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I was approached by Pro Football Network to cover the entire league as a senior NFL reporter. It was a tall order, and a challenge I enjoyed, but in my heart I really missed writing, informing and interacting with a local fan base. The opportunity to join the phenomenal team at the Charlotte Observer was just too good to pass up. And in my limited time covering the entire league, I’ve realized just how competent and intense the Panthers fan can be.
I haven’t followed a “typical” path in the press world, and frankly, I’m not a typical beat writer. I’m more interested in why a listing change was made than simply laying out the who and what of the transaction. I focus on players under the helmet and shoulder pads as much as I monitor how often Ben McAdoo calls 13 players. The Panthers have 53 players on their active roster and 16 on their practice squad, and I want to cover them all. Like my favorite band, Foo Fighters, I enjoy playing the B-side tracks as much as dealing with the greatest hits audience.
Die-hard fans want to know everything about the Panthers, and so do I. I also want to know what you think, which is why you can expect regular interactions with me on Twitter (follow me via @mike_e_kaye) and the various Observer platforms. Given my background in broadcasting, you’ll also see me appear on TV, radio, and with Ellis on the “Panthers Tracks” podcast.
When I’m not chasing after my 3-year-old son or watching “House of the Dragon” with my beautiful wife, I focus on the Panthers and work on the stories that need to be told. Whether that means tracking a quarterback’s every move through training camp, chronicling a player’s personal adversity, or detailing the story of a rising young player, Ellis and I will be at height.
And in between all of that, you can expect tweets about my penchant for full-backs, my defense of the ‘Tombstone’ movie, my love-hate relationship with wrestling (yes, again) and my general thoughts on football. I’m ready for week 4, and I hope you are too.
This story was originally published September 27, 2022 2:56 p.m.