Panthers Steal the Heart of America's Most Loyal Fan

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Panthers Steal the Heart of America's Most Loyal Fan

One of my pet peeves in life is the abundance of fair weather, bandwagon-jumping, fickle fans that litter the landscape of the sports world. These "fans" change favorite teams about as often as they change their underwear.

I must admit that, as a young sports fan back in the early 1970’s, I was a bandwagon jumper, as well. The teams that became my favorites were perennial powerhouses of that era.

For instance, when I chose a favorite Major League Baseball team, I hitched a ride with The Big Red Machine of Cincinnati. The Reds won back-to-back world championships in ’75-’76 with household names like Bench, Rose, and Morgan.

Growing up in ACC country, I had to decide which team with which I would become a disciple. Although I lived in Durham, North Carolina (Duke Blue Devil country) I joined Wolfpack nation after watching NCSU unseat the mighty UCLA Bruins and win the NCAA title in 1974.

My favorite sport is football. Growing up in North Carolina in the ‘70’s, it was a no-brainer to join the tribe of Redskins from Washington.

The ‘Skins had a consistently great team, and our local network showed Washington games exclusively. I know it’s hard for the younger generation to fathom, but before cable TV, ESPN, and the plethora of viewing options that are out there for the sports fanatic today, there was a time way back in the dark ages when I was a boy and there was only ABC, CBS, and NBC.

Our CBS affiliate carried NFC games, and it was a weekly ritual to go to my favorite uncle’s house, eat some Kentucky Fried Chicken, and watch Billy Kilmer and company win football games. When the ‘Skins won, the next week would go well. When they lost, my whole week was ruined. I remember crying when my beloved Redskins would come up short.

I had a virtual shrine in my bedroom dedicated to them, complete with pennants, pictures, and various paraphernalia. I had a whole burgundy and gold wardrobe of jerseys, hats, and sweatshirts.

I also, like all true Redskins fans, had an intense hatred for the Cowboys. I played for a Pop Warner team with the mascot of Cowboys, and I suffered intense persecution from teammates as a Redskin fanatic playing for the Cowboys.

In short, I was a lifelong Redskins fan. Or so I thought.

When Charlotte was granted an expansion team in 1995, my undying loyalty to Washington slowly but surely began to erode. In 1997, my job moved me to the Charlotte area. Our local station, of course, showed Panthers games exclusively. I was cut off from seeing my ‘Skins.

Absence does not make the heart grow fonder.

But I am a loyalist. I am not a “Johnny-come-lately” fan. I have always stuck with my teams through thick and thin.

I am still an avid Reds fan despite the fact that we haven’t sniffed the playoffs since 1995. I have remained loyal to the Wolfpack even though State is the red headed stepchild of the ACC.

Since choosing sides in the early ‘70s, I have never looked back.

Until the Panthers came to town.

Starved by a lack of contact with my ‘Skins, fed a steady diet of Panther food, and suddenly infatuated with the “new kid” at school, I became infected with a severe case of “cat scratch fever.”

When the Cats made it all the way to the NFC championship game in 1996 in only their second year of existence, I was officially hooked. My burgundy and gold wardrobe had officially been replaced by silver and black.

I am now an official Panthers fanatic. America’s most loyal fan jumped ship.

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