I'm no long-time football fan. In fact, I only just fell in love with the sport in 2006. Like most girls who knew nothing about football but wanted to pick a team, or at least pick a team so she'd still be able to hang out with her friends on Sundays, I made the logical choice: pick the team with the colors I liked the best.
Those colors we're bright blue, black, and white. The Carolina hues drew me in and, because I didn't want to be a pretend football fan, I was determined to learn what I could.
The first names I learned were as follows: Jake Delhomme (because I'm pretty sure it's important to know who your team's quarterback is), Steve Smith (because in 2006 his name was in constant Carolina conversation), and Julius Peppers (because, well, he was just that good).
It's now four seasons later and, as I've sadly learned today, Peppers will probably not return as a Panther next season. I understand the logic. Peppers would cost the Panthers over $20 million for another year as a franchise player, according to ESPN.
And Peppers was constantly quoted last year saying how badly he did not want to continue with this team. (Although recently he said, "anything that was said a year ago is irrelevant right now.") I also know the team needs to focus their efforts on other positions. (Quarterbacks, anyone?)
While this news is not official, bearing that the Panthers haven't made any sort of announcement or decision, news sources like ESPN and Yahoo! Sports say Peppers is destined for free agency. And, given the facts, I unfortunately have to agree with them.
But watching Peppers go, who I like to refer to as Pepp, reminds me of the way it felt to trade in my first car. I knew it wasn't feasible to keep it, and I knew another car would be beneficial in more ways than one, but it's hard letting go of the car I learned to drive with.
The same goes for Pepp: I know the Panthers can't keep him, and I know in the long run the new players could turn out to be beneficial, but he's one of the first names I learned in Carolina football and it's hard to see a good player go.
So I guess this means I'm officially a real football fan (which makes me feel a little like Pinocchio when he became a real boy), but it's bittersweet to find out this way. So to Peppers, I wish you well if you aren't on-board next year. As for the Panthers? I hope a good draft pick eases my pain.