Being faithful to the Carolina Panthers is not easy. Not only have we endured John Kasay’s dooming kickoff in Super Bowl XXXVIII, but, we’ve been subjected to ESPN rubbing it in every single time Vinatieri set off the metal detector in that pointless commercial.
The hardest part about being loyal to John Fox and his Panthers has been dealing with the fact that often times, the fans have had more spirit than the team itself.
The constant heartbreak began in the 2006 season.
An uninspiring 8-8 record was only the beginning of the stress we fans had to endure that season. Five of their eight embarrassing losses came after carrying a lead into the fourth quarter. We blamed injuries, we blamed the coaching staff, but blowing five leads in the final frame that many times is simply embarrassing.
Regardless, we walked out of that season with a .500 record and felt good about things to come, due to a strong regular-season finish against division opponents.
The 2007 season was a different beast all together. We didn’t watch our favorite team lose games in the fourth, because we never had a lead going into that quarter. Once again, blaming injuries might be justified; but something still didn’t feel right.
Being a Carolina fan was like finding the girl of your dreams every Sunday, flirting endlessly with her, and then watching some Brad Pitt look-a-like storm in when we were so close to scoring and taking it all away.
For two whole seasons, we endured that same sense of watching it all slip away, week in and week out.
That’s where Carolina left me standing, as I was glued to my Internet gamecast on Sunday. We dominated the Chargers all day long. We held the consensus No. 1 overall fantasy player in the league to sub-100 yards on the ground, our usually frustrating offensive line gave up one sack all day, and Jake was back to licking his lips and trying to throw the ball through our receivers.
Then, it happened.
With less than seven minutes left in the pending victory we had earned every single ounce of, we fumbled the ball away, and Phillip Rivers led his team down the massive 28 yards he was left with and stole the lead away.
Ladies and gentlemen...Brad Pitt is in the building.
Yet, something new happened on Sunday. Our beloved Carolina Panthers didn’t give up. They charged down the field and actually finished the job. They saw Brad Pitt coming and one-upped him with our very own Justin Timberlake impersonation.
For the first time since the NFC Championship of 2003, our team didn’t quit.
Ever since Delhomme found Rosario is in the middle of the end zone, the media has been jamming it down our throats that Carolina "shocked" San Diego. That statement couldn’t be any further from the truth. San Diego didn’t get shocked, they got beaten; we, the fans, were the victims of Carolina’s shock-therapy treatment.
Week One of the 2008 NFL season was monumental. It would have been easy to lose that game, after all, they were supposed to. They had every excuse in the world to get blown out.
Carolina went on the road against a very tough team without their scariest deep threat and won the game. They earned it, they deserved it, and by God, they went out and got it. The feeling all week of knowing your favorite team has all of the talent they need, and now possesses all of the heart they need, is down right inspiring.
This week, Chicago is coming to town. I won’t sugarcoat it; Chicago looked really good on Sunday night. Unfortunately for Chicago, something is brewing in Carolina. We’re not afraid of a tough team. We’re not afraid of—figuratively and literally—dropping the ball in the fourth quarter anymore.
This 2008 Panthers squad is not a quitter.
This feeling is so new to the followers of this team, that it’s almost unnerving. Not since 2005 have we felt this good about a Carolina team. Maybe, just maybe, it’s deserved. The shock starts with the fans, and it has to carry over to Sunday and fill Bank of America Stadium on Sunday.
Carolina has struggled at home because they have not been getting the 12th-man effect that every team relies on for eight games a year.
It wasn’t always the fault of the fans. Who could blame them? We watched for entirely too long as we got our hopes up and watched it all slip away. Was it really our fault for being afraid to get too attached?
It’s different now. Now we know that our team has proven to themselves, and to us, that they have the heart to go out on the field and finish every play.
This shock originated in San Diego, but it’s not stopping there. That shock was the start of a pulse in Carolina fans everywhere. This Sunday, at home, we’re going to show our team how far a shock can go.