My Town, My Team, My Carolina Panthers
This story is coming totally out of left field, but it has nothing to do with baseball—my love for a game that has the shortest season, moves fast, and hits hard!!! I have taken this upon myself, and at my own expense I welcome comments from you, the reader.
I am brand new at this! I have never (until Saturday and then two more articles one on Sunday and one Monday) written a sports article, or any article for that matter for the potential viewing of millions! I am really enjoying these opportunities to express my opinions while also getting your takes on various subjects.
So I thought about what I would like to do here for the past few days, and decided that probably—well definitely against my better judgement...I will put myself out here and introduce myself, and share my story of love for my version of "America's Pastime," and how I became a fan of football.
In my opinion, football is America's sport, and there is no other game played exactly the way it is played here in the United States. There may be variations on it, and I know Canada has the CFL, but the rules are varied, the field of play is longer, and at the end of the season, there is no Super Bowl.
The arena football games are pretty fascinating to watch, because watching the game is like watching Speedy Gonzales; it's fast-paced action on a 50-yard playing field, and to make matters more challenging when a team scores, the placekicker has to be accurate to a "T." The uprights are less than half the width of that of a traditional football upright, and extra point attempts must be made with the ultimate precision.
But my real love lies in the NFL. Sure, I love the fast tempo of college games, but they are second to my love for professional football.
I grew up in North Carolina, about two hours west of Charlotte. Truthfully, I have been a Panthers fan since the organization's inaugural season. I was 12 years old, and from 1995 until 1999 I didn't really know why I was a fan or who played for the team other than that I liked the team's logo and colors, and I found the idea of the Carolinas having their own team was awesome!
I remember the later years better, especially the year we went 1-15. I was in high school that year, and I remember while on my way to school every Monday morning thinking to myself, "I hope the Panthers didn't lose another game." Well, out of the 16 times I thought that, I was at least happy the one time they did win.
After graduating from high school, I moved to New Jersey. I was born there. I still had family in Jersey with whom I wanted to spend time—experience life in the fast-paced northeast, and this geographic area is where I was faced with the first test of being hardcore faithful to my team would confront me.
One day I was asked, "Who's your team?" To which I replied, "The Panthers." I got the weirdest look, and then I was so graciously informed that since I live here now, it would be in my best interest to choose a local team.
So, I thought about it for a while—okay, I agreed that it made sense, but I kept one promise to myself, and I didn't care what anyone else's opinion was. I would keep—and I have, to this date—kept the Panthers nearest and dearest, as they were my first team, and I know it's sacriligious to most fans to change teams—but I wasn't changing my team, I was adding a team.
See, I tried to make as much logic of this as I could to fool myself into believing that this is okay... Jeez, I should have been a car salesman.
So I pick my secondary team. My father's a Giants fan—I know that typically a son chooses or is brought up to follow his father's team, and together they root for the Giants, Packers, Cowboys, or Lions, etc every Sunday. But I don't root for my father's team...I want controversy between my father and me.
We get along on so many things that I wanted some controversy to stir things up once a week, and at least twice a year (three if the Panthers played the Giants)...I took the Eagles as my secondary team, and what a train wreck that turned out to be at first, and I'm sure more to come!
...The Eagles, with two lost NFC Championships, I don't count the third one because my Cardiac Cats beat the Iggles (in '03-'04), and they lost Super Bowl in '04-'05!
I have remained true to my team, the Panthers, however. I went into Philadelphia four weeks ago by myself to see the Panthers take on the Eagles in a preseason matchup, and stayed in my seat until the clock was at :00.
The Panthers lost that meeting, in case you were curious as to why I was so intent on staying in my seat for the entire game.
But I still wore my team's colors with undaunted pride, and got heckled and booed a few times because of it, the funniest ones coming from kids who were no taller than my waist.
It's just totally weird to be booed by a four- or five-year old who tells you your team sucks and even gets the name of your team right!
I was literally a man of blue in a sea of green—not the place to be, although I will admit Eagles fans were surprisingly docile that night!
To this day I still say the best Super Bowl I have ever seen is XXXVIII. That was our year—the year of the Cardiac Cats, the year when every time any Panthers fan clicked to the game, it was an on-the-edge-of-your-seat experience!
They were all games that went into OT, only to be decided by a last second "did that just happen?!" touchdown, or an "I can't watch this" field goal! That was the year that the Panthers said "why not?" to all the naysayers while showing them how they did it.
I have never been as excited and hopeful as I am this year, and as I watch this Panthers team I am seeing a lot of things I like, some things that need to be addressed, old faces in familiar places, and already I see flashes of the 2003 Cardiac Cats.
Anyone who is a Panthers fan is in for an exciting season because this team has jelled very well together. I think once Carolina finds it's niche—it's groove on offense and defense and pairs it with the return of Steve Smith; we as fans are in for a very special season, an especially memorable one.
Go Panthers! Keep Pounding!
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