With the exception of Cam signing his new deal, which has made all of our summers, we are now in off-season purgatory. The occasional report from OTA's and injuries aside, there is generally not a lot of noteworthy things going on with the Panthers. As a fan and a writer this can be problematic. What can you write about when generally there isn't a truly sexy story out there? This is a thought I had recently, and the one subject I kept coming back to is near and dear to my heart: Why does this team mean so much to us? Why does this team mean so much to me? I thought about this for several days, and in my case the answer is two fold. This was a somewhat cathartic article to write. There is some things in here I've never publicly spoke about until now. This is why the team matters so much to me...
Growing up I was an artsy kid. I still am, my dream in life has always been to be a writer and a comedian. This is all well and good, as we all have our goals and dreams in life. My dad, however, well he never really understood it. Not that he wasn't supportive, he just didn't understand the desire to create. In his words, he's just an 'old country boy'. He has always told my brothers and I "make your living with your hands," and here I was dreaming of making a living with my mind. He and I never had a bad relationship, but at times it was a struggle to have things in common. When I was twelve, we attended the county fair. At a certain point, my mom and dad separated from my best friend Will and I to go to the petting zoo. They met a man there that my dad had known for years, and the subject turned to the Panthers. My dad told him that I was a fan, and the man reached into his pocket and pulled out four tickets to a Panthers game. True story. I still remember the drive to Charlotte from my hometown of Mount Olive. The excitement I felt when I saw the downtown skyline start to emerge from the trees was indescribable. This was during the Seifert/Weinke tenure, and we were playing the Packers when Favre was in his prime and had Antonio Freeman and Bubba Franks. In other words, we got slaughtered. I'm surprised to this day that George Seifert got out of that stadium alive. That day was the start of my dad and mine's shared love of the Panthers. Whenever we call or see each other now the Panthers, Cubs, or Tar Heels usually lead the conversation. Eventually it turns to life, how my little girl is doing, and how work is treating me. The Panthers gave my dad and I a doorway to each other, and for that I will forever be grateful.
The Panthers also figure into the birth of my daughter Addison, or Addie for short. I will carry this day to the grave with me. It was the Saturday before the Panthers playoff game in the 2013 season. I was hyped up, my wife Janelle was even excited. We woke that Saturday morning and all seemed normal. Then that afternoon my wife started to experience extreme pain in her pelvic area. This was our first child, and we didn't know that what she was experiencing was actually labor pains. She was 23 and a half weeks pregnant at the time. We tried to sleep that night, but by 3 AM she was still experiencing the pain in waves. To be safe, we took her to our local ER. That is where we found out that my wife's water bag was starting to bulge out, and she had began to dilate. They rushed her to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville. They put us in a delivery room, still not sure whether our baby was going to come that night. Thankfully, she didn't. The next day I awoke around noon not sure what to do with myself. I was helpless. My wife lay in the hospital bed scared to death, then she said something that I will never forget. Even with all that had happened in the last 12 hours she said: "aren't the Panthers about to kick off?" We turned the game on, and even though they lost, it was a welcome brief escape from the world we were in at the time. For a moment, there was no worry, no potential impending tragedy, it was just like any other Sunday. Our daughter was born six days later on January 18th, 2014. I am proud to say that she is happy and healthy as she can be, and a little Panthers fan in training. I told her Cam got an extended deal and she started clapping. The future of Panther nation is in good hands.
As a fan base we all have the love of the team in common. As people we all have the storms of life in common. The two sometimes intersect and compliment each other. There are some that dismiss sports as nothing but a form of entertainment. But for others it's much more than that. In my case, a sports team built a bridge, and shed a little light on an otherwise dark situation. That is why this team means so much to me. We all have our reasons that we love the team. Whether they be practical or philosophical, this team brings us joy, and in a world filling with more and more darkness everyday, that is something that few other entities can do.
Thanks for reading,
Andy "the barkeep" Massey