The morning after the Super Bowl my husband (the Jets fan) said to me " sorry honey, but it's just a game." Just a game….Now that I've taken some time to reflect on this past season and the ending that wasn't what I'd hoped for, I find myself asking, is it really just a game?
I grew up in Charlotte, in a time where there were no pro teams. We had ACC basketball and we were proud of that, but our loyalties were divided. We didn't all wear the same blue, and some of us even wore red! Bless their hearts. We eventually got the Hornets and that was fun. They fit nicely. North Carolina was a basketball states, it was what we knew.
In 1993, it was announced that Charlotte would be getting an NFL team. I loved the idea, even though at the time I was only marginally a football fan. I thought it was great. With two Pro teams Charlotte would have to be recognized. It would be a city on the map, one where you no longer had to follow behind with the name of the state when referencing. In 2014,the Charlotte Metro area ranked 22nd in population, above cities like Pittsburg, San Antonio, Cleveland, etc, yet the media still feels the need to explain to others where the city is when covering sports related events. It’s always been a huge pet peeve of mine! But back to football...
As Panther fans we've seen a lot of ups and downs. This past season was without a doubt the best season in franchise history, hell it was one of the BEST seasons in any franchise's history. Despite that, week after week, we were constantly told how we weren't worthy of accolades. We hadn't played any good teams, and when we had it was just a fluke. We kept hearing "just wait until you play so and so".
The season was also marked with one controversy after another. It began to wear me down, so I can only imagine what a toll it took on the team. There was banner gate, dance gate, picture gate and flag gate just to name a few. All Carolina wanted to do was just enjoy the season, have fun with it. I don't believe any of it was ever done in malice, more a celebration of the moments and about our team and their joy rather than about the teams we played.
Carolina then tore through the playoffs beating two teams, in the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals, that we had been told were superior--and the Panthers beat them handily. Finally, the media came around and decided Carolina was in fact worthy of being in the Super Bowl. In an instant, they embraced Carolina as their own and even picked the Panthers as favorites to win.
Too little, too late. The team played its worst game of the year. From the point of the Cotchery catch that was ruled incomplete and upheld in review the team was beat, worn out from fighting all season. As a fan I was too. I just didn't have the energy for one more controversy!
I wanted Super Bowl 50 so badly for this team, for my hometown, the players, Mr. Richardson, and for the fans. I wanted the rest of the country to finally see what we've known all along. Charlotte and the Carolinas are a great place to live, these players are special, and this fanbase is loyal! Sadly it wasn't meant to be, YET. It then dawned on me, what could be more perfect than Super Bowl #51 for our first Lombardi, the Keep Pounding Bowl?
This team is young and the nucleus is set for years to come. We aren't going away anytime soon, so buckle up, it's going to be a fun ride! I look forward to sharing the moments with the best fanbase around. Enjoy the offseason friends and Keep Pounding!