Tuesday, May 28, 2024

A discriminating fan experiences “f’in” Panthers mania

“It’s 49 to f’in 15, man!” I heard this at least a dozen times near the end of the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship Game Sunday night in Charlotte. Thanks to winter storm Jonas, which left my brother-in-law and his family buried under 2 feet of snow in D.C., and therefore unable to make the trip to Charlotte, I received a last-minute ticket to attend the game. The 20-something woman behind me seemed almost demure when she first took her seat. But after knocking back about three NoDa Hop, Drop ‘n Rolls, she was “going f’in nuts,” as she told her husband about halfway through the third quarter.

We’ve all been there – sitting directly beside or near an obnoxious or intoxicated (or both) fan at a game or concert. I have to admit, once the high-pitched screaming and near constant f-bombs started flying out of her mouth (I’m no prude, but there were fewer utterances of the word in The Wolf of Wall Street), I wondered a couple of times if maybe I wouldn’t enjoy this game a little more from the warm comfort of my living room sofa, with my dog asleep on my lap. (The falling temps didn’t help.) But it was the playoffs, and the Panthers were killing it, so I told myself to quit whinin’ and let fans be fans.

Like the guy sitting in front of me, who superstitiously had to high-five everyone within three rows of him every time the Panthers scored, or got a first down, defensive stop, completed a pass, etc. etc. etc. After the first five or six times, my husband gave me one of those looks like, is this going to go on all night? But by the time Luke Kuechly intercepted the ball and ran 22 yards for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, I found myself practically hugging this total stranger before I realized what was happening.

After college, in the mid-1990s, I lived in the Queen City briefly then moved out west for a few years. Whenever I told anyone I had moved from Charlotte, I’d get a quizzical look, and then “Oh, that pretty town on the South Carolina coast, right?” (No, not Charleston.) Or “That’s in Virginia, right?” (No, not Charlottesville.) When I returned to Charlotte a few years later, it took awhile (okay —  about 10 years) for me to really warm up to the city. It lacked the diversity of other places I had lived, and I found it hard to meet new people.

But Charlotte has changed, with folks moving here from all over the U.S. and the world, and we’re not just a buttoned-up, banking town anymore. Now that the Panthers have raised the city’s profile, maybe people from all over will finally know where Charlotte is — and what a great, exciting place it is to be right now.

And we’re going to the f’in Super Bowl, man!

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