Happy Super Bowl Sunday, friends! Before I get into today’s Sunday Short & Sweet, let me make it clear this post will not be about “sports,” I am not a “sports” person and will not be sharing “sports-y” thoughts. But I AM going to share Carolina Panthers-y thoughts.
My ‘relationship’ with the Panthers began when I was about 8. I didn’t grow up in a household of sports aficionados, and even if I had, I likely would’ve grown up a Lions fan. You might be thinking, “Wait…of all the teams in the NFL…the LIONS?” My parents are from Michigan, and my grandpa was, for better or worse (mostly worse) a lifelong Lions devotee.
Back to the Panthers. One day in my second grade class, my childhood best friend Samantha said the Panthers were her favorite. Like any other 8 year old would, I immediately declared that I loved them, too. I still had no concept of what this meant, when they played, what football really even was, but the Panthers were TOTALLY my favorite team.
Fast forward to 2004, 8th grade Tori. This football team that I “love” has made the playoffs. It was then I actually started to pay attention. And while I enjoyed watching the game and appreciated the sport for what it was, what really stuck out to me was the community around this sport, this team. Kids at school were wearing Panthers gear, strangers were high-fiving one another saying “Go Panthers!”
I have a vivid memory of being in the lodge of Ski Beech Mountain on a weekend snowboarding trip with my brother, the weekend the Panthers clenched their spot in Super Bowl XXXVIII. A (huge!) crowd gathered around TVs inside the lodge and watched as the Panthers defeated the Eagles. The Panthers were going to the Super Bowl! People all bundled in coats and scarves and mittens began jumping (quite awkwardly, have you ever tried jumping in ski boots?) and celebrating, cheering with one another– all of these people who had never seen each other and would never see one another again– in that moment, during that celebration, they were family.
Alas, we all know how that Super Bowl ended, and thus began my malice towards the Patriots, which has only gotten more extreme with time. But I still thought the Panthers were pretty cool, even if they took a bit of a hiatus before stepping back into the spotlight.
I took my love for the team with me upon graduation from college and a move to Youngstown, Ohio (I know, I know, OHIO? That’s a different story for another day.) And that year, in the 2013-14 season, Panthers made the playoffs. And while I didn’t really feel the Panthers community physically (because I was in freaking Ohio) I could see it through social media, text messages from friends, the usual. Which did make me sad, because I was in freaking Ohio, but it was still an incredible thing– that community. And I watched the Panthers – 49ers playoff game a proud Panthers fan at a bar in Ohio.
The next season I was back in Charlotte and as the Panthers made the playoffs again, I got to be part of the community. Everywhere in Charlotte, people wearing Panthers gear, strangers were high-fiving one another saying “Go Panthers!” It was one thing we had in common. People coming together despite all differences to Keep Pounding.
And now, here we are, 2016, and the Panthers are in the Super Bowl. Panthers gear and
high fives Dabs everywhere. (Seriously, how can anyone not love Cam?) Things like wine and paint classes have been created around the Panthers (my painting is below, I think I’ll stick to writing as my creative outlet.) Local groomers tying Panthers bandanas around furry necks (just look how handsome Charles Barkley looks in his.)
My personal favorite touch, Carolina Panthers Blue skyline:
It’s amazing to me how a team of 53 athletes can do this in a city. I love this feeling, this “we’re all in this together” mentality. Even though we’re not actually in this together, which I’m cool with, I don’t think I’d last long on a football field. Although I would get to be close to Luke….hmm.
No matter what happens today, I love this team and I love this city. Win or lose, we’re all going to Keep Pounding. Right now I’m going to go pound that cupcake and coffee.
LET’S GO PANTHERS! *clap clap clap clap clap*