Happy Holiday times, Fanz!!!
It’s been five years since our Panthers have been relevant in December – and now firmly entrenched in the league’s TOP FIVE – NOT conference, mind you – LEAGUE – I, along with the rest of you, continue to spend week after week in incredulous amazement at the ascendancy of these Carolina Panthers.
As I made an incredibly FAST trip through a now speedy security process, which does the double duty of not only getting you to your seat WELL before kick-off, but there’s virtually NO buzzkill in the process, so you are guaranteed to have that “tailgate fresh” feeling when you’re ready to cheer – I was in quite the contemplative spirit as a horde of fans REFRESHINGLY devoid of devotees of the Sucky-neers excitedly made their way to their gameday positions in the seating bowl.
And as I indeed had the most MASSIVE of buzzes courtesy of your PantherFanz tailgating group, and the concoction Lauren and I created for you, I drank in the event that is Carolina Panthers Football (no pun intended-), Gameday, at the stadium. I watched the cheerleaders, the pre-game ceremonies, the players warming up, everything, with a focus I’ve not brought to bear here in many years –
I reveled in the pageantry.
And amazed at how much more precise the choreography of the TopCats is when you’re 8-3. How profound the invocation of the Holy Man is when you’re 8-3. How sincere and tone-perfect the National Anthem is sung when you are 8-3. Don’t think that I didn’t notice the NEW inflatable version of the Panther statue over the home team’s visitor’s tunnel. As the players’ introductions were met with a deafening roar from the crowd, I could feel myself being transported to a teeming ancient metropolis, the Eternal City of Rome itself, where, resplendent in his toga and freshly adorned laurels, Cesar Jerry lords over the day’s Circus. I could imagine Steve Smith, covered with scars his gladiatorial armour could not conceal, as the favorite of the immense crowd that came to watch their hero duel the enemies from a rival city, as the loudest roar from the stadium was given for him. And he deserved every decibel.
And yet, as the old warrior sees his gladiator days shortening, a new star of the crowd is coming to ascendancy – Many of us expected to see this from Cam Newton, some of us right away in his rookie season, most of us were expecting this last year. And as it goes in reality, this young, immature athlete, gifted beyond the mere percent of a percent that are good enough to play this game, NOW gets the nuances he MUST understand to be part of a winning team – part of a “BIG BOY FOOTBALL” team. Cam Newton is growing up. When the crowd began to become quiet, and the Sucky-Neers moved the ball on our vaunted defense with unexpected ease, this super new gladiator turned on the hyperdrive generator, much like Jake Delhomme did way back in ’03 when he rushed the field in the third quarter of our opening game . The energy spread from the team to the crowd, who resumed the throaty ear-busting cheers of our Monday night victory over the Cheat-a-Cheks. And Cam reveled in it. The players reveled in it. I've never seen our other new gladiatorial star, Luke Kuechley, more animated and active in the defense. (Adding to the pageantry aspect, the stadium PA has taken to playing "Lukes Theme" from StarWars for every "BIG BOY TACKLE" Luke makes. Cheesy, but I LOVE IT-) The crowd couldn’t get enough (until 5 minutes left in the fourth quarter- REALLY FANS? That’s a rant for another time) and the pageantry continued with a halftime hip-hop show, and more excellent dance choreography from those smokin’-hot TopCats. The beatdown was on, and we now own the longest winning streak in franchise history.
IN FRANCHISE HISTORY –
I’m going to want you to reflect on that –
These Panthers are making history – Every reception Steve Smith makes now puts him in the rarified company of those who have busts in Canton. Cam Newton is on a pace to take his place among the elite of the elite. This defense is approaching the yard-miser and point-denier status of – of –
The 2000 Baltimore Ravens – and dare I say it –
Rivera’s old team –
THEM. If you know football, REALLY KNOW FOOTBALL, you don’t even need me to tell you who this group is, but to be compared to – to –
Deserving of the pageantry heaped upon them and the contests they wage. Between now and the battle in The Bayou, hundreds of thousands of words will be written preceding this game against the Saints– I don’t plan on adding to them, except to say –
We’ll be in this game. Drew Brees, if you think the Seattle Defense was tough –
You get US - TWICE – IN A FIFTEEN DAY TIMESPAN.
And these games decide the division, home playoff games, a season of success. And it felt like it was galaxies away two months ago, after the detritus had been swept away from the Arid-Zona defeat.
Win or lose, it’s just an honour to be there, to give our all for Cesar Jerry and the Panther Empire.
And the pageantry for us continues, quite likely into January –
BELIEVE IT, FANZ!
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