3. Constant UnderdogsIt's so easy to cheer for the winning team. When you cheer for the winning team, you don't experience the feeling of loss. You don't experience the highs and lows associated with those "other" teams. If your team does indeed start to lose, you can just jump ship and cheer for the new winning team. However, you also miss out on the fun of cheering for the underdog.
That's right, I've said it. The Carolina Panthers are the underdog in almost every situation. The so-called experts picked the Panthers to lose almost every time Sunday came around last season. And the season before that. And the season before that.
A lot of the lack of press and attention comes from the fact that Carolina, now in its tenth year in the National Football League, is still searching for an identity. The Rams are famous for their quick passing attacks. The Steelers have always been noted for their defense. What happens when you think of Carolina? Well, not included the most recent roster, you think of a rotating cast. You'd see players that would shine for a year, and then leave. You'd see players that were signed in the twilight of their careers, and retire two years later. But never did you really see an "era" of Carolina football.
Because of this, Carolina football lacked a true identity. While some of the players might have been "stars" in the eyes of the league, never did the team seem to be anything other than just a random grouping of players. Due to this, the press always had very little to report on. When the press doesn't report on you, respect is much harder to come by.
Carolina's identity struggle also led to some record struggles as well. If Carolina didn't go to the playoffs, they had a losing season. Never was there a close effort, or a "feel-good" year. The Panthers would be bad, then shock the nation, and then repeat all over again. However, the Panthers tended to be bad much, much more than they were good.
This was the identity placed on the Panthers, and seems to have carried over into the new version of the franchise. The press, other teams, and fans all seem to think of Carolina as the "new" team, or the "1-15" team. Because of that, it always feels so much sweeter with every win.
Remember the early days of the franchise? When San Francisco, the old NFC West rivals of the Panthers, would act like the team didn't even exist the week before the games? That made sweeping the then-champion 49ers that much greater during the playoff run.
How many times did Sapp and crew guarantee victories last year, only to be sent home in bitter defeat?
Remember when the Pack hadn't lost a home game in almost three years? Do you also remember who ended that streak?
Or for the newer fans, how about the most recent playoff run, where St. Louis, who hadn't lost a game at home in 2 years, would beat us? Or how Philadelphia would be the NFC Champions? Everything was definite, according to everyone but the players and fans wearing black and blue.
While the people that bought Patriot merchandise to be part of the winning team because "their team" won it all, while "their team" was the Bucs last year, might feel warm and fuzzy, they don't know what Panther fans know. They don't know the struggles of being the underdog. They won't know the absolute thrill of victory when that last second extra point attempt is blocked, sending the game to overtime. They won't know the excitement of a 4th and 11 touchdown pass to win the game. They won't know about #7 running from five yards out at Lambeau, and the victory from it. They won't know how it feels when Kordell is picked off in the endzone for the NFC West Championship, or how it feels when your middle linebacker seals both your first regular season win and your first playoff win with interceptions. They never will.
Only those who can remember the highlights from an underdog franchise can know the true excitement this game can offer.