Picking and Sticking with the Panthers

Ok, I'm a loser. I'm a Southerner, a Democrat and a Panther fan. I played Division III football on a team that went 0-9. I don't love losing. I just gravitate to it. Losing is not a tradition with me; it's a lifestyle. Even when the Panthers were 1-6, I went online early every morning from Australia for my football fix. Buddhists would say I'm addicted to suffering. I'd retort that their team never lost a Super Bowl late in the 4th quarter.

Remember that Super Bowl? How you lived and died? It was 10am in Sydney and my ankle was iced, bandaged and propped in the air because I'd torn ligaments the day before playing basketball. But I was clean and clear headed: no pain killers, chardonnay, or cigars. If Sam Mills and Mark Fields can cope with cancer and chemotherapy, then I can cope with throbbing ligaments. On that day the Panthers played with heart.

But that was then. Now, we're re-building. Still, I'm a Panther fan.

Let's be rational: I'm 49, I live abroad, I run a business, I have a life. Yet I own PSLs, attend games in person each year, and study Street & Smith like Baptists study the Old Testament.

There are 31 other teams from which to choose. Why pick the Panthers? Most of us are free agent fans anyway, acquired from other teams. Why stick with the Panthers? They already hold the professional record for losing. Seriously, why be a Panther fan?

Here's why:

- because as a kid I tired of Redskins games hogging the TV

- because the Panthers play in a city but represent a region

- because a small city team will always be ‘America's team' even if television networks never figure it out

- because Southerners don't throw beer cans, batteries or rubbish at visitors; it's not hospitable

- because Mr. Richardson took the Panther employees to the Super Bowl

- because our owner actually played the game professionally, and played in the best championship game ever---until Super Bowl XXXVIII, that is

- because the Panther organization prizes character, good conduct, and civility

- because they gave Steve Smith (and others) a second chance and sometimes I need a second chance too

- because we have more university graduates than any NFL team

- because I sent Jerry Richardson a tape of an Australia vs. New Zealand championship rugby game and suggested that the NFL would benefit by adopting a similar format (ie, games are never interrupted by commercials) and he kindly replied with a handwritten note

- because 10 years ago I sat in the rain at Clemson just to watch pre-season games

- because the Panthers don't have stars, they have teammates

- because Mike Minter doesn't curse and I try not to

- because he played a game with torn ankle ligaments whereas I only watched one

- because John Kasey always takes responsibility

- because Mushin Muhammed makes more big catches than drops

- because they never forgot about Mark Fields and Sam Mills and wouldn't let us either

- because you lose a lot in life before winning

- because emotional resiliency is the best predictor of success in life and the Panthers have it

Panther fans have tasted excellence and excellence, once tasted, cannot be un-tasted. Someday the Panthers will win a Super Bowl. Personally, I'm glad to know them before that day. After all,there's more to life than losing.

Dr. Duff Watkins (dw@execsearch.com.au) runs an executive search firm in Sydney and is on the Board of Governors of the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia. He is from NC and attends Panther games regularly, if infrequently.

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