The events of last night's NBA final between the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat have resulted in stories of grandeur that eclipse almost any final in recent memory, regardless of sport. The series itself has become everything from an allegory for good vs. evil, to a reflection on our current, recession hit society- where a team of perceived blue collars beat a team of perceived blue bloods, and what makes it all the funnier is that everyone in the final were multi-millionaires.
In the wake of the Mavericks' series win (or LeBron James' stunning collapse) writers have been concentrating more on the series itself, than Dallas' win. This is because this finals had a third wheel, the city of Cleveland who all became defacto Dallas fans in hopes of seeing their once vaunted hero fall on his face. In this way Dan Wetzel wrote a simply stunning piece for Yahoo about the hearts and minds of the city of Cleveland, and what last nights' game meant to the city.
After reading it I wondered if the Carolina's have a persona when it comes to professional sports. What is our collective legacy? We'll talk about that... after the jump
The article on Yahoo is more than just a piece about a basketball game, but rather than serving as a John Steinbeck-esque ode to an American industrial city whose sporting failures echo the city's struggles he takes a different approach. Wetzel perfectly captures the essence of the sports landscape in the area as the great equalizer to bring people together, and have a collective focus to cheer for. The Cleveland he presents is one of pride, caring and a brotherhood amongst all fans in the area. In this way these hardcore fans have become galvanized through failure; Cleveland Browns Stadium still sells out week in, week out... no blackouts there. Meanwhile, fans rabidly support their stars to the point where willing Peyton Hillis into a Madden cover victory seems unlikely, until you realize that the entire Brown's fanbase were invested in the voting.
Tongue in cheek we make fun of the 'wine and cheese' crowd, and have a distinct understanding that a large segment of the Carolina Panthers' fan-base are fair weather fans. The NFL serves too often as a pleasing distraction to hold over North Carolinians until March Madness is ready to start and South Carolinians when their college team of choice has been eliminated from a meaningful bowl game. In a way, I guess I wish I could sit here like Dan Wetzel and wax poetic about what professional sports mean to the Carolinas, but I can't really find a way. We have two insane college rivalries in our areas- UNC v. Duke in the North and Clemson v. USC in the South. I'd like to peg the lack of professional passion on the love of amateur sports, but I just can't seem to do it.
Part of writing is knowing your audience, and please don't take this piece as any condemnation of our community. I believe our hardcore fans are some of the most passionate, most intelligent and most steadfast fan-bases in the country. The problem is, we're in the vast, vast minority- we're really not representative of the area as a whole. Is it that we tend to be more laid back in the South? More relaxed? What causes us to have hardcore fans, but not a rabid fan-base?