As I have often been removed from Charlotte for lengthy periods of time over the last 5 or so years, I thought it would be pertinent to post on the perceptions that others have for Charlotte sports fans as well as my personal experiences as a diehard Charlotte sports fan. I would venture to guess that a vast majority of the time I immediately become the only Bobcats/Panthers fan the individual knows. "You're actually a Bobcats fan?!" is often the first question first out of their mouths.
For the last four years I have had to desperately watch grainy streams of Panthers games online or grab beers at the nearest bar in the hopes that they will show my beloved Panthers game. I have tuned into games from multiple states and multiple countries, but have managed to watch virtually every Panthers game ever played As a 22 year old, I consider myself a part of the first generation of the "diehard" Panthers fan.
Those between the ages of 18-30 were the first to grow up with professional sports franchises in Charlotte with the Panthers, Hornets, and eventually the Bobcats. Thus, other cities often thumb their noses down on Charlotte fans as "bandwagon" or "fairweather" and oftentimes I don't entirely disagree. The support for these franchises has yet to be proven through thick and thin--memories of a virtually empty stadium in 1-15 and 2-14 seasons in the last decade are still fresh in my memory. That being said, the Charlotte fan base is incrementally growing by the year, and Cam Newton and the Panthers are poised to capture the hearts of the city once again this season.
As Panthers fans of this generation, we must always prove our loyalty and extreme dedication to our team. There is no way for a Panthers fan to understand the sorrows of Browns and Lions fans, or the extreme joys that Patriots and Steelers fans have experienced. We are too young for that. However, what members of my generation do understand is that we are the torchbearers for Panthers fans past, present and future. We pine for national media attention, yet realize at the same time that the Panthers are special due to this loyal, growing fan base concentrated in this middle-tier media market.
Regardless of where I move to, and regardless of where I raise my family, I will always be a diehard member of Panther Nation. To the newer fans, I hope you recognize what the current fan base has been through: a tumultuous road that has exhilirated and frustrated along the way. And to the diehard fans: keep the faith, when the day comes and The Big Cat raises that Super Bowl trophy, we'll know that it has all been worth it.