It started with a clearance rack at a Sports Authority in Greensboro, NC. While shuffling through old ACC Tournament shirts, and misshapen workout apparel, the sea of mediocrity parted to unveil a work of pure shame. It was the color blue you can only find in a Disney movie, white lettering as bright as the Cheshire Cat's teeth, and gloriously emblazoned on the nameplate was a simple testament to everything it was-WEINKE.
So began my obsession with the lesser-side of Panthers merchandise. I didn't care that my Weinke alternate jersey was XXXL, and draped on me like a toga. It was $5, glorious, and at that time (2004) seemed perfectly apropos of his career, underwhelming, mediocre, and it didn't fit right. Little did I know that less than 10 years later he would become one of the most important people in the organization, as Chris Weinke was critical in shaping the development of Cam Newton.
From that moment on I found myself collecting the most obscure Panthers merchandise I could. I had only two rules-at one point in time it had to be serious (no joke items), and they had to be as cheap as humanly possible. If the item cost over $10.00, then I wouldn't buy it. My rule only lasted until 2010, when I bought a pure gem for $10.29, including shipping. It was an autographed Jeff Davidson rookie card... yes, THAT Jeff Davidson. He graduated Ohio State as an offensive lineman, and when I found his signature card on Ebay I had to have it.
Now Ebay had because a bastion for insanity. If you need a large, youth size Sean Gilbert jersey it's yours for $7.50. Looking for that vital Stefan LeFors rookie card that includes a patch of his jersey? $2.99. Seriously, how often will you get a patch of a completely unworn jersey?
If you listened to CSR Radio a few weeks back you got a glimpse into my insanity. I was stuck on Ebay with over $40 worth of purchases queued up before I finally managed to close the browser, and walk away from the computer. However, as catharsis I'd like to share what those $40 would have gotten me:
- Large size Sean Gilbert youth jersey (black): $7.50
- Autographed Eric Shelton rookie card: $1.99
- Stefan LeFors rookie patch card: $2.99
- Autographed Tshimanga Biakabutuka poster: $6.99
- Jason Peters bobblehead: $4.50
- Medium size Dwayne Jarrett away jersey: $9.00
- Randy Fasani rookie card: $0.99
- Keary Colbert autographed rookie card w/patch: $6.00
It was quite a haul, and part of me still regrets hitting the ‘x' and closing the page. By now the auctions have expired, but the memory will live forever. So I ask you Panthers faithful: What's your most cherished piece of Panthers merchandise? I doesn't need to be stupid like my collection, but what do you value?