For me, it started just like any other autumn day in the early 1970’s. The crisp air, fallen leaves covered the ground as young boys used dirt to draw a play. Just like that, I’m hooked. My life would never be the same. The obsession with football burned in me and my love for the game has never dimmed. I played backyard football whenever I could, organized football would come later.
Back then, you didn’t have hundreds of channels. In Union County North Carolina, you got five stations on a good day. I lived for Sunday to watch the Dallas Cowboys and Roger Staubauch beat my father beloved Redskins. I remain a Cowboy fan until Staubach retired. He was my favorite player. From this I learned loyalty.
With the next season starting and my favorite player retired, I needed to find another player to cheer. That player was Dan Fouts of the San Diego Chargers. He had the similar qualities to Staubauch. They both did what was necessary to win. They embodied the blue-collar work ethic that meant they loved the game as much as I did.
The Chargers didn’t give me the Superbowl victories the Cowboys did, but they taught me perseverance. After Fouts retired, I didn’t cling to another team. I wandered the NFL landscape, a pigskin vagabond if you will. Watching whatever game was one to get my football fix. From this, I learned appreciation for the game.
I always wanted to cheer for a hometown football team. Charlotte is the closes city to where I grew up that would have a chance at hosting a team. Maybe one day I would have a local football team. Then it happened, on October 23, 1993 the Carolina Panthers were born. I had a team, "MY" team. I spent almost my entire life up to that point in North Carolina. Sad to say I left Charlotte in December 1996 in their second season.
Now I live behind the lines deep in enemy territory, Atlanta. I get the jeers and condemnation from the local fans. I take it in stride. I’m a football fan too, but my heart bleeds blue, black and silver. It’s like an adoptive child in that no matter how good or bad they are, or even if they make mistakes, I will always be a fan.
The Carolina Panthers are "MY" team and nobody can take that away from me. Keep pounding.