This is nuts and proves, to me at least, that I'm no longer a fan of the Panthers. Nope. I'm officially obsessed and probably need help.
A little background may help everyone understand. I've been a a football fan my entire life, and being born in Baltimore I was raised on Johnny U and the Baltimore Colts. My father was actually at the 1958 NFL Championship, a.k.a. the Greatest Game Ever Played, and was in attendance for the 1959 game were Jerry Richardson scored a TD. I remember vividly how disappointed my folks were with the Colts loss in SB III, and how excited we all were with the win over Dallas in SB V. We all know that Colts left Baltimore, leaving me with no team to cheer for. I drifted as a fan throughout my teens and 20's, and began to follow teams that were from the city or region I lived in at the time as my job moved me frequently from city to city.
Then came the Panthers. I was living out of town when the franchise was awarded, but I FINALLY had a home team to pull for. The even better part was that the owner was a former BALTIMORE Colt. We were all immediately die-hard fans...so much so that even after my mom was buried when the team replaced sod, my sister grabbed some and spruced up my mom's plot with it. I KID YOU NOT.
So on to this weekend's odyssey. Short version - I travel for a living and spend about half my time on the road. My job is centered on executing technical training and certification classes for our distributors and partners. As it turns out, a two-week class was scheduled almost 8 months ago in Jacksonville that starts this Monday at 8:00. I have about 2 hours of equipment setup to do which is normally done on the Sunday before the class. Normally, I make arrangements as to be able to dodge the hours when the Panthers are playing.
Enter this weekend's game. As I starting looking into my travel arrangements, it became painfully clear that if I were going to travel and set up on Sunday, there would be no way to do both this and watch the Panthers game due to flights into and out of Jacksonville from Atlanta. My preference is to watch the game in my home with family and friends in our bonus room, which has been semi-converted into a home theater and sports man cave, complete with Fat Heads and a 96 inch screen and HD projector and Panther stuff everywhere. And ever since we put the Fat Heads up, we have yet to see the Panthers lose on the big screen! I was on the road for the game in NO, so I've boldly assumed that it's because of the bouns room. Right? I mean it HAS to be. Couple that with all of the time and money getting the room ready for precisely these times, and I knew I had to figure this out. How can I be in JAX when I have to be and at home when the Panthers are playing? Can't have bad mojo heading into the game!
Well, the beauty of traveling frequently is the miles and free tickets. Most people use these for vacations. Not me. I've dedicated everything I reap from travel into Panthers games. Hotel points have bought free nights in CLT to allow my wife and I to attend with no charges. And this weekend, I'm using a free ticket to help me see the game at home.
So here's what lengths I am going to in order to do this. I leave the house tomorrow morning at about 8:00 AM to catch a 10:30 flight to JAX. I then have to meet with my local on-site contact, get access to the training facility, locate the 1500 pound of equipment and get it all set up, then dash BACK to the JAX airport for a flight that leaves for ATL at 4:50 and lands at 6:00. I'll then make the hour drive back to the house and catch the rest of the SEA-NO game and watch the IND - NE game.
Then comes Game Day - we have several people headed over (as we normally do) to pull for the Panthers. I'll be keeping a close eye on the clock during the game and PRAYING for NO OVERTIME as my final flight to take me back to JAX leaves ATL at 6:40. I HAVE to make this flight and the airport is an hour away. I can't afford the game to run longer than about 4:30. So, all in all, that makes 3 flights in about 32 hours, all in an attempt to see the Panthers in my own home with friends and family.
And it's only weird if it doesn't work, right?