Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My Personal Condemnation of Fairweather Football Fans

I am a sports addict, no denial about it. Ladies, if this is something you could not accept, keep rolling, I'm not for you. What I can say that I am prouder of, is that I am a TRUE fan of "My Teams." For as long as I can remember I have supported the hometeams: Hornets and then Bobcats, Carolina Hurricanes, and the Carolina Panthers. As it is football season I'll leave the heartbreak of having to cut off the Hornets and jump to the Bobcats for another blog; we're gonna talk football. The only possible flaw in my fandom is that I have two teams. At a young age I began supporting a team that at this time embodied gritty, smashmouth football in a stadium full of scary, dressed up, rambuctious, possibly felonious fans: The Oakland Raiders. Upon moving to Charlotte in 1993, there was no professional team there, so my Raider fandom continued. In 1995 when the Carolina Panthers formed, all of a sudden I had a hometeam to support, which knocked my Raider fandom to number 2; however, I could not shake being a fan. This allowed me to look at two startlingly different views of what a professional sports fan should be:

1. The Oakland Raider Nation
Take a good look at the man on the left, he is "a true fan." For a time, the Raiders were the winningest team in NFL history percentage-wise. Even in the 1990s and early 2000s, they had an impressive streak of seasons with double-digit wins and they seemed to only lose in the playoffs to the eventual Super Bowl Champion (2000 to the Ravens, 2001 to the Patriots on that "tuck rule" BULLSHIT, 2003 in the Super Bowl to the Bucs, etc.). It is easy to be a fan in these times where things are going well. But that's not when this picture was taken. This picture was taken in the last year or two. For those who don't know, the season after the Raiders went to the Super Bowl in 2003 their QB Rich Gannon, the reigning NFL MVP at the time, suffered a career-ending injury and many of the veterans on the team retired and the franchise has been among the worst in the league since that time. Therefore, looking back at this picture, you are looking at a grown man, possibly a VP in some big company with five kids at home, who is braving the Oakland heat dressed in Black and Silver padding and costume from head to toe to keep up the "Black Hole" mystique for a team that has not won more than 6 games in a season since 2002-03. In the wake of Al Davis (once a proud owner who has now lost his mind in his old age) making terrible decisions and sabotaging his own franchise personnel wise, this man remains A TRUE FAN. The Raider Nation is a 100,000+ fan fraternity of people like this man. Some part of their spirit lives in me; because despite their bad seasons and decision-making, I am still fully supportive and hopeful that they can turn things around. They pissed away a home win against the Chargers or they would be 2-0 as we speak. I still call myself a Raiders fan with pride when asked. Now let us examine the only team in the league I would root against the Raiders for...

2. The Carolina Panthers, the underappreciated hometown hero
I'll put this in bold letters because I mean it and I know that it will make many people, including some of me and my brother's close friends, very mad: PANTHERS FANS JUST DON'T KNOW HOW GOOD THEY HAVE IT. That's right, I said it. I could not find a picture online of the man I was looking for. There is a man, the closest thing we have to a Raider fan, who comes to the Panthers games in black and blue shoulder pads, customized jersey, blue face paint, and a blue troll wig to support his team. I have tremendous respect for this man and others of his breed. However, they seem to be few and far between in my hometown of Charlotte. The Panthers, one of the shortest tenured teams in the league, has already accomplished more than many teams in the league that have been around multiple times as long. Compare Super Bowl appearances, Conference Championship appearances/wins, Division Championships, and playoff wins over the same 13-year period to the Atlanta Falcons (with who I've lived among for 5 years and frequently argue with), Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets (all the way back to Broadway Joe), Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans, San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints, Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Washington Redskins, and Seattle Seahawks and you may be surprised to find that the Panthers have been more successful over this period. Hell, they've done more in this period than some teams of done in their 30-40+ years of existence. Therefore, when I find so many in my city bickering and badmouthing our quarterback and team in the midst of a 12-4 Division Championship season, I tend to lash out at my own fellow fan base. I could understand people arguing if they are putting forth solutions, but many Panthers fans are just barking out. "Get rid of Jake Delhomme, he stinks." AND THEN WHAT??? I know he's not Peyton Manning, I know he has stretches where he is a downright bad decision-maker and if we had a suitable back up or draft pick at the position, I could understand this thought process. It is time for us to draft his eventual successor. But the reality is, if you are not satisfied with a 12-win season and home playoff loss to a team that goes to the Super Bowl, I'd hate to see how you feel about a 5-win season because that's exactly where we are headed with Matt Moore playing full-time. Before you badmouth the man, look at his resume, how many Super Bowls/Conference Championship games has Philip Rivers been to/won? Drew Brees? Carson Palmer? Jay Cutler? Tony Romo? The numbers don't stack up to Delhomme. And don't act like it was all running and defense, I know that is our bread and butter, but on our Super Bowl playoff run, Delhomme was airing the ball out; the "Cardiac Cats" came back to win a lotta football games. To this point in our existence, we've never had to deal with that sub-par play for an extended period of time; there was a 1-15 campaign with Weinke at quarterback and a 4-12 campaign in the early years. In recent history, we have had years where seemingly the entire nucleus of the team got hurt and we still haven't gone less that 7-9, which is better than some teams with their complete nucleus intact. Everyone knows what the good years for the Cowboys, 49ers, and Patriots were like and they were glorious, but look up how bad things got in some of their bad years. Ask a Saints fan. You never know what you got til it's gone. It would be nice to have some Lombardi trophies to display, but just like the Eagles and the Donovan McNabb Era, you just may miss it when it's gone. So I say this to rally my Panthers fans: "QUIT BITCHING, TAKE YOUR ASS TO THE GAMES, SUPPORT YOUR TEAM, AND BE POSITIVE." Despite everything the damn Detroit Lions haven't had attendance problems(and Ford Field is huge in the area where the recession has hit the worst), we got no fucking excuses. And last but not least...

3. The Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech
I'll only spend a few lines on this. Tech is not a huge program with millions of boosters where we can pay a coach $3-4 million a year(which is what you have to pay to get a Nick Saban, Pete Carroll type). Furthermore, it's not a school where we can sacrifice academic standards to get whatever athletes we want to get in. But somehow even in our "bad years", we win at least 8 games many of which are over programs that have the aforementioned luxuries that we don't. So stop jumping ship and complaining about how much everyone on our team sucks every time we lose to anyone. Miami whipped us, but they're gonna whip a lotta people and we're not gonna play that bad every game. Plus, you live on campus and tickets are free, so SHUT THE FUCK UP, GO TO THE GAMES, BE POSITIVE, AND CHEER YOUR HEART OUT. Once again, we're not on the short list of elite programs, but there are schools with more football resources and talent than us that are doing a lot worse, so realize how good you have it while you do. When's the last time Tech went sub-.500? You'd have to go back a long way. Remember that.

If have haven't noticed, sports get me fired up. And I get short and judgmental to fairweather/bandwagon/fickle fans. Get over it, I've been called worse...

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