Christine Nixon is 100 percent certain the Carolina Panthers will beat the San Francisco 49ers in their divisional-round playoff game at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday.
How does the 73-year-old Charlottean know this?
Its what she heard from a panel of three former Panthers players at an indoor tailgate party at The Charlotte Observer on Friday that convinced her:
That coach Ron Rivera and his team have proven their will to win despite a dismal start to the season, she said.
Nixon joined about 350 other fans for the event featuring former Panthers standouts Mike Rucker, Mark Carrier and Eugene Robinson.
Nixon wore her black Panthers tuke, 2003 Conference Champions Panthers sweatshirt and the decorative, lighted Panthers beads she bought at the first game the team played in the new stadium in 1996.
I know were going to win, said Nixon, a deacon in the AME Zion Episcopal church. Were going to win. You put God first, and everything else will fall into place.
The panel of former players she heard predicted a close, low-scoring Panthers win, with the game coming down to what happens in the trenches, they said the offensive and defensive lines. It could come down to a field goal, they said.
The panel detailed the impact of such Panthers as receiver Steve Smith, quarterback Cam Newton, linebacker Luke Kuechly, receiver and returner Ted Ginn, Jr., punter Brad Nortman and kicker Graham Gano.
But other interesting snippets emerged Friday that had nothing to do with Xs and Os:
I feel like Fred Sanford
Before the hourlong event, Carrier, Robinson and Rucker gathered in a back office for a video interview for charlotteobserver.com, but Carrier had trouble reading the small print on some paperwork he needed to fill out.
All three are at the age where many of us begin to need reading glasses.
Robinson, 50, needled Carrier, 48, saying he keeps reading glasses everywhere at home.
Carrier said he does, too. I feel like Fred Sanford, he said of the popular 1970s Sanford and Son sitcom character. In a recurring joke, Sanford would pull out several pairs of reading glasses from a drawer to look up a number in the phone book to make a call.
Thumbs-down for Flair
Introducing himself to the crowd, Robinson mentioned how he coaches football, wrestling and track at Charlotte Christian School.
At which point moderator and Observer sports columnist Scott Fowler jokingly asked, Is Ric Flair involved?
The reference was to the pro wrestler, a longtime Charlottean, who told the 49ers they were in his heart (as opposed to the Carolina Panthers).
At the mention of Flairs name, the crowd let out a chorus of boos.
11-month-old predicts Panthers win
Xavierous Summers, 26, of Statesville served as a spokesman on Friday for his son, Xavier, 11 months, who sat on his dads lap. Xavier wore a No. 1 Cam Newton jersey.
He says, Cams going to have the best game of his career, dad said.
Pepping up the crowd
Audrey White, 54, was a one-woman pep rally squad as she walked to a table in the Observer cafeteria with her husband Jeff, 54.
Panthers!!! Panthers!!! I said (long pause) the Panthers!! she chanted.
Audrey White said the couple didnt even know about Fridays event until someone mentioned it to them as they walked outside the Observer building.
Were rooting for the Panthers, she said. Weve always rooted for the Panthers, even (in the seasons) they were losing.
Marusak: 704-358-5067; Twitter: @jmarusak
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