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C5 goes to the Super Bowl: Katie follows the Panthers, seeks to understand this American phenomenon

Members of the Carolina Panthers point to the stands as they pose for a photo while celebrating  their impending victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers late in the fourth quarter at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, January 3, 2016. The Panthers won 38-10, and secured home field through the playoffs.
Members of the Carolina Panthers point to the stands as they pose for a photo while celebrating their impending victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers late in the fourth quarter at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, January 3, 2016. The Panthers won 38-10, and secured home field through the playoffs. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

I have a solid track record of not watching the Super Bowl. (Or watching Panthers games, as I’ve mentioned before.) I generally end up at a party but am more focused on the libations, the stories of the party people themselves and the most direct path to the hummus-plus-veggies platter.

I was looking at this coming Super Bowl Sunday as an exciting opportunity to watch a short Coldplay concert on the TV among friends. Which means: I didn’t have big plans. Meanwhile, my parents and brother — rabid Panthers fans — were vacillating between going and not going to the big game (a torturous process, apparently) before deciding against the expense.

So they weren’t initially supportive, per se, when I mentioned I’d be flying to San Francisco to spend the week leading up to the Super Bowl — and the game itself — among the rest of the football fanatics. For journalism.

That’s right: I’ll be in California all week covering the Panthers and Super Bowl 50, sending daily dispatches back to CharlotteFive.

And my family finally seems excited for my adventure, which is beginning… right now. I am strapped into a seat on a San-Francisco-bound plane for 5 hours, 50 minutes, preparing to land on the alien planet of Super Bowl 50 happenings.

Don’t worry, Panthers fans, my mom sent me on my way with a Kuechly jersey and “lucky” Panthers beads from the 2004 Super Bowl.

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Maybe I’ll wear them to the Skrillex show I’ve apparently been granted access to.

Maybe I’ll just keep it all packed into my suitcase, which is, ironically, pretty Panthers-looking blue.

I’m not here as an expert on anything. I’m here to take in everything. Everything that goes into this phenomenon that Fox News described as “a shared experience that is truly American … an ultimate American story: a high-stakes game of winner takes all.”

Just last year, the Super Bowl was deemed “the most watched television show in U.S. history” when Super Bowl XLIX brought in more than 114 million viewers. Super Bowl XLVIII brought in 112.2 million viewers. By 2015, six of the seven shows in American television history that had topped 100 million viewers were Super Bowls (the seventh? the “M*A*S*H” finale in 1983).

Here I am, one of the millions of Americans who will watch this 50th event on Sunday. What will go on in San Fran to make this one day so worthy of those numbers? So worthy of being preceded by a week of media and social shenanigans? So worthy of being graced by the presence of Beyoncé and Coldplay (or, as my mom thinks: Coolplay)? So worthy of me being sent to the game?

Keep track of the facts and the fun and the frolic and the fanatics by following along with Charlotte Five and me:

Twitter

@Charlotte_Five & @katietoussaint

Instagram

@cltfive & @katietoussaint

Let’s get this Panthers party started.

Photos: David T. Foster III/Charlotte Observer, Katie Toussaint

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