“Congratulations to the Panthers. But you know you’re a bandwagon fan.”
I’ve gotten texts like this over and over as the Carolina Panthers continued to win this season, particularly after they secured a spot in Super Bowl 50.
I get it. I spent most of my life in upstate New York, so people assume I’m a Bills fan. I’m not. My dad grew up outside of New York City and has always rooted for the Jets, but I felt no connection to that team, either. Instead, I was a football orphan, throwing my fandom behind the New York Yankees and Syracuse University basketball.
When I moved to Charlotte a little over two years ago, I decided it was time to begin the adoption process and make the Carolina Panthers my own.
I’ll admit it: Luke Kuechly kick-started the whole thing for me. He had a Derek Jeter-esque vibe that I found appealing, and I began to follow the Panthers mostly because of him. But I quickly discovered that the rest of the team was just as likeable.
You could tell they actually enjoyed each other and loved the game. They were dabbing, getting involved in the community, handing out footballs to kids, and leaving everyone pleasantly surprised as they continued to win.
When I headed to my first game at Bank of America Stadium September 2014, my fandom was cemented. The energy was outrageous. The stadium was beautiful, the people were friendly, and they played plenty of Drake before kickoff, which really made me feel a personal connection to the whole thing.
Additionally, the Panthers’ social media is engaging and Cam, for all the open letters he receives, has a charisma that makes you want to watch him. Plus, Charlotte backs the team with so much enthusiasm — How could you not want to be a part of that?
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) January 26, 2016
If you think about it, the Panthers franchise lends itself to a new(ish) fan base made up of people like me. The team just started playing in 1995, which is young by NFL standards. Charlotte is a city filled with transplants. The Panthers franchise isn’t yet at the point where an allegiance to the team has been passed down from generation after generation like with other teams. That’s part of what makes the whole thing exciting though. As Charlotte grows, the hype and history behind the Panthers do, too.
I’m not ashamed to admit I’m a new Panthers fan, but to me there’s a major difference between new fan and bandwagoner. A bandwagon fan likes the team that’s doing well, and then moves on to the next when the first one starts losing.
I’m cheering for the Panthers because Charlotte is my home now and I love it here, regardless of the football team’s record. The incredible season early on in my fanhood is just an awesome added bonus.
Lauren will be attending the Super Bowl this weekend as a fan this weekend. Want to see the Super Bowl through her eyes? Starting Friday, she’ll be posting on the C5 Instagram and on our newly-created Snapchat (search charlottefive).
Photos: Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer