Panther Tracks

Everything looks (much) bigger in the hours before the Super Bowl

tsumlin@charlotteobserver.com

It’s the Super Bowl, so of course, everything going on outside Levi’s Stadium on Super Bowl Sunday before the game was supersized.

There was supersized security. At times there appeared to be as many military and law enforcement and Homeland Security officers on the extraordinarily crowded streets as there were people in Luke Kuechly jerseys (and there were a lot of people wearing Luke Kuechly jerseys). But while many toted supersized firearms, several let their guard down long enough to oblige fans’ requests for photos. One Santa Clara police officer even posed with a Panther fan and a Panther flag while leaning out of the top of an armored vehicle.

There was supersized dedication. Two die-hard Carolina fans – Ken Corsig and his son, Kenny – caught a flight out of Charlotte Sunday that landed in San Francisco around 9 a.m., and immediately headed to the stadium. All they carried with them? A cellphone and a toothbrush. Their plan was to beat it straight back to SFO after the final buzzer, to get on a red-eye. “Well worth the lost sleep,” Ken said.

There were supersized deals being offered and struck. Over on Great America Parkway, one man was handing over a ticket to a guy in a Cam Newton jersey, who was handing back a wad of cash the size of a Price’s chicken breast.

But not everyone was finding the particular deal they wanted, so there was also supersized frustration. A woman in a long-sleeved Panthers top stood on a street corner near the Santa Clara Convention Center holding an “I Need Tickets” sign. She’d won two tickets via the PSL lottery but brought her entire family of five from Kings Mountain in hopes of scoring three more. “It’s not looking good right now,” she said. “We can’t find three together, just singles.”

Her plight aside, though, supersized optimism ran wild among Carolina Panthers fans in Santa Clara on Sunday.

You could hear it when they slapped each other on the backs and said stuff like “Dude, we’ve got this thing” as they shotgunned Bud Lights or dabbed for any number of the roaming bands of television crews; and you could really hear it when the guy draped in several strands of blue-colored beads climbed up onto a concrete block to bellow “Keeeeeeeep!!!!” at a sidewalk full of strangers and ... well, you guys all know how to respond to that by now, right?

But more than anything else, you could see the optimism, clearly, if you knew where to look.

Not up – no, if you looked up, you saw a sky full of hovering police helicopters, of skywriters puffing out piffle like “#Doritos,” of single-engine planes dragging banners for companies both big and small.

Not down – if you looked down, you saw lots of empty beer cans, and lots of empty 12-pack boxes, and occasionally, a K-9 officer taking a break to roll around in the grass.

No, in the hours leading up to the Super Bowl, all you had to do is look into the eyes of any Panthers fan to see it however fleeting it might later turn out to be: hope.

Janes: 704-358-5897;

Twitter: @theodenjanes

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