Greg “Catman” Good was the Carolina Panthers’ most famous fan – an electric black-and-blue caped crusader perched on the front row in Section 104 for every game at Bank of America Stadium.
He was also my friend, and I’m sorry to say that Good died Friday, at age 62.
Long before the practical joke that Fox Sports played on him that went horribly awry in 2006, Good was buying two permanent seat licenses and making the 80-mile drive from his Winston-Salem hometown to Charlotte for every home game.
Good was an American original and the Panthers’ first and most obvious superfan. His outfit — with the blue hair pointing straight up in the vein of boxing promoter Don King — drew loads of attention and national TV cameras for practically every Panthers home game. He would sometimes take more than 100 photos per game with other Carolina fans.
“He couldn’t walk 10 yards in that stadium without getting stopped,” said Greg Good Jr., Good’s son. “We park 20 minutes from the stadium. But that trip before the game to our seats sometimes took Daddy two hours because of all the people that wanted pictures.”
Players noticed Good’s enthusiasm, as well as the outfit the former art major at Winston-Salem State had designed himself. Panthers wide receiver Mark Carrier gave Good a touchdown ball in 1996, well before Cam Newton made such giveaways a habit. I talked to Good, a career social worker, for the first time after Carrier’s gift. We kept in touch occasionally after that.
Fox’s tasteless joke
In 2006, I got to make one of the best phone calls of my career. It came after one of the worst days of Good’s life.
Fox Sports was televising a preseason game between Carolina and the Miami Dolphins that August and was casting about for ideas on how to keep fans watching the meaningless exhibition all the way through.
They hit upon what turned out to be a really dumb idea: They would pretend to give a car away to a “lucky” Panthers fan.
Said TV analyst Daryl Johnston late in the third quarter: “Now all you fans out there, you might be thinking, well, the starting units are out, we might change the channel ... We’re going to do something special to try and keep you here tonight. We’re giving a car away tonight.”
With 1:56 left in the fourth quarter, sideline reporter Tony Siragusa stationed himself in front of Good and informed Catman he was about to get a brand new car. Then Siragusa told the viewing audience: “The car is coming in right now. Here it comes. Beautiful. It’s white. It’s a Porsche!”
At that point, Siragusa revealed a small toy car in the palm of his hand, and gave it to Good.
Good believed that what Siragusa was showing him was simply a symbol of what he had won. “It’s a blessing and a prayer answered!” Good yelled into the camera.
Then Siragusa walked away.
Good and I spoke about the incident a few days later – “I thought I had won a real car,” he told me — and I tried to get some answers. Initially, all Fox Sports offered was a lame apology for what it called “a misunderstanding.”
But my first column generated more than 1,000 emails and phone calls to the Observer in eight hours – the most visceral reaction I ever received for a story in the pre-Twitter days. Fox Sports was getting all sorts of complaints, too, and the network reconsidered.
I got a phone call from David Hill, who at the time was the Fox Sports Chairman and CEO. He called the on-camera prank an “appalling piece of misjudgment” and “a joke that went terribly, terribly wrong.”
Hill said he planned to fly from Los Angeles to Charlotte to personally give Good the keys to a new Ford F-150 pickup, which he did.
Before that, though, I was able to call Good and break the news to him. He was completely silent at first, then started laughing in delight.
I met Good at the dealership two days later when he got the truck from Fox. Good gave me several back-cracking hugs and a signed “Catman” bobblehead (in an optimistic moment, he had once designed and ordered 1,008 of them and never did quite sell them all).
It was one of the most gratifying weeks of my career.
That was 13 years ago. The Good family still has that truck.
“Still runs good, too,” Greg Good Jr. said.
‘He left his voice on the field’
When Panthers wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad retired in 2010, he saved one of his public “Thank yous” for Catman. Good had always loved Muhammad, too, and started wearing Moose’s No. 87 jersey to every game once Carrier retired. Good’s other favorite player was former Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams, who called Good “the biggest Panther fan in the world” on Twitter Saturday. But Good loved all the Panthers players, really.
“Daddy wasn’t just there in the good times,” said Good Jr., who accompanied his father to hundreds of games over the years. “He went through 1-15 and 2-14 seasons. He went through Jimmy Clausen and Chris Weinke at quarterback. And he left his voice on the field at every game. He screamed and yelled so much he always went home hoarse.”
Hard to miss at 6-foot-4 and 325 pounds, Good attended every home game from 1995-2017. He always paid for his seats; he never worked for the Panthers, although some thought he did.
“I was sorry to hear of the passing of Greg Good aka Cat Man,” Panthers head coach Ron Rivera tweeted Saturday. “He was the first iconic Panther Fan to greet me & I always appreciated his love for (the) Panthers. Condolences to his family. He will be missed!”
Good managed to make it to both Panthers’ Super Bowl losses, too — the second time after establishing a GoFundMe page to finance his trip that quickly generated more than $9,000 from other Panthers fans.
But Good missed all of the team’s home games in 2018. I should have realized that, but I didn’t. I would look at the Catman bobblehead, still bobbling around in our house sometimes and think: “I need to get in touch with Catman.”
And I didn’t. And now I can’t.
Panthers should remember Catman
By 2018, Good had a number of health problems, including congestive heart failure. Good was in hospice care for the last several weeks of his life. He had a stroke two weeks ago, his son said, and from then on he was no longer able to speak. Among his survivors were his three children — Candace, Greg Jr. and Christopher.
Greg Sr. had asked Greg Jr. to announce his death on Facebook, to alert other Panthers fans to it, and so he did. Good Jr. also plans to wear his father’s costume for home games this season, he said, in remembrance.
“I want people to remember him as both a diehard Panthers fan and a kind, loving man,” Good Jr. said.
I want people to remember him, too. And the Panthers should play a part in this.
At the team’s first preseason game in August, Good’s picture should be shown on the video boards and his death should be acknowledged. The Panthers should put his full name up there, along with his birth and death date.
And then I’d put two more words up — the two words that the emails Catman sent me always closed with: