Tom Sorensen

Any Panthers home opener is big. But here’s why this ticket is so tough to find.

Dallas Cowboys fans react after Carolina Panthers’ Luke Kuechly (59) scored a touchdown on an interception in the teams’ 2015 game at AT&T Stadium. The two teams open the NFL regular season in Charlotte on Sept. 9.
Dallas Cowboys fans react after Carolina Panthers’ Luke Kuechly (59) scored a touchdown on an interception in the teams’ 2015 game at AT&T Stadium. The two teams open the NFL regular season in Charlotte on Sept. 9. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

The Carolina Panthers-Dallas Cowboys ticket is one of the toughest Carolina regular-season tickets I’ve encountered in decades. My older son and his family are flying in, so I’ve been out there, scrambling for two.

This might sound like standard opening-day hyperbole. But talk to the people that make their living selling tickets. They’ll tell you. What I’ll tell you is that if you have tickets, you have friends, some of whom you’ve never met.

Part of the appeal, of course, is opening day. The Panthers have won their three exhibitions, and looked good doing it. They are as fast as any Carolina team I remember. They will lumber less, and sprint more.

Another reason: The Panthers have played their last four openers on the road. They last opened at home in 2013 against the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks rallied to beat them 12-7.

It was a different time. Tied for leading tackler on the Panthers that day was Charles Godfrey. Carolina’s punter was Brad Nortman, its leading rusher was DeAngelo Williams, and scoring Carolina’s touchdown was Steve Smith.

If not every other season, shouldn’t the Panthers open at home at least one out of three?

The other reason the Carolina-Dallas ticket is so valuable is Dallas. The Cowboys’ brand is considerably better than their team. They are the world’s most valuable sports franchise.

They play in football-crazed Texas, and play in the NFC East against big-town teams such as the New York Giants, Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles. So everybody knows their name. Until the Houston Texans showed up, Texas and Oklahoma were theirs.

People claim that Dallas fans are especially obnoxious. I disagree. They don’t win enough to be obnoxious.

Dallas is, however, 9-4 against the Panthers. But the Panthers are 2-0 against the Cowboys in the playoffs.

The Cowboys are not a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately franchise. They were New England first. They’ve won five Super Bowls, the most recent of them in 1995, Carolina’s first season. Brad Nortman was six.

The Cowboys don’t have to win to be popular. They have the symbols, the image, the world’s most famous cheerleaders and an owner that gets younger every decade. In 10 years, he’ll get carded.

So it’s a big deal that the Cowboys will be in Charlotte on opening day. It’s a bigger deal that Carolina will be.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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