October 26, 1993. I still remember the breaking news from the sporting world that day. It was the day the Carolina Panthers were born and it was also the day I became a fan. In case you missed the memo, yes I am a 9ers and a Panthers fan regardless of what you say. You still can not question my fanhood!!! On this same day, I watched Jerry Richardson, owner of the Panthers, guarantee that the team would win a SuperBowl within their first 10 years of existence.
Fast forward to February 1, 2004, nine years after the Panthers first season(the Panthers started playing in 1995), SuperBowl XXXVIII(38). The Carolina Panthers vs. the New England Patriots. Could my Panthers really keep Jerry’s promise? After the way things had unfolded for my Panthers in the playoffs, anything was possible.
My Panthers easily dismissed the Dallas Cowboys in the first round to advance to a divisional playoff meeting with the St. Louis Rams. My Panthers were leading by 11 with three minutes to go when the improbable happened. The Rams tied the game!! In what will go down as one of the most exciting games I have ever watched, my Panthers managed to get the job done on the first play of the second overtime. QB Jake Delhomme hit WR Steve Smith in stride, the middle of the field for a 69 yard TD to send my Panthers to the NFC Championship. The clip of Delhomme celebrating that TD will never get old. Classic Jake :-}.
Next up was the opponent that stood between my Panthers and the SuperBowl, the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles would play without their workhorse RB, Brian Westbrook and would later lose QB Donovan McNabb during the game due to an injury. My Panthers won 14-3 to advance to the big game.
Besides the fact that my team was playing in the game, one of the main reasons that this game stands out is because I was in Charlotte to watch the game. A friend was invited down by another friend and my friend invited me to come as well. Keep in mind that I lived a little over two hours from Charlotte and I had to be at work at 8:30 the next morning but of course that was not going to stop me from going to Charlotte for the anticipated celebration. We ate. We laughed. We cheered. We covered our eyes when Janet played peek-a-boo. And with about three minutes to go and the game tied, we began to prepare for the trip to downtown Charlotte to celebrate Jerry’s promise. We had full confidence in our team. Then former Patriot Adam Vinatieri happened. With four seconds left, he shattered the dreams of Jerry and millions of Panthers fans along the East Coast with a swift kick that sent the ball through the uprights and sent the New England Patriots home with the Lombardi Trophy.
As I drove home that night, well morning, I began to laugh because I could only imagine what time I would have been leaving Charlotte if we had won. I wondered what I would have told my supervisor when he would have caught me sleeping at my desk. I decided I would have told him the truth. He knew I was a die hard and he was a great sport when he lost our bet during the NFC Championship game(he was an Eagles fan). If we had won, I surely would not have been productive that day but it would have been well worth it!!!