I read with interest the recent column by Frank Wooten titled "Super motive: Back our home team." The article began with an acknowledgment of the strong collegiate affinities that exist in our area, which was certainly accurate and very meaningful. We love our college football in the South.
Frank went on to write, "But South Carolinians have never had a team of our own in the Super Bowl - unless you count the Carolina Panthers, which you shouldn't."
I kept searching for some rationale that Frank might offer to support his proposition that we should not consider the Carolina Panthers as our home team. There was none, unless we were to consider the fact that the stadium is in Charlotte (which, by the way, is just nine miles over the state line into North Carolina).
So, to Mr. Wooten's suggestion about South Carolina not being a part of the NFL, consider this: The beloved owner of the Carolina Panthers, Jerry Richardson, is a South Carolinian.
The training camp is held every year in what has become a strong ritual - in South Carolina. The Panthers logo itself is actually an illustration of the shape of both states - with South Carolina as the head of the panther and the logo's most prominent feature.
There have been numerous "Fan Fests" over the years in South Carolina that the team has organized and led. Steve Smith (No. 89), one of the most widely known players in the country, has visited Charleston along with many of his fellow Panthers teammates and signed autographs for fans.
Back when the Carolinas were vying for an expansion team over 20 years ago, the energy and spirit were high. Across the Carolinas, support for an NFL expansion team poured in at an unprecedented rate. Then-Sen. Ernest Hollings of South Carolina lobbied NFL owners on the Carolinas' behalf.
S. C. Gov. Carroll Campbell formed a blue-ribbon committee of leading citizens in both states. Cities in both Carolinas held rallies and individuals committed to permanent seat licenses in a show of support before the team was even approved. On Oct. 26, 1993, NFL owners unanimously selected Carolina as the 29th NFL franchise and the first expansion team since 1976. South Carolinians were ecstatic.
I love our Carolina Panthers. I have cheered for them from the beginning - through many heart-breaking seasons - and I think our team has a great story to tell. If, for whatever reason, we don't share that sentiment here locally, I think we should look in the mirror instead of placing blame on the Panthers, as Frank suggests.
Why wouldn't we consider the Panthers our home team? Is there more that we can do locally - at some of our community events and even at sports bars - to rally support?
We are fortunate to have a team that has one of the most revered owners in the entire National Football League, a first-class coaching and leadership team, a beautiful and fan-friendly stadium within reasonable driving distance, and a team that just experienced one of its best seasons in history with huge potential in the coming years.
I hope that Frank Wooten and others will consider who they will be cheering for in an upcoming Super Bowl when (and they will) the Carolina Panthers are in the big game.
Let's increase our support now for our team and not jump on the bandwagon later.
Stay Sail Way