Of course, waiting to watch your state’s home team compete in the most important game in their respective sport (which given the popularity of this particular sport, makes it the most important game of the year in anything) is both exciting and a bit of an anxiety-inducing brain freezer.
As a whole, the Carolinas have been fairly successful states, sports-wise. They were given THREE professional sports franchises in a mere decade that compete in the Big Four sports leagues, (Panthers - 1995, Hurricanes - 1997, Bobcats - 2004) one of them winning a title (Hurricanes - 2006). They’ve have also housed a robust college tradition that has all but defined the sports landscape here (while simultaneously impeding the latching-on of the pro franchises) for years.
Whether it’s been the ACC’s storied tradition in college hoops with Duke and UNC, the more recent football successes of Clemson and App, or even one of the most successful entities in all of sports — the UNC women’s soccer team — the point is the Carolinas have managed to do fairly well, all things considered.
But not the Hornets — at least, not the post-Shinn version of the twice-named Charlotte basketball team.
In fact, they’ve been pretty dreadful. You need look no further than 2011-12 season in which the then-Bobcats posted a "winning" percentage of .106, narrowly edging the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers (by .004) to officially become the worst professional basketball team of all time. That, at least for the moment, sadly, is the Hornets claim to fame.
And that also, again — for the moment — is why it feels so wrong to be rooting for a Vegas-labelled -6 Carolina Panther team that is being talked about as potentially one of the greatest single season teams in the history of the NFL. Led by a player by the way, who has a legitimate claim to being the face of the most important league in American sports.
Maybe for more general Carolina sports fans this is nothing new. There’s plenty of good teams in our states’ collective histories who have done big things. But for those who identify as Hornets fans first and foremost, this sh*t feels WEIRD.
It feels weird to be a fan of the Panthers because it feels weird to be expected to be on the good end of a Super Bowl blowout. Hornets fandom has conditioned us to simply appreciate the proverbial scraps. To value things like close games, moral victories, and player development. Good things to be sure, but not wins. Not, as Herm Edwards would say, why you play the game.
It feels odd being at a place no one really ever expected, at least not now, and not with this kind of panache. And although that’s the case, I’m going to yell as loud as I can for Charlotte’s football team come kickoff, and hope that soon enough I’ll be doing the same for the basketball one too.