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Panthers and Punks 

A day I won't forget

Before the season started, I wrote about the Carolina Panthers before ending with my First Annual Scene and Herd Fearless Predictions. I predicted double-digit wins for the Cats, and I said that Jake Delhomme would sometimes play like a young Brett Favre (A Favre-Lite, I think I said. Half points on this one since Favre's now sitting at home). Stephen Davis, of course, obliterated the 1,200 yard, 10-TD pace I envisioned. I even went so far as to predict that a player would be arrested before the season was out (Hello, Jarrod Cooper! Of course, that was probably the easiest prediction of the bunch). However, nobody -- nobody -- could have predicted this.

When Carolina Panthers General manager Marty Hurney was asked by a radio announcer before last Saturday's game whether or not he had butterflies in his stomach, Hurney replied no. "More like Mothra," he said.By the first overtime of Saturday's game, Hurney's stomach must have felt like Mothra was throwing a tea party in there with his friends Ultraman, Godzilla, King Kong and Megalon. The scrappy team gained the moniker "Cardiac Cats" earlier in the season, and never was a nickname better suited to a team. Like a writer on deadline (ahem...), the Panthers seem unable to concentrate unless they're up against the clock.

Every sports bar in town was packed, it seemed (so much so, in fact, that I actually spotted women in a few of them). Settling on uptown's Fox and Hound, I and a couple hundred other folks shared more heart attacks than Fred Sanford had during the entire run of Sanford and Son. The game appeared to be over, by my count, about eight or nine times. One thing is for sure: this team is a walking middle finger to all the folks who wonder what it is exactly sports can do for a city.

After the game, I caught my breath and left to go check out the big Punk Wars "04 show at Tremont Music Hall. Tried to leave, that is. Tryon Street was packed with cars, all with their windows down despite the blustery cold. Spontaneous chants of "Panthers!" began, and folks were honking their horns like it was Armistice Day.

And -- since no Ericsson security guards were nearby to hassle them -- two guys with a sunroof in their car doffed their shirts, with the guy in the passenger seat sitting on the roof and displaying his big ol' hairy chest and back for the world to see. Just call him Sir Furr. Screaming drunken inanities at the top of his lungs, he made a great facsimile Philadelphia Eagles fan.

After that game, I figured this whole Punk Wars thing had to be a letdown. Sure, there's a boatload of bands, and the whole thing only costs seven bucks. That said, how could it beat the emotion, the drama, of our beloved Cats?To judge by the attendance at the event -- completely sold out -- it appeared that most of these kids didn't even realize a football game was going on, or else ignored it. Seeing as I was one of the few people there over the age of, say, 25, I figured that maybe it had something to do with the whole "jock" archetype/stereotype these kids bump into every day at school. Who the hell cares about a bunch of overpaid behemoths tossing around an oblong ball made out of a pig carcass? Don't they know that animals have feelings too?

Of course, I kid. The kids were packed in Tremont's Casbah because it was a good time, and all for a good cause. (Actually, it was so packed that it would have seemed to make more sense to have them on the big stage. But then again, the only stage logistics I know are how far it's situated from the bar).

As I was leaving, three guys popped out of a vehicle, wearing star tattoos and Saucony sneakers and old too-tight athletic T-shirts (the outfit of choice that night, ironically enough).

"Yeahahaahhhhhhghhhhh! Panthers!" I expected the cadre of Cat Crazies to be hit with a flurry of PETA fliers or something. Of course, I was secretly impressed, never believing the prevailing wisdom that one can't be both a serious sports and music fan. I slapped hands with a couple of the guys, who then marched up the long ramp into the venue. Folks that had ignored their chants of a minute ago were now stopping the trio for particulars on the game.

Forget the Philadelphia Eagles. If you can convert this crowd, those yahoos up there ought to be a piece of cake.

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