I've been thinking about something ever since I penetrated the Pink Taco and walked away a winner. It's my deepest, most complex thoughts on the nature of fandom and the exclusive circumstances football provides for extraordinary behavior.
Also, there's gonna be a lot of pictures that look like this:
Humble yourself before Old Jesus, after...
Nacho cont'd: Two years ago, when the Panthers played the Bears in 2nd round of the playoffs. That's when it happened. The moment Smith scored on the second play from scrimmage I was sitting at a table with one diehard Bears fan, and a handful of Panther fans (the only ones in the bar).
As Smith scampered down Soldier Field I stood atop my booth and what spewed forth from my mouth was a slew of the most hateful, passionate, hurtful words ever spoken. I had antagonized the entire bar, including a man of much greater physical size than me, who happened to be sitting next to me. Then, something remarkable happened.
As bright as their rage burned inside each and every individual there, when the Panthers came away victorious, I was untouchable. I "sincerely" congratulated Bears fans on a well-fought match and more than once was advised that I would be healthier if I didn't say another word. I walked away sans scratches.
I can't think of another instance in today's sue-happy, wussified American society where someone can behave like I do when I cheer for the Panthers, and walk away without any repercussions. I conscientiously try to embody everything you'd hate to see in a fan of the team you're playing. I do this, because I can. I do this, because I can't anywhere else.
Which brings us to this weekend. A quick drive across the desert and we found ourselves at the Days Inn in Tempe, which just so happened to be where one of college football's remaining unbeaten teams was playing a PAC-10 match up. The bars were swell (Full disclosure: I over-ate at the first bar, cabbed it home early, was found sleeping with alarm clock going off inches from my face. I subsequently discovered the single worst food to vomit up six hours after eating. Hint: It's spinach artichoke dip.) and we discovered how sociable a fake mullet can be.
After some intense tailgating we headed to our seats. There was a guy in a Steve Smith jersey two rows in front of us.
I can think of one I'd "hit" it with.
He was surrounded by Cardinal friends and seemed genuinely embarrassed to be seated so close to the HAIRolina Panther fans.
We set about antagonizing everyone around us, but no one more than Superfan. Superfan was a portly, jovial, proud Cardinal fan across the aisle from us. Throughout the boring first half he continuously demanded we "Get out of [his] house!" and to "Get out!" and to "Get out!" That's not a typo, he had his trash talk and he was sticking to it. He piped down once I pointed out that up until two years ago he was homeless, crashing on his college roomie's couch. Cardinals fans are rather milquetoast in their support of the team and we heard A-S-U chants on our way to the seats.
The second half was much more exciting. The punt that phantomly touched a Panther. The fumble challenge. The bomb...Oh the bomb. When O.J. unleashed hell the four of us stood up immediately. We'd seen this time and time again. The backstory is effing awesome, so I'm just gonna repost it here:
"During the week, Smith had told him, "Don't worry about overthrowing me. You can't overthrow me...
"Oh no!" he said to himself after launching the ball toward Smith. "I overthrew him."
He didn't. "For some reason, the corner on that side stopped, or slowed down," said [Old Jesus]. Smith pushed into an extra gear, caught up to the ball, and brought it down for a 65-yard touchdown.
"See?" Smith told him on the sidelines. "You can't overthrow me."
I walked down four rows, patted Superfan on the shoulder, and thanked him for coming out. I reminded him that there were four quarters in a game, and advised he tell his coaching staff the same.
Then came the best part of the whole day: an autumn-of-their-years couple sat in front of us. They chose to stay right there, right the lion's den, despite tens of empty seats in nearby sectinos. As they shuffled past, the doddering old gal turned to us and said with a great amount of conviction: "You've made this entire experience miserable." Why don't I feel bad about this? This broad and her husband did fucking crossword puzzles the entire game. The football being played with about ninth on their list of priorities, and in a stadium of empty seats, they had every reason and chance to upgrade. There's a part of me that feels bad, but if you attend a football game, you gotta deal with the consequences.
Long story long, Old Jesus has come to save us all. He looked like a young Vinny Testaverde. Pass protection was amazing, I technically witnessed history, and Julius Peppers finally made my jersey legit. We even got to break out the old school "DRIVE-home, SAFE-ly" chant, a classic. The Gang stopped at Cracker Barrel across the street for some sweet tea and vittles, then aimed the Honda back towards LA. All in all we made a lot of friends and a lot of enemies in Phoenix, but we can make it up to the town, when we're back in February. Old Jesus will take us to the promiseland. Of that I'm certain.
Brethren: There's simply no way my Panthers watching experience for Week 6 was anywhere near as fun or blog-worthy as Nacho's (and Canuck's), but here are my patented bulleted thoughts:
- I was en route back from FantasyLand (at UVA for a ridiculous Homecoming weekend; side note about UVA Football: they're not good. They might win football games, but I still refuse to believe they're good). Therefore, I missed my usual bar trip in New York.
- Instead, I caught the second half of the Panthers-Cards game at a Hooters in Chinatown in D.C. I haven't been to a Hooters in at least eight-to-ten years, but I will tell you one thing: the Hooters in Chinatown D.C. have remarkably different "talent" than the Charlotte/South Blvd. Hooters.
- With that said, I def think (and Adam, Malick, Mo and JLew agreed with me) that the waitress wanted me. Ok, so maybe she might have been a bit of an Amazon (tall, broad shoulders, an ass that did not look great in those booty shorts), and she may have naturally weighed a bit more than me, and was named Maureen, but she def wanted me. We had some serious eye-sexual-relations, she sat down in the chair next to me, she batted her eyes and flirted, she (wanted to) rub my leg! I was seriously considering asking her if she wanted to follow me to the bathroom in exchange for the last two bites of my BBQ sandwich.
- I didn't.
- Oh, this is a football blog? Well, shit. What else can we say? As my buddy Steve texted me, "the one thing you don't do at 43 is make mistakes." Vinny T! Peter King called it the Story of the Year and has the Cats at 9 in his Power Poll. Vinny T!
- Since I wasn't able to watch the game on digital cable in D.C., I had to follow the first half online and text Canuck and Nacho at the game. I texted Canuck, "Who started at QB? How's it going? I'm in tha dark here, Charlie!" His response: "Thd tegte." Drunken text brilliance, Canuck.
- I sat next to ma boy JLew at the Hooters, and the only time a big play happened was when one of us wasn't watching the game. Good thing for us, we were at a Hooters and had some chicken wangs in front of us. On a related note, the Panthers won 25-10.
Ed's note: we're doing a guest spot over at JuicedSports and it should be up in a day or so, so peep that.