I grew up in a city with zero professional sports teams. Then, I went to a college where people only cared about one football game each year. (Okay, we didn’t even care about that game, we just used it as an excuse to start drinking at 8 a.m.) My grad school has a D1 hockey team, but I was only there for one year and only made it to one game. I became a New York Islanders fan because it’s my husband’s team, but I’ve never really had a team to call my own – until now.
Before we moved to Charlotte, we decided we would be all-in Panthers fans. The stadium was in walking distance from our place, my husband didn’t have an NFL team, and I had never actually watched a football game before. Yes, I sat on the couch and ate snacks, but I never took the time to understand the game.
My first week of work we went to a pre-season game where I got my first taste of the NFL. Seeing the city come together was exhilarating. In a new city, it was nice to feel like we were a part of something. I drank the Kool-Aid. And so we began our Sunday tradition of football and pasta.
Every Sunday morning we would make meatballs together and throw them in the crock pot, then my husband would work on lesson planning, and I would snuggle our puppy while our apartment filled with marinara, parmesan, and slow-cooked beef. Later, we’d fill our plates with steaming bow ties and meatballs and sink into the couch for kick off.
We didn’t miss a single game.
I loved walking home from work on Fridays amid groups of tailgaters already grilling and cracking beers with friends. I loved running into fans decked out in Carolina blue on game day while walking my puppy. I loved the fact that I could actually contribute to game conversations in my office on Monday mornings. And I loved that every Friday, people would say goodbye for the weekend by saying, “Go Panthers!”
It helped that it was such an amazing season, too. Only one loss and we went all the way to the Super Bowl, where, okay yes, we choked. BUT it was the first time in my 27 years of life that I cared more about the game than the advertisements. I will continue to rock my Cam Newton shirt with pride and I can’t wait to do it all again next year.
I can honestly say that I’m a real football fan now. It was my first crash course in southern living, and I think I’m going to stay awhile. I even told my husband that I’ll know I made it if someday we can buy season Panther tickets for us and our future children. How’s that for a 10-year plan?