Well, I’ve taken a few days to let the reality of what happened at the Super Bowl settle in. My entire life I have been a Washington Redskins fan. Growing up in southwestern Virginia before the Panthers franchise came into existence, the Redskins were the home team. I still remember when it was announced in 1993 that Charlotte would be the home of the NFL’s 29th franchise. It was then that the Panthers became the hometown team (2 hours verses the 5 to Washington) and as I began to embrace that, I continued to cling to my roots as a Redskins fan.
After moving to Charlotte nearly three years ago now, I have found my loyalty to the Panthers growing stronger and stronger. This year the lure of being a Panthers fan was greater than ever, so I finally broke down and bought my first bit of Panthers swag. Perhaps you’re thinking that I’m just a bandwagon fan. Maybe I am, but no matter, as the Panthers and Redskins squared off this year, I truly found myself starting to pull for the Panthers to win the game…I think in hopes that their historic season wouldn’t be tarnished.
As the Super Bowl approached, I have to admit that it was absolutely amazing to be living in the city of Charlotte. The electricity was astonishing – vendors on every corner, flags on every car (except for that one with the Broncos flag), houses decorated with banners & balloons…people were excited for their hometown team! But needless to say, the Broncos dashed our hopes of winning that ever elusive first Super Bowl.
As we all know, especially those of us living in the Charlotte area, the media has attacked Cam Newton’s behavior in the aftermath of the game. Well, I don’t plan to address that at all and to be completely honest, whether you love him or hate him, I’m tired of reading about people’s opinions of Cam on Facebook, Twitter, etc. What I do want to talk about though is what was the greatest moment of Super Bowl 50 for me.
In the last seconds of the game, when it was absolutely clear that the Panthers had lost, Peyton Manning walked off the field for what may have been the last time ever. As he sauntered to the sideline, Manning was met by Josh Norman. As a walk-on at Costal Carolina, Norman had been picked 143rd in the NFL draft by the Panthers before securing his position as their starting cornerback. Even though Norman was about to lose the biggest game of his career, it was his love of the game that shined through. In a conversation that we’ll never be able to hear, Norman paid his respect to one of his childhood heroes…Peyton Manning. That’s what it’s all about. As I sat on the couch, dejected over the Panthers performance, Josh Norman reminded me why we play sports. Sure we all want to win (in the words of Ricky Bobby – “If you ain’t first, you’re last”), but at the end of the day it’s the love of the game, even when that love is shown through in the admiration and respect we have for our opponent.
In that moment, as I watched history unfold, I was challenged to be a better man. Thank you Josh Norman for reminding me what it’s all about!