I know Kate Parkerson from grade school years at Trinity Episcopal, where her mom was an outstanding math teacher for many years, me being fortunate to be in her class. I reconnected with her recently on Facebook, where she has been a world of help in navigating through the thing (At first, FB can feel like running into a wall of DT’s, DE’s, and LB’s). Kate and her husband, John Worstell, a devout Steelers fan, live in rural West Carolina near the Great Smokey Mountains. Without undue emotion, she had confidently predicted a Saints victory over Pittsburgh on Halloween, despite the Browns fiasco the week before. Fortunately, I have heard of no hurling of terrible towels in her household after the outcome. She being a card carrying citizen of The Nation, I was interested in her take on the Saints being up there last week, as a native in enemy territory. After letting us know she was going to the game, she accepted an invitation to be guest columnist this week, and here are her musings…..
Heading to Panther Stadium Again
Tomorrow morning I’ll leave bright and early to drive to Charlotte for the game. I can’t help but think how different this experience will be from the game in January of this year. January 3, 2010 was a very cold but sunny day. The Saints were already in the playoffs, with a bye to boot. Black and Gold Super Bowl was the chant on the lips of every Who ‘Dat. We had a tailgate lunch in a parking lot outside of Panther Stadium, alongside a bus load of the faithful just up from New Orleans. It was a great feeling of shared hope and joy – perfect way to start the New Year.
With me that day was my 12 year old grandson Douglas, and as excited and proud as I was about my boys in the Black and Gold, this game was about Douglas. It was his first live pro-football game and the Panthers are his team. He was awestruck as we walked into the stadium, passing the giant Panther statues. He couldn’t stop smiling during the whole game, especially when his favorite player Julius Peppers was on the move. Of course I enjoyed ribbing him during the game, reminding him that none of our “A” team was on the field. He didn’t care, and neither did I, really. We lost that game, but it didn’t count anyway, and our fate was set to end the season as champions. As we left the stadium, the Panther fans that enjoyed taunting us during the game, made a point of stopping to say “good luck in the playoffs,” and “we hope the Saints go all the way.” And we did.
Tomorrow will be a perfect day for an outdoor game, sunny and cool. I don’t expect The Nation to show up in busloads, but I’ll be looking for them. And I don’t expect the Panther fans to be gracious winners, or forgiving losers. Douglas will be watching the game on TV, cheering for his Panthers. This time the game isn’t about him, it’s all about my boys in the Black and Gold. They need this win, and the Panthers need to win something. The Panthers have a struggling rookie quarterback and no Julius Peppers, but they also have nothing to lose. Look for us in the lower part of the third tier above the NW 20 yard line – the small spot of Black and Gold, surrounded by Panther blue. We’ll be cheering for our “A” team, because this time the game counts.
We pulled into a parking lot, and there was no bus load of Who ‘Dat Nation, but we were fortunate to park next to some fellow Saints devotees. The Panther fans were more subdued, as a result of the lousy season they’ve been having. Unlike the Cleveland Browns, they had no tricks up their sleeve, or hope for beating the defending Super Bowl champs.
I enjoyed watching our boys Reign Supreme. There were lots of foul plays by both teams. When it became clear that this game was going to be a rout, the fans we were sitting near (both Saints and Panthers) started cheering for – both sides! It was not a pretty scene kind of game.
The stands emptied early, as the Panthers tried to come back using every quarterback on their roster. One group of fans left with paper bags over their heads – we remember ‘dat feeling! Walking back to the car, amongst more Black & Gold than Carolina Blue, we were happy to have a sterling 6-3 record in the standings going into next week’s break, and confident that the rest of the league – ain’t seen nothin’ yet.