Sunday, October 10, 2010

Skinther fans may be tilting back to burgundy and gold

When the Panthers franchise moved into Charlotte in 1995, a Raleigh-Durham radio station had an event where you could bring in your old Redskins t-shirt to be burned in a bonfire and receive your new Panthers t-shirt.

Let me first say that anyone who did that was never really a Redskins fan or they had worn it out so much they were going to throw it away anyway. But many fans remained fans of the Skins and wanted to support the new “Carolina” team. When the Redskins played in Charlotte for an exhibition game, there were literally hundreds of people walking around with a Redskins hat and a Panthers shirt or vice versa.

Some, mostly those in the vicinity of Charlotte, were making the transition I suppose while others were making the point that they are fans of both teams.

I remember one drunken, foul-mouthed Panthers fan that night who took exception to all the split loyalties being displayed in the urinal line. (For the record, I'm not fond of much conversation at the urinal anyway.) But those like him have to understand that most adults have been fans of another team and that team in North Carolina for decades was (and some would argue still is) the Redskins.

Since the Redskins have only appeared in the playoffs three times since the Panthers came along, and since such DC icons as RFK Stadium and owner Jack Kent Cooke have died, things changed and it worked to the Panthers advantage in winning over fans. Plus, after more than 15 years as a franchise, and a Super Bowl visit, the Panthers also have some younger fans who never were a part of the Redskins history.

But most people who ever were a Redskins fan are either still a Redskins fan and despise the Panthers for taking the Skins off TV after they’d been on for 30 years (radio for 50) or they still otherwise hold a soft spot for the burgundy and gold.

A female relative of mine didn’t really understand why Redskins fans wouldn’t just become Panthers fans now that “we” had a team. Telling her that Charlotte wasn’t exactly “we” didn’t seem to help her understand the plight of the North Carolina Redskins fan. Then I asked her how she would feel if her favorite Soap Opera was being preempted every time it was on in favor of a locally produced Soap Opera. Couldn’t she just become a fan of that new Soap Opera? She finally understood.

Now, with the excitement of having Mike Shanahan as coach and with Donovan McNabb becoming the quarterback, a lot of attention has been on the Redskins. Considering that the Panthers are struggling (boy, was that an ugly effort against the Bears today) and the Redskins are playing exciting ball (four of the five games have come down to the last seconds – and boy, was that an thrilling comeback against the Packers today), some with split loyalties (Skinther fans) might just be tilting back to the burgundy and gold.

The winless Panthers lost their fifth game of the season 23-6 to the Bears and former Panthers All-Pro Julius Peppers. The boos from the fans went from being directed at Peppers to being directed at the Panthers, who are the lowest-scoring team in the NFL. Rookie QB Danny Claussen was ineffective and benched in favor of Matt Moore who started the season as the club’s QB. If the people who are fans of the Panthers (and the Panthers only) are restless, imagine the Skinther fans who can either stick with the negativity of the Panthers season or lean back toward the positivity of the Redskins season.

Had the NFL put the Panthers in the AFC (which might have made more sense with nearby NFC markets established not only for the Redskins but for the Atlanta Falcons), Skinther fans could have watched both teams on regular TV (one on CBS and one on FOX) and could have rooted for both the Panthers and the Redskins. But the Panthers ownership didn’t want that - they not only lobbied to be in the NFC but at least one member of the ownership team that I spoke with at the time was hoping to get placed in the NFC East to start a Cowboys-Redskins type rivalry with the Skins.

While there are hard feelings, especially among Redskins fans, that could fuel a rivalry, the Panthers have played the Redskins only nine times in the regular season over the years and are just 2-7 against them.

A lot of people who have come to North Carolina (and the Triangle area in particular) in the last 15 years don’t really understand the history of support for the Redskins (which I have barely touched on) or even understand that many North Carolinians just east of the Triangle area can actually get to DC quicker than they can get to Charlotte. They also don’t know about the DirecTV study which shows that the most Redskins fans outside the DC market are congregated in the Triangle area of North Carolina. (Pass this on to your non-native friends as a service.)

You know, those Skinther fans may actually have it good because they have insurance that if one team isn’t doing well, perhaps the other one is. This year the pendulum is swinging (for now at least) toward the Redskins. Too bad they have to go to a sports bar or purchase DirecTV's Sunday Ticket to watch them now though.

No comments:

Post a Comment