Seattle fan John O'Gara and his son pose outside Bank of America Stadium Sunday.
Check out this interesting email I received from John O'Gara, who works for Microsoft, lives in Seattle and is a Seahawk season ticket-holder. He came to Charlotte and watched the game in person along with his eight-year-old son, combining the trip with a visit to his mother, who is retired and living in N.C., and also came to the game.
O'Gara had a great experience at the stadium. I know some hardcore Panther fans will read his letter and say, "We're too nice! We shouldn't be so gentlemanly to other teams' fans!"
In my way of thinking, however, this is exactly how you want to treat opposing fans in Charlotte. You beat them if you can on the field, but hey, it's not their fault they were able to get tickets to the game. They deserve a good game-day experience, win or lose, that doesn't include getting beer dumped on them, etc. (as would undoubtedly happen in, say, Oakland or Philadelphia).
Here's what O'Gara wrote: I returned yesterday from a trip to Charlotte with my 8-year-old son to attend the Seahawks-Panthers game. One of the first things I mentioned to my co-workers this morning when asked “How was the game?” was to share with them how wonderful the people and Panther fans in Charlotte were.
I didn’t know what to expect, really, except that I felt pretty safe dressing my son and I in full Seahawks gear for the game, and cheering loudly and proudly. It was, after all, Charlotte and aren’t people in North Carolina supposed to be friendly and great keepers of “Southern Hospitality”?
Apparently so, as I’ll never forget how the rest of the day went.
As we parked our vehicle -- joined by my mother who recently retired to North Carolina from Nebraska -- we were asked “A long ways to come for a whuppin, isn’t it?” Only thing was, the gentleman asking did so with a nice, friendly, welcoming smile. As we walked up the Bank of America Stadium, we were told, very politely, which way to the right gate.
Once we were in the security line, we were treated wonderfully -- only a minor joke after clearing the bag check to “place our jerseys in the trash bin, located right over there." We were wearing Russell Wilson #3 jerseys, of course… and the suggestion to throw them in the trash was again delivered quite nicely, with a smile and a “just kiddin”.
As we walked to our seats, we started to get stopped by every stadium employee we passed. I am not exaggerating. It happened almost constantly. “Sir, thank you so much for coming, we are really glad you came, and you are welcome here.” It was so consistently delivered that I became very quickly aware that this was intentional. We were receiving the welcome that had been drilled into the staff: Visitors are welcome here, and the Panthers are glad they came. This happened at least six more times before we got to our seats.
The fans around us were really nice, as well. No glares, no negative comments. In fact, it was fun. We chatted with our neighbors, about North Carolina, Charlotte, the stadium, the teams… and had a great time. A few folks told us they liked seeing Russell Wilson doing so well in Seattle. I guess that his time spent at North Carolina State had earned him some local fans, even if he was playing for the opposing team.
At halftime, as we went for snacks and a break from the sun, we were behind [Carolina led 7-3 at halftime]. The nice gentlemen that let us get in front of him going up the stairs said, “Sure is a good game- really close and both teams are working hard.” He could have said, “So, not as easy as you thought, eh?”…. but he was polite, pleasant, and friendly.
As we all know, the Seahawks found themselves leaving Charlotte with a win. As we walked to the car, we wondered how this would go over, and what would be said or done now that the result was known.
Well, we were hardly out of the stadium and a nice man -- that I wish I’d gotten the name of -- stopped my son. He put a brand new Panther logo football in my son’s hands and said, “Son, here’s something for you to remember the great time you had in Charlotte at the Panther game!” When I was worried he was going to say something rude to my son, or who knows what, he gives my son a gift, after having his team beaten by the team my son is clearly here to see. He grinned, smiled, and the whole situation was as genuine as it gets.
I was dumbfounded. We didn’t know what to say, except thank you.
As we continued our walk back to the car, we were stopped numerous times -- sometimes by Seahawks fans who wanted a high-five, some “Sea-Hawks” chants, and a fist bump. But more often, much more often, by Panther fans - thanking us for coming, taking pictures of themselves with my son in his Seahawks gear, and being, again, friendly.
The last chapter in this story? When we needed to pull out of the lot and into the bumper to bumper traffic on Mint- and in our Seahawks jerseys and hats, a Panther fan waves us in front of him, and says “good game”- with a smile.
I sincerely hope that our staff, fans, and the residents of Seattle will be so kind to the Panthers when we would be privileged to have you come play us in our town, someday down the road. I look forward to the opportunity to return the kindness.
Who will I root for, unless we are playing them? The Carolina Panthers, who have some of the nicest and most polite fans in the NFL.
So what do you think? Were Panther fans too nice to O'Gara and his family -- or just right? I would argue it was just right and judging from the first batch of comments most would agree -- but not everyone.