Wednesday, September 11, 2013

How nice are Panther fans? A Seahawks fan chimes in



Seattle fan John O'Gara and his son pose outside Bank of America Stadium Sunday.

Readers,

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.

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing, glad to see people feel welcome in our community.

Anonymous said...

Charlotte is full of a bunch of sissies!

Anonymous said...

Its too bad most of the Seahawks fans were total jerks just like last year. They are now my #1 hated team in the league because of the lack of class their fans posses.

Joseph said...

I'd say just right. A few years ago, I had the privilege of being in Seattle they played Carolina for the NFC championship. I had full Panthers gear, from the hat to the jersey to the jacket. I had 10th row seats on the Panthers' side of the field, near the 10 yard line. I was alone because I was traveling for work. I have to say that I have never been more verbally abused at any point in my life than that long evening. I was taken back by the rudeness of their severe intoxicated fans in the first quarter alone. As the Panthers began to play poorly, the harassment became worse, to the point where I left the game before half time because I felt myself becoming angry with the harassment, which would have turned into what felt like 72,000 drunken fans against me. I went back to the hotel and finished watching the game. Ever since then, I've felt it was important for Panthers' fans to take the high road when other fans are visiting. I'm proud of our fans for behaving this way and to be from NC!

Anonymous said...

I went to Seattle the last time the Panthers played a regular season game there and had a wonderful experience. The fans were nice and pleasant, even bought me a beer. I am glad this man and his son had a great time at the game. It is after all, just a game.

Anonymous said...

I am proud of how Panther fans conduct themselves. This is a lesson for the league. I am also thankful for the improvement of fan conduct generally. Years ago I noted language and behavior in front of young people that was embarassing. Correcting this has been an emphasis of the Panthers staff and it clearly shows. Its great to be able to take a child to the game and not be concerned about what they see and hear.

Lastly our fans need to chill, we are going to have a great season.

Anonymous said...

everything is always great and wonderful when you win

this guy is a phony .. who is he kidding?

had they lost he would have been slamming the joint

Anonymous said...

Awonderful story,proud to be a North Carolinian.

Anonymous said...

That is how fans should interact - too often people put on their teams colors and act like they going off to take part in a gang turf war instead of enjoy a sporting/entertainment event.

Anonymous said...

It's one thing to create a loud environment for the opponent on the field, but what good would it ever do a fan base to treat opposing fans poorly?

From an economic standpoint, Jerry has to love stuff like this. There are stadiums I will NEVER go to because of the negative environment that exists. No tix, no hotel, no restaurant, no airfare to a certain city is bad for business

Chipper said...

Off topic a bit, but I always get the same responses when I visit Clemson with my UNC gear. I mean we have been going at each other for decades, but they still welcome us and say nice things on every visit.

Anonymous said...

Great article, and a brilliant 'fan letter' from the Seahawks fan about the residents of Charlotte. It just confirms why I love NC so much--you become the people you're around, and I hope I show the same hospitality to all those who visit this great state.

irishfan said...

I am originally From Ireland. I still support soccer, but really love my Panthers. Irish soccer fans are welcomed all over the world just because of their great reputation. They sing, win or lose, and mingle with their opponents. Sorry Joseph was treated that way in Seattle a few years ago. But Mr. O'Gara's story will get out to a few, and make a better experience for travelling Panther fans in the future. I hope we continue to respect those visiting fans. Go Panthers!

Kim said...

What a great letter! Really happy this fan, and perhaps more importantly, his son, had such a wonderful experience. Makes me proud to be a Panther fan!

Anonymous said...

A lot of this more has to do with the fact that the Seahawks are pretty neutral territory.


...Things are much different when the other NFCS opponents come to Charlotte. The hate can definitely boil openly.

Anonymous said...

As a Panthers PSL owner, I just wanted to chip in my two cents: Packers fans are the most welcoming of any teams in the NFL. We had a similar situation at Lambeau as this man had at Bank of America Stadium. We were there in 1999, and after winning on a last-second Beuerlein scramble, all of the fans congratulated us. Surreal if you ask me. Dallas fans, meanwhile, were the worst I've encountered - heckling throughout the entire game.

Anonymous said...

I'm a fellow panther fan living in Toronto, Canada. About 5 years ago the Panthers were playing the Bills in Buffalo so I jumped at the chance to go and see them play. I went with my mom, uncle and grandfather. Let me just say that the fans in Buffalo and not nearly as nice as the fans in Charlotte seem to be.

I wore my blue Julius Peppers jersey along with a panthers hat. On our way to the stadium from the parking I was pelted with snowball from rowdy Bills tailgaters. However it seemed everyone there supporting the panthers came up to me to give me a high five which was very comforting being in such a hostile environment.

As we finally got to our seats I was relieved to find a fellow panthers fan wearing a white Peppers jersey with a couple of his buddies sitting next to me. Throught out the game we constantly had insults, beer, as well as change hurled at us. The panthers went on to win that game nonetheless and JP recorded a sack so i was very happy.

Overall however it was a great experience finally getting to see my Panthers play live, however I would hate to see the reaction from the crowd if the bills would have won.

Sam said...

It starts with Jerry Richardson, who I believe is a true gentleman who consistently treats people with respect. The attitude of the owner is reflected by the entire staff. Losing a football game is disappointing, but not a disaster. A real fan enjoys the game win or lose, and does not heap disrespect and abuse on the opponent. Thanks to the Panthers players, staff, and fans for representing NC is a very positive way.

Samuel L. Mullis

Unknown said...

Civility it's contagious.

Anonymous said...

As a Charlotte native, I think it's wonderful and just right. Panthers fans should represent the city and state in which the team resides in a positive manner, especially utilizing the Southern hospitality we are famous for. I am proud of the staff and Panthers fans for their congeniality and behavior. The teams up North and due West should grow up and do the same.

Anonymous said...

Scott:

You couldn't resist, could you? Taking a GREAT story that all Panthers fans should be proud to read, and turn it into a sewer-fest of why we should treat visitors worse than we do, or why we are "sissies?"

Couldn't you have just let such a great story stand on its own feet? What's with you folks anymore? Are you all that desperate for more exposure?

Great story - but most of it didn't come from you. Your part? A major fail.

Me said...

This is pathetic and embarrassing... Outside of Miami and Atlanta, this had to be the worst sports city in America. We're so "accommodating"

Unknown said...

As long as the visiting fans are pleasant, there's no need to be heckling them. I'd be willing to bet most of the hecklers are yankees, anyway.

Unknown said...

There's no reason to treat these people any different than if you saw them on the street corner, provided they are respectful. As a NC Native, I'm glad that we're respectful to other fans who are respectful toward us.



Spaceman Mike said...

Panthers fans should know how it feels like going into a game outnumbered by opposing fans happens every time the Steelers come to town. JK lifelong panthers fan and PSL owner. Glad we could be nice to a guy and his son. Nothing sucks worse than spending a ton of money to spend time with your kids and some drunk guy ruins it for you.

Anonymous said...

One day we will have the history in our city to have true Panther fans that don't give up their seats. We have had PSL's in my family since 96' and I now have a 5 year old son that roots for the Pathers. Now we are going in to the 2nd and 3rd generation Panther fans. I am not going to lie, nothing pisses me off more than to see other fans cheer in our stadium, because I want it all to be Panther Black and Blue. However, to do this, we neeed to win. Winning brings out passion in this city and the wins have been few and far between in the last 5 years. Go Panthers!!

Anonymous said...

The takeaway here is the Panthers' fans created new Panther fans (when not playing Seattle). That's smart. Also, lets remember this is just a game and supposed to be fun. I'm glad we have an atmosphere where people don't have to worry about taking their kids to see a game. That's called being classy, not sissy.

Roxanne said...

I'm Mr. O'Gara's Mom. I live in NC, and Sunday, I couldn't have been prouder to be a Carolina girl,, a transplant from Nebraska. Panthers fans treated us kindly, with genuine "Southern hospitality." Most of all, I want to properly thank the fan who gave my 8 year old grandson a new, still in the box, Panthers logo football "to remember this game by." I was so flabbergasted by his generosity that I forgot my own good manners, and sputtered out a weak "thanks!" Sir, you made my grandson's day! Thank you so very much. You gave him a memory...and a wonderful lesson in good sportsmanship...a lesson more important than anything else that happened that day. My son will be eager to come again to the Carolina's, and bring all 4 of his children to a Panthers-Seahawks game someday, knowing they will be safe, and welcome, here.

Anonymous said...

I am a Panthers fan up here in Illinois. I've been to one game in Charlotte several years ago and really hope to return soon because the city, the people, the stadium, it was just awesome. But since I live far away from NC, I've had to resort to road games in Chicago, Indianapolis, and once in Tampa while I was there on vacation. The Indianapolis people we're very nice and I'll always remember it for their kindness even though we won the game. Tampa and Chicago on the other hand have not been great experiences, as you can probably imagine. I'm going to Minnesota this fall and I'm expecting the best from them, because the game is so much more fun when the opposing fans aren't always harassing you and your team... Anyways, way to go Panthers fans. We truly are the best fans in the NFL and I can't wait to come back to Charlotte someday.

Anonymous said...

Always take the high road, even when it hurts a little. You can't hide class !

handyman said...

Just makes me feel good... hey it's a complement guys, take it and say thanks! But I do feel we aren't aggressive or proactive enough when it comes to criticizing our teams actions and demanding more. Most of us are still in that "happy to have a team" funk... we deserve a team, and one serious about winning! One more offensive game like that... fire shula. He came in with the rep as a bad offensive mind and this game had conservative, fearful and unimaginative all over it! D looked great most of the time but GOT to get safety position locked down!!

Anonymous said...

I'M PROUD THAT OUR FANS HELPED INSURE THEY HAD A GREAT TIME. I WENT TO THE VET AND SAT IN THE 700 SECTION. WE WERE TAUNTED CONTINUOSLY FROM OUR PARKNG AREA TO THE TICKET TAKER AND TO OUR SEATS.THE FRIEND THAT TOOK US TO THE GAM ESCORTED US TO OUR SEATS TO LET THE FANS KNOW WE WERE WITH EAGLES FANS.THE COMMENT,BECAUSE WE WERE WEARING PANTHER JERSEYS,FROM THE TICKET TAKER,MAYBE 17 YEARS OLD WAS,"GOOD LUCK.I HOPE YOU SURVIVE."WE SCORED FIRST,I JUMPED UP WITH EXCITEMENT AS ANY FAN SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO EVEN IN AN OPPOSING TEAMS STADIUM.I FOUND OUT QUICKLY THAT WAS NOT THE CASE AT THE "VET"THE FANS LOOKED AT US WITH DISGUST.THEIR EYES SAID SIT DOWN AND SHUTUP.WE WERE JEERED ALL THE WAY BACK TO OUR PARKING AREA AFTER THE GAME.THE GREAT THING ABOUT IT WAS,WE SURVIVED AND THEY LOST.I HOPE ALL OPPOSING TEAMS FANS FEEL WELCOME HERE.THAT IS THE WAY IT SHOULD BE.

Anonymous said...

I may be the most diehard Panther fan to post here - seriously - I'm pretty emotionally invested during the game. That being said, I don't allow my livelihood to be dependent upon someone else's success. It's not worth it. I also won't compromise my own integrity for a bunch of guys who - and let's be honest - don't care whether I live or die.

It's why I don't envy the so called "passionate" fanbases (Steelers, Jets, etc.) who act like fools during homegames. I just want to say "Bro, you don't PLAY for the team. You ROOT for them. Your happiness depends on someone else's success...."

It is a GAME, and when the game is over, I will forget (mostly) forget about and go on to focusing on things that directly affect my quality of life. I'm proud to be part of a fanbase who largely keeps things in perspective.

Anonymous said...

This is why I love the South and the Panthers fans! My husband and I traveled to Chicago for a play off game and really had a great time so I'll give them props for being very welcoming when we were cheering for the other team... That won! Football is an American pastime and really no one in any NFL city should be disrespectful of visitors. After all they're helping drive up revenue for the city!

Anonymous said...

not that i would ever be rude to anyone on purpose, unless they were rude to me, but im personally sick of seeing 50% of the fans cheering for the other team EVERY SINGLE HOME GAME. this guy and his son traveled from seattle, which is great, so i would have no problem welcoming them to the stadium. however, almost all of the time the people cheering for the other team live in charlotte and just refuse to support the city. and dont give me this transplant crap. as a whole, charlotte has the worst sports fans in the world

Anonymous said...

I moved to Washington State from NC in 2006. I am a die hard Panthers fan after being present for the franchise's first victory @ Death Valley over the Jets. In December 2010, several of my friends came out to visit and we attended the Seahawks/Panthers game in Seattle. We wore our Panthers jerseys to the game. On the way into the stadium, I was hit with a HUGE raw onion, apparently thrown by one of the food vendors outside the stadium. I was shocked and so glad I did not have my 2 young boys with me. I'd say that Panthers fans are the most courteous in the league. When will people learn that you can cheer for/against a team without the violent behavior. Even when you are actually playing the game, you shake hands after the battle. I have not been to a game in Seattle since and I definitely won't go wearing another team's colors.

Anonymous said...

What can you say, Jesus is a football fan too!

Anonymous said...

Trust me, some fans may think this is too nice... but I live in Dallas where Cowboys fans are all A-Holes when I show up to games decked out in Panthers gear so this is actually reassuring.