Carolina Panthers: We Must Appreciate What We Have

Dec 13, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers celebrate toward the end of the game. The Panthers defeated the Falcons 38-0 at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 13, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers celebrate toward the end of the game. The Panthers defeated the Falcons 38-0 at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports /

The move of the St. Louis Rams to Los Angeles should remind Panthers fans to enjoy it while we have it, that could be us someday.

Dear Carolina Panthers fans,

We have a witnessed an important moment in the history of the NFL and it involved a team that only existed as long as the Panthers did. The St. Louis Rams began play in 1995 and played their final season this year. They were and will become the Los Angeles Rams and they are currently the property of Stan Kroenke.

It is Kroenke’s vision and no other that has driven this move. He found thirty willing partners in the NFL owners group to bring football back to Los Angeles. Two teams dissented. After all professional franchises are the property of their owners and not the cities in which they reside. So like Clay Bennett did with the Supersonics of the NBA and George Shinn did with the Charlotte Hornets, the owner gets to move his team because it is HIS/HER team.

That idea did not change yesterday. It didn’t change in 1988 when the St. Louis Football Cardinals left for Glendale, AZ. Heck it was working when the Rams moved from Cleveland to LA in 1946 and again when the Rams went to St. Louis in 1994. It was working when the Raiders left Oakland for LA in the early eighties only to return to Oakland in 1994. The Raiders now want to move again.

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That idea did not change even when Adam Silver essentially stripped Donald Sterling of the LA Clippers of his team.

So what happened to the Rams is a warning. It is the potential fate of any NFL franchise, particularly the small market ones. Jacksonville and Buffalo have been in fights over the fate of their teams for the same reason. The NFL keeps shipping the Jaguars to London because of their lack of drawing power in their own stadium. How soon before a permanent move looks like an option?

We in Charlotte should be able to sympathize with the newly jilted fans of St. Louis, we watched the Hornets go down this road. We also watched head straight out of town to the New Orleans market. The NBA in this town has never fully recovered, Bobcats-Hornets or not. That is how much it hurt. I was five when the Hornets landed like a gift from God. I was not even twenty when they left and I had grown up with being a Hornets fan through good times and bad. Then they were gone.

One of the kindnesses of losing the Hornets in 2002 was the beginning of the John Fox Era in Panthers football. The Panthers made their own Super Bowl run right when the city needed something to feel good about. We could unite behind the team and Keep Pounding in a way that we had only done for Larry Johnson, Dell Curry, or Bobby Phills.

That is why we need to appreciate the 2015 Carolina Panthers while we have them and whatever future iterations we get. This is a special team that values community, teamwork, and fun. We may not get very many of these. The Rams had theirs for five years at the turn of the millennia. Will they win the Super Bowl with those qualities? We don’t yet know, but the 15-1 2015 Panthers are well on their way to being unique in the history of the franchise.

They may also be the last Panthers team that does this stuff. The Panthers are just the passing of Jerry Richardson away from being sold to the highest bidder. The highest bidder may not be local and connected like Richardson. By that time the NFL may be trying to locate franchises in global big markets like London, Berlin, or Mexico City. The money could come calling and the Panthers would be gone just like that.

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St. Louis probably thought a Missouri-born billionaire who was named after Enos Slaughter and Stan Musial was a good bet to keep the team in town. Enos Stan Kroenke had other ideas. They involved making sure he got his foot into the second biggest media market in the country. He was even so brash on it that he slandered St. Louis in his relocation report so that going back was practically impossible. No doubt Donald Trump would have approved in his The Art of the Deal.

So that is how quick it can turn. I will watch the Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks, two expansion franchises in their original cities, play on Sunday and part of me that lost the Hornets will be watching with me. He will sitting on my shoulder, reminding me that all glory is fleeting.

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John B. Woodcock

Old North Banter

Please take time to enjoy the Panthers success this year regardless of Sunday’s result.