Patsy Pridgen

Patsy Pridgen

I’m all about the Panthers

By Patsy Pridgen
Life Columnist

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For me, the main attraction of Super Bowl is usually a party where I can yak with the other wives while eating chili and hot wings, pausing long enough in these girly gabfests to watch the over-the-top commercials and the halftime extravaganza.

Not this year. This Super Bowl, I’m all about the game. I’m totally in love with the Panthers. I might have to join the husbands in the serious game-viewing room.

I’m so proud of this team from our state that I could be obnoxious about it. Except everyone I know feels the same way. I haven’t met a Bronco fan yet who I can trash talk.

Oh, I know Cam Newton has his detractors, those serious types who don’t approve of his touchdown theatrics. All that Superman posing and some kind of dancing called “dabbing” in the end zone. I say let the man have his fun. After all, football is supposed to be a game. I love to see that huge smile of his even if it comes with a little showboating.

Cam is the man too who started the practice of giving the touchdown football to a lucky kid in the end zone seats. This season, television commentators noted that as the Panthers got in the red zone, the grade-schoolers started lining the edge of the stands. The footage of kids getting those footballs is too sweet for words. I gotta admire an athlete who honors an 8-year-old fan.

I also love the story behind that Keep Pounding slogan. Sam Mills, a Carolina player and coach who died of intestinal cancer, first used the phrase in a speech to the team in a 2004 playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys. His life embodied that slogan of never giving up as he was told he was too small to play football. In college, he was a walk-on who went on to become his college’s all-time leading tackler.

Despite his success, he had to “keep pounding” to become a professional player, as NFL scouts thought he wasn’t big enough to play professionally. He was coaching high school football in New Jersey when he finally made it to the pros. He found his way to the Carolina Panthers in 1995, where he started every game for the three seasons he played. Upon his retirement from the NFL, he joined the Panthers’ coaching staff.

Not only do I admire the Panthers’ quarterback and the Keep Pounding slogan, I am also fond of Jerry Richardson, the team’s owner, who once played pro football himself but left the game to begin building his fortune with a Hardee’s franchise. When television cameras pan his way on game day, there he sits, as solemn as a judge, calmly watching his team, seemingly oblivious to all the Panther pandemonium going on in the stadium. And the man was born in Spring Hope. Yes, that’s our Spring Hope, right down the road from Rocky Mount.

The dream season might culminate tonight in a Super Bowl victory or, perish the thought, it might end in disappointment. Still, the Pounding Panther trip to Super Bowl 50 has been one fun ride. This year, I’ll talk during the commercials. The Panthers deserve my full attention.

Patsy Pridgen is a retired community college English instructor. She can be reached at