Being a sports fan in Charlotte is tough...especially over the last few years. 2 years ago our NFL Carolina Panthers were a measly 2-14. Sure that lead to picking #1 overall in 2011 which landed Cam Newton in town, but here were are with 7 games left in the NFL season and the Panthers are 2-7. We have lost some really close games (Atlanta) and others have been down right embarrassing (Giants, Broncos). All this losing has lead to a media frenzy of negativity towards the head coach Ron Rivera, but mostly towards Cam Newton himself. Just last week the Denver Broncos mocked Cam and his Superman celebration not once or twice, but several times during the game. It seems like when Cam isn't winning he doesn't care. Looking across the field at the opponent's bench you could see Peyton Manning last week on one knee talking to his teammates about what they needed to do differently to put points on on the board. What was Cam doing while the defense was on the field? Towel over head - check. Sitting all by himself on the bench - check. Sulking - check. Just this morning the Washington Redskins made Robert Griffin III a captain on the offense. While I would still take Cam's abilities over RG3, I'd take RG3's maturity and leadership over Cam any day of the week.
Oh yeah, the Panthers also fired their GM Marty Hurney mid-season. This lead to not being able to make any trades or jettison some of the stupid big dollar contracts Hurney signed some of our guys too.
So what do Panthers fans do now. Do we root for a high draft pick? New coach? For a new GM to come in and clean house completely? I personally have a hard time blaming all of this on coach Rivera and I can't pull for the team to lose the rest of the games just for a high draft pick. The team has so many holes and needs that I don't really know where to start. All I know is it's frustrating to listen to local sports radio let alone watch the games Sunday afternoon only to be constantly disappointed.
On the flip side we have the Charlotte Bobcats. Owners of the NBA worst winning percentage last season. One might think there isn't anything positive going on in Charlotte sports wise. That's where the story gets better. Michael Jordan finally realized his way of running an NBA team just wasn't working so he went out and stole GM Rich Cho from Oklahoma City to run his team. Then they hired Mike Dunlop from Saint John's University to coach this young staff. It also helped that the NBA draft ping pong balls fell in our favor and we ended up with the 2nd overall pick that turned into Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Jordan also made a good move by dropping "Bob" off the front of the home jerseys and removing almost all of the orange used - both on the jerseys and the courts. Now the jerseys just say "Cats" and the orange has been replaced with shades of blue...ironically enough more of a Duke blue than Carolina blue. I know it's a small move on the team's part, but after laying a rotten egg like the team did last year it was much appreciated by the fans trying to distance themselves from last year's horrible fiasco.
The 'Cats won a whole 7 games last year. 7 games into the new season and the team is 4-3. They currently have a 3 game win streak - the first in the team's history. Coach Dunlop has these guys hustling on both ends of the court and has brought back an excitement about NBA basketball in Charlotte that has been missing since the Hornets left for New Orleans. Yes the season is young and I'm sure they'll hit that long losing streak at some point, but you can see the effort in the team - both in the front office and on the court. People want to attend Bobcat games again. People are standing up in their seats and cheering. Even after a close loss in the first week of the season the team was greeted to a stand ovation as they walked off the court. Why cheer a team that just lost? Because they put forth the effort to win...something many did not see last year.
I really wish Panthers owner Jerry Richardson would look down the road and see what Jordan and his staff are doing and take a page from their playbook. Richardson needs to hire a good GM and then hand over the reigns to him to find a head coach and coaching staff and start to re-build. Cam Newton needs to have a conversation with Bobcat's point guard Kemba Walker about his dramatic turn around and positive attitude.
I'm not giving up on the Panthers. I'm still proud to say I'm a fan. Heck, just this week I got a bunch of new autograph and jersey cards of Panthers players. I'm even happier to admit I'm a Bobcats fan. While Charlotte won't be winning any championships in the next few seasons - on the field or court - there seems to be a glimmer of light on the local sports scene. Both teams have hit rock bottom so the only place to go from here is up.
Now if only Charlotte could entice the Miami Marlins or another MLB team to relocate to town I'd be a happy camper. The White Sox's AAA affiliate Charlotte Knights are building a new ball park in uptown Charlotte which should be fun...but it's still not the major leagues.