I was wrong about the Bobcats (AKA, why I love Charlotte)
Posted on 26 Apr 2012 by Bobby DeMuro
The Charlotte Bobcats are bad. Historically bad. Like so many others, I’ve criticized their direction after bad trades, bad drafts, and worse management.
But today, I read this article in Grantland about the scene in Charlotte as the Bobcats attempt to, um, make history. The article’s not necessarily wrong, but it makes the Bobcats a punchline, their fans a spectacle, and the city of Charlotte just an ugly place on Interstate 85 south of Chapel Hill.
And that’s when it hit me.
I’ve been wrong in criticizing the Bobcats. Not because they’re good. They’re definitely terrible, but this isn’t about that. In fact, this isn’t even about the Bobcats.
I came to Charlotte in August 2004 for college. I enjoyed it so much, and never thought about moving anywhere else, that I’ve been here for nearly eight years.
By Charlotte standards, I’m almost a native. So many have come in the last three years, recent transplants eager to adopt the city but slow to change their cultural allegiances from homes in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Cleveland, or Buffalo.
Charlotte is, perennially, a city in transition. Now that’s not a bad thing — but we haven’t really found an identity. Banking, sure. Until the market crashed. NASCAR, sure. Until that sport never took off nationally like everyone thought it would fifteen years ago.
I’m not saying the Bobcats are our identity — nor should they be. But I am saying that if we want a Charlotte that has a deep-rooted authenticity, like New York, Philadelphia, Boston, or Chicago, we have to own the Bobcats.
And it’s more than the Bobcats.
We have to own that I-485 might not get finished. Ever. We have to own that God-forsaken train that crosses Central Avenue and makes me late for everything in Plaza Midwood. Happens every time. We have to own that complicated, almost comical Knights uptown stadium issue with Jerry Reese’s injunctions.
We have to own the
terrible unique traffic patterns on I-77 north of town, I-85 northeast of town, Independence Boulevard east of town, and whatever is going on at the Providence/Providence/Queens/Queens intersection in Myers Park. I still haven’t figured that one out.
Look, it’s very, very easy for the national media to criticize the Bobcats. After all, who’s going to step up and defend them? To listen to some folks in town, none of us want the NBA anyways; we’re too scarred by Shinn’s move a decade ago. And we don’t have the guts to push back on that message like they would in New York, or Boston, or Pittsburgh. So it becomes easy — almost infectious — to pick on the lowly Bobcats.
Beware, though. That attitude creeps. We start criticizing the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the Whitewater Center, the proposed Charlotte Knights stadium uptown, the DNC, every public figure from both political parties. The list goes on.
I live in Charlotte. So it’s time to own Charlotte — Bobcats included. That doesn’t mean they (or other institutions in town) are free of criticism; in fact, it’s just the opposite. But that does mean it’s time to lay stakes down in my city, and own the place that I call home.
Charlotte’s not perfect. Here’s a fun fact: it will never be perfect. And another one: if you leave, the new city you live in won’t be perfect, either. But considering where we are, where we’ve come from, and what Charlotte represents, I’d say we’re doing a pretty good job.
I love Charlotte. I was wrong about the Bobcats. And I bet you were, too.