Thankful for southern hospitality
Posted on 6 Jan 2010 by Rob Cummings
I surprised my son for Christmas and scored 2 tickets on eBay to the Carolina Panthers-New York Giants game over the holidays. It would be his first trip to a visiting team’s venue. What a better place for his first visit than the confines of the Meadowlands, for the last game at Giants stadium, complete with New York fanfare.
The morning of the game we met two Panthers fans at the hotel clad in full Carolina blue and black. Little did we know that those would be the last Panthers fans we would see until the end of the game 7 hours later! We are used to Bank of America stadium where thousands of visiting fans fill seats throughout our stadium. But not in New York, not when “Big Blue” is playing. Maybe we were just two of the very few that had the nerve to venture into a Giants game without sporting Manning, Boss, or Umenyiora jerseys.
My son’s curiosity peaked throughout our NJ Transit train ride to the stadium. Why did the Giants play in New Jersey? Why is it so dirty outside? Why did the guy in the Secaucus connection tell me I was “crazy”? Why did the Giants and Jets share a stadium but it is called Giants Stadium? Why are they building a new stadium next door instead of in the city? Why does everybody curse a lot? Why did we have to buy a program instead of getting one at the gate? And why did he, an 8-year old kid, get patted down for a weapon at the entrance. Welcome to New York son!
The game was great. The Panthers had the game well in hand by the middle of the first quarter and eventually crushed the Giants. The fans booed their team after each possession, Eli Manning was told, “your not your brother” multiple times by fans in our section, another group of fans chanted “lets go Yankees”, and 80% of the stadium cleared out by the middle of the third quarter. My son and I maintained a low profile with simple high fives after each touchdown. Nobody acknowledged or spoke to us. But we didn’t get a beer thrown on us either, as many of our Panthers friends suggested would happen.
We stayed until the clock hit 0:0 and reveled in the shellacking we applied for the closing on the Giants 33-year old home. As the last few die-hard fans trickled out, we noticed a guy carrying a small box down to the field. I couldn’t help but think he was taking ashes down to the turf to be buried in the swamps of the Meadowlands with the other famous NY/NJ icons. But I kept that thought to myself….my 8-year old didn’t need to hear my Jimmy Hoffa theory.
After we got back to Charlotte, I asked my son the three things he remembered the most about our visit to Giants Stadium. His response was, 1) the scary bathrooms (small, “no flushers”, and surly fans), 2) the bad language (he heard more F-bombs in the first quarter alone than he has ever heard in his life, and 3) the decorated history of the stadium (several vignettes of memorable plays and players were shown in a Giants Stadium tribute at halftime.
Fast forward to this past Sunday for the Panthers-Saints game in Charlotte. Plenty of New Orleans fans filled our stadium. A group of Saints fans were walking out at the end of the game and I said, “Good luck in the playoffs.” A lady in the group stopped and thanked me, mentioned the wonderful hospitality Panthers fans had shown to her group, and what a beautiful city and stadium we had. My son looked at me and said, “That wouldn’t have happened in New York.” I responded, “Welcome back to Charlotte son.”