It it now just past midnight on gameday. Instead of laying my head down in my comfy bed performing a mental checklist of the tailgate supply loadout and menu needs while I drift to sleep, I am typing up a blog entry on my laptop in a small hotel room a couple of hundred miles south the Charlotte.
I hate to admit this, but even during football season, the fact that I must earn a living in the real world cannot be escaped and my profession has dictated that I must be in Atlanta, Georgia for the next couple of days. It is not often that I miss a Panther home game. In fact since the 1996 season I have missed a grand total of 3 games. Once was a Monday night game in 1997 vs the San Francisco 49ers while I was speaking at a conference in San Diego. Second was a preseason Patriots game in 1999 because I wanted to get a good lakeside camping spot on Lake Fontana for Labor Day weekend. The last game I missed was a New Orleans Saints game in 2003 while I was on a company financed vacation in Mexico. All told, those are three totally acceptable excuses to be absent from my designated spot on the wall in section 108. However not in my most graphic nightmares would have I thought I would miss a game due to a routine business meeting in of all places, Atlanta. For the past week I have been containing an internal rage fueled by the fact that I must be sequestered in the one place all Panther fans find unholy.
However a healthy 250 mile jaunt down the I-85 interstate speedway cruising somewhere just south of the century mark on the speedometer allows one time to introspect on those things that are gnawing at their gut. I first began to think about the state of denial I had been in for the past week. I could have offered my tickets up for sale and gotten somebody to take them probably within minutes. However I was holding out for some sort of ridiculous miracle to take place. Maybe my customer would take ill and force a cancellation of the meeting. Perhaps the Centers for Disease Control would quarantine Atlanta in order to make sure Michael Vick did not contract any sort of illness from outsiders before the start of the regular season. But as each day passed, it became more apparent that I could not alter my destiny and that I would be sitting in this very hotel room on this very evening. So in the 11th hour I began a quest to find a worthy soul to take my seats. Almost everyone who was going to the game had already secured their tickets. Finally at the last minute I found a buyer. He is a casual Panther fan, willing to wear the colors and cheer the team for sure. However what really made the deal enticing was that he is a born and bred New York Jets fan. If you cannot find a die-hard Panther fan to take wall seats for a Carolina home game against the Miami Dolphins, the next best thing is a Jets fan because those people are designed to hate each other at a genetic level.
So I figured at least that is some positive karma for the Panthers. However I am now past Greenville, South Carolina nearing the Georgia state line and still have some unresolved issues. Why must I make this sacrifice in of all places, Atlanta? Minot, North Dakota would have been a more consonant locale in my mind. But then I started thinking about that word sacrifice. It is an ancient word signifying ones willingness to give up material items, food, animals and sometimes even other people as an act of propitiation or worship to their chosen God or other deities.
Ok, so sacrifice is a strong word in the literal sense. However we freaky football fans usually make reference to our own set of omnipotent pranksters known as the football gods. And even though they are nothing more than a metaphorical vestibule for good old fashioned luck, they are still just as worthy of sacrifice. So now I am a few dozen miles into the Peach state and begin to realize my situation is not so bad. It occurs to me to me that I have given my prized seats to watch a Dolphins game to a die-hard Jets fans while I sit in a small hotel room not 30 minutes away from the place where those foul Dirty Birds of Atlanta practice in the same season that the Superbowl is played in Miami, Florida. Now in the historical sense, this sacrifice may seem trivial. However it is what got me to the Atlanta city limits without crashing into anything so I am sticking with it. And in 164 days we shall see if it was met with approval by the gridiron demigods.