Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Rain Day

After months of endless Carolina blue skies baking everything to a crisp, our prayers, dreams and wishes were finally answered this weekend.  We got rain!  Almost 48 hours of everything from light misting to heavy downpours.  In less than a day, we went from moderate drought to flash flood warnings.

Be careful what you wish for.

As it turned out, the rain showed up almost exactly an hour before Miss Chef and I headed to our first-in-a-lifetime experience: an NFL game.  Her parents were in town for the weekend, and since Miss Chef's been curious about what it's like to attend a game in person, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

This was my first view of the Panthers' playground in uptown Charlotte.  As dreary as the field looks, I should tell you that I've run it through my picture-fixing software to improve the color and brightness.  I couldn't do much about the big rain-drop blob, though!  Besides, it's symbolic for the whole experience.

And as high as I was when I took that picture, I still wasn't done climbing.  We had 30 more rows to go! Our seats were literally up against the concrete wall at the top of the stadium.  So, no, we didn't get on tv.  The cameras didn't get that high, and there certainly was no blimp droning overhead.  Only heavy gray clouds.

This picture of mostly empty seats was about twenty minutes before kickoff.  However, the Bengals were in town, so once it became apparent that the skies were not going to respect the NFL's timetable, fans came out of nowhere--many of them wearing orange and black--to fill most of those seats.

Here's another shot from before the game to give you a better feeling of the atmosphere.

Nice, right?  It makes me chilly just looking at those few hardy souls braving the rain to get some beer and foot-longs.  I loved the facade of this concessions building, covered in helmets from high school teams from around the state. 

I have to say, the stadium was very nice and, as Miss Chef pointed out, everything from getting in to getting out was handled extremely well by the staff and city.  We took the train into town to avoid traffic, but it was refreshing to see uptown alive on a Sunday afternoon.  It wasn't all game business, either.  In spite of the banking bubble burst, Charlotte still gives off an air of prosperity.

So, how was the game?  Wet!  And, of course, the Panthers were steamrolled by the powerful Bengals team 20-8.  Even I, blissfully ignorant of the strategic details of professional football, knew going in that the Panthers are still auditioning quarterbacks.  And I quickly learned that their offensive line is nothing to brag about.  The rain-slicked conditions only added to the number of missed passes and fumbled turnovers.  Watching the home team lose while sitting in soaking wet jeans in a pouring rain probably wasn't the best intro to live NFL action.

Still, there's something to be said for being there.  Even the soggy, less-than-packed crowd surprised me with the level of noise produced by tens of thousands of raised voices.  The only raving drunk was at the end of our row, where he had plenty of room to manuever, and was having fun enough to be entertaining.  With a pair of binoculars, we had a remarkably good view of the game--it helps that footballs don't travel as far and as fast as baseballs.  Plus I could follow any particular player I wanted, or see how the refs do their jobs.  (Miss Chef's dad also found them handy for checking out the Top Cats--men!)

I can't say that I'm a convert, though.  Baseball diamonds seem much friendlier, and, to me, have an older, more comfortable atmosphere, regardless of their actual age.  Perhaps it's the slower, summer-tuned pace of the game, maybe it's the seventh-inning stretch, or else the focus on hotdogs and cotton candy as much as on massive mugs of beer.  Or maybe, just maybe, it's that for $14 I can get excellent seats at the Charlotte Knights field down the road, as opposed to the $50 nosebleed seats we enjoyed at Bank of America Stadium.

Whatever my personal tastes, though, I think I finally have some understanding of why football fans love the game.  Rather than looking down my nose at football fanatics, I can civilly agree to disagree.  Gimme my peanuts and Cracker Jack, baseball's the game that keeps bringing me back.


  1. Well, if the Panthers need a quarterback, the Bills just let theirs go. Trouble is, he is lousy. Meh, maybe he'd be better with a different team. And, there you have my entire stock of knowledge of football. And, I wouldn't have that if it weren't all over the news up here. Big deal, I guess. I'm like you, give me a baseball game every day. Though the cookouts in the parking lots do sound like fun.

  2. I'm with you on the pleasures of a lazy summer evening in the bleachers with a beer and some peanuts and a baseball game. Of course I never see much of the game, since I'm too busy people-watching!

  3. I love them both ever so much... football and baseball. Not sure how that happened, but you're absolutely right... the experience of going to watch one or the other is completely different from the other. I love the history and the tradition of baseball... a thinking man's/gentleman's sport... and the power/excitement/noise of football! :)

  4. Hey, it was an experience and I am all for experiences. (I prefer mine dry and maybe involving a recliner, but....) Love the picture of the stadium!

  5. A native tarheel and I have never gone to the panther pit. Love football though so will have to add that to my bucket list. :) Sorry it rained but glad you had a good time.

  6. I remember going to the SF 49ers games in San Fran when I was a kid. My brother and I had so much fun. Not from the game but from watching all the people.
    Was a 9er fan for years, but not anymore.
    Sounds like you had a lot of fun. And you can send some of your rain out here. We are still in the 90's with no rain in sight.

  7. The Panthers have former Appalachian State quarterback, Armanti Edwards, sitting on the bench. Sure wish Coach would send him in. We were watching the game on TV, Carolina offense looked terrible. So did y'all eat any football-stadium food?

  8. Sorry to hear about the dreary day and rain but it still sounds like a good day over all. I am not a big sports fan but I do prefer baseball over football myself too.

  9. I've been to a Colts game twice. We've always had a domed stadium so weather has never been a factor.

    I've enjoyed minor league baseball more than major league.

    But my fave sport to go watch has to be the WNBA. Those women play the sport the way it is meant to be played- as a team sport. We had a great time at a Fever game a few months ago!


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