Opinion: If the Panthers win the NFC Championship and advance to Super Bowl 50, I want to see the Patriots on the opposite side of the football
CHARLOTTE N.C. – Being the first opinion piece in my column for Bring Back The Buzz, let me breakdown what to expect in this piece, and in future opinion pieces. My column is titled “Sharpe Shooter.” It’s a play on words, referencing my last name. It also alludes to the fact that I have a low tolerance for bullshit…I have a very blunt and straightforward personality. I don’t sugarcoat anything, especially when I have an opinion on something. So without further ado, let me shoot it to you straight: Bring on the Patriots.
With the NFC Championship game on Sunday versus the Arizona Cardinals at The Bank, the team and the fans’ primary focus is obviously on the task at hand: Winning the game and securing our second trip to the Super Bowl in franchise history. Without a victory on Sunday, the next step in this historic season isn’t possible. However, diehard Panthers fans can’t help but focus on what is on the backburner: The AFC Championship game, with the winner being our opponent if we advance to the Super Bowl. Myself included, many Panthers fans would like to see the Patriots win the AFC Championship, so if we punch our ticket to Super Bowl 50, we have an instant-classic rematch of Super Bowl 38 – something that still haunts us all 13 years later.
After conducting a Twitter poll, 56 percent of fans that voted wanted to see the Panthers face off against the Patriots. Honestly, I was very surprised at statistic. I predicted a ballpark number around a 70 percent to 30 percent range, in favor of fans wanting the Patriots to be our potential opponent. After the Patriots received a slim percentage of being the favored opponent among fans, I conducted a second Twitter poll. With Patriots vs. Panthers being the matchup that more fans desired, I had to ask the question: Why? Fifty-four percent of voters wanted revenge from Super Bowl 38. Eight percent of voters wanted to dethrone the reigning Super Bowl champions. Thirty-four percent of voters responded to both aforementioned reasons. Personally, I identify with the latter group of voters. I want revenge and to dethrone the reigning champions, as well as to knock the Patriots off the pedestal they’ve been put on since Super Bowl 36. As follower @alexiariggins stated in a reply to the poll, she wants revenge, and argued, “to be the best you’ve got to beat the best.” While I have some strong feelings about the Patriots being “the best,” there is no denying they have been the most successful franchise since the turn of the millennium.
I agree with the voters and the vast majority of Panthers fans: I want revenge. I want to dethrone the reigning Super Bowl champions. Times are changing in the NFL. While a few franchises around the league – including the Panthers – have built a successful, winning platform to ride for the foreseeable future, the Patriots are on the decline. They are doing anything – and everything – to try and keep up (insert references to scandals over the years). Losing Super Bowl 38 to the Patriots still haunts me. The drive down the field leading up to the game-tying touchdown pass from Jake Delhomme to Ricky Proehl with 1:08 left on the clock in the fourth quarter is still one of my favorite on the field moments in franchise history. However, I still feel heartbreak when thinking about the following John Kasay out-of-bounds kickoff, giving the Patriots the perfect field position to set up Adam Vinatieri for the game-winning field goal – which I still hold as the most devastating moment as a fan of any of my sports teams. I still ponder what could’ve happened in overtime.
However, we cannot dwell on Super Bowl 38 forever. We can’t change the past, but we certainly have control over our future. The team is in the driver’s seat to tack the exclamation point onto this historic season. I feel like it is destiny. The team and the fans need to channel our memories and heartbreak from Super Bowl 38 into fuel for a possible matchup versus the Patriots. This is our year. To cap off this historic season, nothing would make a potential Super Bowl victory even sweeter than if it were to be a win over the Patriots. We want the Patriots. I want the Patriots. I have a gut feeling that this is fate, with fate being on our side 13 years later.