I went to my first Panthers game in 5 years. Things have changed

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This past Sunday, I attended my first Panthers game at Bank of America Stadium in five years, where the Panthers beat the Texans 24-17.

The last time I went, Brian St. Pierre was the starting QB for his first — and only — time as a Panther, and my Panthers were shellacked by the Baltimore Ravens 37-13 on Nov. 21, 2010.

Baltimore's Terrell Suggs (55) checks the status of Panthers quarterback Brian St. Pierre after pressuring him on a pass. JEFF SINER - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Many things have changed – good, bad and odd – over these last five years. I sat in Section 338 (yes, the silver club seats — they were free) with three of my dear friends – John, Huckster and Britt. Here are some observations:

The Good

Tailgates have improved. The tailgate I attended off of Mint Street was spectacular.

There was just as much diversity in the types of people gathered as there was food on the buffet table. People were welcoming. I met many old friends who I had not seen in a few years.

And, of course, I ate and drank too much. As I walked to and from the stadium, the neighboring tailgates seemed to be high quality as well.

High-definition video boards over each end-zone. This ain’t your daddy’s Jumbotron. The clarity on those screens from my seat was every bit as good as viewing the LED TV in my family room from the recliner.

Even though I prefer to watch the action on the field when I am attending a game, I had a hard time keeping my eyes from drifting up to that video screen. And they even have a split screen for close-ups.

Texans Panthers Football

The Bad

No one near me seemed to be watching the game. I’m sorry. I was under the impression that if you attend a game, you watch the game and cheer. Evidently, I am in the minority.

Now, it was very hot AND I sat in the club seats where people can enjoy the amenity of air-conditioning, but so many people were walking up and down the aisles, I thought it was a runway America’s Next Top Model.

Houston Texans v Carolina Panthers

Security is different. I anticipated more security but I was half expecting to have to show my boarding pass and passport as I walked through. Is there a TSA Pre-Check here? No more guzzling down that last can of beer before heading to the stadium five minutes before kickoff.

The Odd

Hold it in, please! There were five large-figured male Panthers fans sitting in our row who went in and out to hit the men’s room AND bring back more beer about 50 times. I am not exaggerating.

I stood up and sat down so much that I thought I was at a State of Union address. One thing my old man drilled into my head: If you are going to drink, learn how to hold it in.

Fans of other NFL teams. I saw about 10 people decked out in hats, shirts or jerseys of other NFL teams. If you are a fan of the opposing team, that is perfectly fine. Otherwise, can’t you find a black, blue or neutral T-shirt?

Mini-halftime show. When I went back into the club level at halftime to use the restroom (yes, I can hold it in), there was a mini-halftime show inside. The band sounded great, ripping off a few James Brown classics. But when did we require constant entertainment while running to the restroom or grabbing another beer? It’s 12 minutes, people!

Bottom line: I had a great time with some great friends and the Panthers won. But like my buddy, Huckster, said, “If I want to watch a Panthers game, I stay home and watch it on TV. This is pure socializing.”

Yes, things have changed.

Photos: Greg Kurts; Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer; AP Photo; Getty Images


Greg KurtsGregory Kurts works with Wells Fargo Securities. He is an avid reader,  banjo player and Bob Dylan fan. Follow him on Twitter at@Pope662.

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