WRAL-TV’s Smith: Panthers Fans Then & Now

WRAL-TV Anchor/Reporter Ken Smith helped the Big 5 cover the excitement surround the Carolina Panthers’ trip to Super Bowl 50.  Smith traveled to Charlotte, sending stories from the Queen City back to the Triangle. 

The afternoon before the big game, he penned a piece for capcom.  Here are Smith’s reflections about the fans and the general energy surrounding the Panthers trips to football’s biggest event:

Panthers Fans Then & Now

by Ken Smith, WRAL-TV

Panthers Super Bowl fans

WRAL-TV’s Ken Smith captured this photo of fans in Charlotte before Panthers played in Super Bowl 50.

The year was 2004, surprisingly, the Carolina Panthers made it to Super Bowl 38. It was the first time in team history, the Panthers made it to football’s biggest game.  Jake Delhomme was the quarterback, Steve Smith was the emerging star wide receiver.

We sent a team to cover the festivities at Reliant Stadium in Houston. I was tapped to cover the Super Bowl from the queen City perspective. Photographer Dave McCorkle and I were the two man crew.

I remember there was an electricity running through the City; an energy from the team’s accomplishment that resonated with Carolina Panthers Fans. It was a feeling of like winning the lottery, so to speak; fans felt lucky just to be playing in this big game. The mood was, for the first time in NFL history, the sports world would be talking about not just the Carolina Panthers but also the city of Charlotte.

I talked to one fan recently during the NFC Championship game and he admitted, back in 2004, fans were just happy the team made it to the Super Bowl. The other thing I remember is when the Panthers lost to the Patriots, it wasn’t a general sense of disappointment. For the most part, Panthers fans were just grateful and embraced the Super Bowl experience.

Panthers Super Bowl fans

WRAL-TV’s Ken Smith captured this photo of fans in Charlotte before Panthers played in Super Bowl 50.

That was then, 2004, but this is now, 2016. There is a general excitement but the city is not as electric as I thought it would be.

I am working this time with photographer Tom Normanly. When I mentioned that observation to him, I think he put it best, “There’s a quiet confidence”, said Normanly.

That’s a point well taken. Here’s a team that only lost one game during the season. Also it’s being led by legitimate stars, not the least of whom is the charismatic QB, Cam Newton. Newton’s energy, the DAB, his big kid style of playing football, Fans, families, this Charlotte community have bought into it.

Win or Lose, fans here believe the Carolina Panthers are now part of the NFL elite!

Thanks to WRAL-TV’s Ken Smith for these capcom photos.

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