One of the great things about sports, whether they be recreational, collegiate or professional, is the way that they bring people together. Any former athlete knows that being a part of a team can create bonds that will last a lifetime. Some athletes even see a team as a micro-community in itself. This creation of a community is partially what makes being an athlete so rewarding. Thankfully for people that no longer or never participated in sports, this community is not exclusive to athletes alone.
Becoming a fan of a team also creates a community of its own. By liking the same team, people are led to potential connections that otherwise could have never been created. On their trip to the Super Bowl, there is no doubt that the Carolina Panthers played their part in creating many relationships through their success on the field.
Walking around campus here at UNCG, the presence of the team is greater now than ever. The increase of the team’s presence on campus is monumental and infectious. Students of all ethnicities, genders, ages and races can be found supporting their home-state team. This is another great thing about sports, as they do not see any of these differences in people. On any given day on campus, you will find UNCG students of all kinds supporting the Panthers through their dress. Panther shirts, jerseys, hats and jackets have become a staple in the attire of a UNCG student.
One of the main reasons becoming a sports fan is socially beneficial is that it creates a shared interest between yourself and people you do not know. With the knowledge you gain from becoming a fan of a team, it becomes easier to come up with small talk amongst your peers. Since people are more drawn to people like themselves, this could be the key factor to getting your foot in the door and creating a meaningful relationship. I personally can thank the Panthers for providing me with elevator rides that were not awkward, numerous ice breaker conversations in class and many high fives amongst my fellow students.
Another reason that being a sports fan is socially beneficial is because it creates social events. Whether you are watching the game at a local bar or hosting a viewing party for all your friends, sports gives people a reason to get together. UNCG Junior Victoria Doran spoke about watching the Panthers play.
“My favorite part of watching the Panthers play is being able to spend time and bond with friends and family,” Doran said.
Junior, Aaron Seyerle said that the Panther’s success has actually got him to watch football more, as he was not a big fan of the sport before. Although he will not spend his money on their gear, Aaron supports them, cheers for them and thinks it is pretty cool that they could make North Carolina a championship state.
Business student, Alex Winnicki had a similar attitude, saying that becoming a fan of the Panthers has transcended clothing and merchandise, as it is a community that can be represented in a dance move. The ability to just do a simple dance move, the Dab, and have it speak for you saying, “Go Panthers,” is a testament to the shared meaning and culture the Panthers have created.
The only division between the fandom lies within the fan base itself. As with any team, with success comes popularity.
The Panthers have attracted a lot of new fans this year with their great season and that has led to many “original” fans becoming disgruntled, upset that people will ride with a team in their highs but abandon them during their lows. Hopefully, the success the Panthers have experienced this season will be carried into San Francisco as they represent our home state in Super Bowl 50.
If the Panthers get the win and take home the Vince Lombardi Trophy to Charlotte, there is a chance many of these bandwagon fans will become fans for life and continue to support the Panthers even after their five minutes of fame.