Stall Wars: The Bat Awakens
It’s widely accepted that BofA is the greatest NFL venue in history. However on occasion Panthers fans will venture to other NFL stadiums to take in a game. We document these in a series entitled “Behind Enemy Lines.” Our guest correspondent for this edition is Andrew Batchelor, who we talked out of writing a spec screenplay for Episode VIII that included Cam Newton as Lando’s son. You can enjoy his piece on the Panthers-Seahawks game from earlier this season here.
Woo boy, where do I begin with this one? Like my last trip to see the Panthers on the road in Seattle, Sunday’s game vs. the Giants was a heated one that came down to the final seconds. This time around the Panthers were the ones fending off a furious fourth quarter comeback.
Sunday was a great day for my first northeast football game: cold, but not unbearable, and not a cloud in the sky. Tailgaters were in abundance in the lots surrounding the stadium. I’ve traveled to NYC before but this was my first time venturing out into the ACC footprint of the New Jersey Meadowlands. (ACC schools were by far the best represented in terms of college gear worn.) MetLife Stadium actually is the most expensive stadium ever built at $1.6 billion, but for all that money, there’s nothing particularly memorable about it. It’s big and it looks new. For comparison, Jerry World in Dallas cost $1.3 billion.
Logistically, I can see why many thought transportation before/after Super Bowl 48 was a nightmare. The drive to the parking lot felt straight from ‘European Vacation’ with MetLife Stadium serving as Big Ben and Parliament. Even several Giants fans didn’t seem particularly impressed with their new stadium. Sample conversation on the escalator to the upper deck: Me: “This is a nice stadium. Do you get to many games each year?” Giants fan: “This place sucks.” Me: “OK. Good talk.” Although, their frustration might be because they can’t even get their own Snapchat filter. Panthers’ social media team, they are not.
Panthers fans were certainly not scarce in MetLife on Sunday. This was perfect weekend for fans from North Carolina to travel with UNC, Duke, and Davidson all being NYC at the same time. Nevertheless, Giants’ fans chalked up the attendance to people jumping on the Panthers’ bandwagon based on the taunts heard, including “Seahawks fans last year! *Clap Clap ClapClapClap*. Clever.
The Panthers crowd was easy to spot, too, and not because the black and blue stood out. They were the ones who would dab, Superman, or imitate Cam’s first down point approximately every 30 seconds. As much as it might annoy people now, the Dab is actually the greatest response ever to taunts from an opposing fan. There’s no comeback for it. Giants fan: “Josh Norman sucks!” Panthers fan: *hits Dab* Giants fan curses and sulks off.
By the time halftime arrived, the Panthers had rolled to a 21-7 lead and Giants fans began to turn on each other. Then, it happened. STALL WARS.
My Twitter mentions turned into the worst episode of ‘The Sopranos’. Local and national news outlets reached out to me asking for my breakdown of a bathroom fight. Things got weird. But like many stories, I joined this one in medias res. There are still many questions unanswered. Who is Rey really? Where did the First Order come from? Oops. Sorry, I’m getting all my stories from this weekend mixed up.
I’m really not sure how the whole thing started. I didn’t see anyone carry a bat into the bathroom, so the Giants’ go-to excuse is already ruled out. The fight actually served as a sad parallel to what was going on down on the field. Like the Norman-Beckham Jr. scuffle, I’m sure harsh words and taunts were exchanged by both sides that escalated the situation. But that is no excuse for the end result of fighting in a bathroom or launching your helmet at someone else’s head.
The chaos inside the bathroom trickled outside where another fan decided to realize himself in a corner of the concourse, thus taking the title of “filthiest corner in MetLife Stadium” away from Josh Norman. Much has been written since the game about bats, rumored taunts, and whatever other spin control people try to put on Beckham’s actions. The bottom line is Odell Beckham Jr.’s actions on Sunday were no better than that of an out-of-control, drunk fan fighting in a bathroom stall.
This season has been filled with plenty of hot takes about how to explain things happening at NFL games to kids. As I exited the bathroom, I heard a father explaining to his son what was happening: “someone drank too much and is acting bad”. See? It’s not that hard, Giants. Just say Beckham was out-of-control and acting like an idiot, take his punishment, and move on.
It’s funny to see as the season has progressed how people keep trying to come up with new reasons to dislike the Panthers. In Seattle, it was Cam and his dancing. In New York, people had come to grips with Cam’s skill and star power and shifted their anger towards Josh Norman’s ability to get in Beckham’s head. “Wannabe Deion Sanders”, one Giants fan shouted repeatedly from the stands. I’m admittedly biased with most things related to the state of North Carolina, but this is a fun team with big personalities that is genuinely enjoying themselves during a special season. Would you still prefer the best team in the NFL be one that takes the NFL to court whenever they’re caught cheating or tampering?
Sunday’s game once again came to a close with Cam Newton providing another MVP-worthy game-winning drive, with Graham Gano sealing the deal. Panthers fans made their presence felt exiting MetLife Stadium, filling the concourse levels with loud cheers of “Let’s Go Panthers” and “Keep Pounding”. Call it a bandwagon if you want, but as the Panthers make their presence felt throughout the NFL, their small-market fan base is finally making its presence known as well.
Much like “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, (I’m doing my best here to not divulge spoilers, folks. Join the rest of America and go see the movie already.) Panthers-Giants saw the formation of new rivalries alongside exciting action and hand-wringing surprises, only to end with images of hope for the future. As several Giants fan gave congratulatory “hope you win the Super Bowl” remarks, the sea of fans parted to reveal a couple, walking hand-in-hand, with a head-scratching jersey combo.
Maybe there is hope that we can all “Keep Pounding” and move on past Sunday’s shenanigans. Anyone want to start a kickstarter to get a “Together Since 2015” jersey combo for Norman and Beckham for Christmas?