Sunday, May 19, 2013

As It Should Bee

This is a sports-related post which means I need to begin with this disclaimer: I actually know very little about sports. I know a fair amount about being a sports fan but am in no way qualified to comment on "the sports" in general. I'll probably use sports terminology incorrectly many many times in this post. You'll just have to forgive me. After all, you were disclaimed.

Disclaimer #2: I'm a Charlottean at heart so I write this from that perspective. Basically, while you're pretending I know how to write about sports, also pretend that I still live in Charlotte. Sorry, D.C.

You guys, I have to write this random Sunday afternoon post because I'm very excited. Actually, eight-year-old me is very excited. 

I guess you could say, I'm buzzzzzzzzing with delight. 

Rumor has it, my Charlotte Hornets are coming home. Can it be? The Hornets? Back at the hive?

My first introduction into the wonderful world of professional sports was in a magical place called the Charlotte Coliseum where the music was loud, the pizza was hot, and the Hornets....were...awesome.

The Charlotte Hornets.

I was three-foot-nothing and they were larger than life. I knew the players by name and when to yell DE-FENSE. And I was pretty sure that Larry Johnson's Grandmama was the funniest character that had ever been created in the history of the world, at least during my single-digit lifetime.

The Hornets were our team and we were their biggest fans. Charlotte was draped in teal and purple, there was a multi-story Charlotte Hornets mural on the side of the First Union building downtown/uptown (I don't even have time to get into the downtown vs. uptown debate), Hugo would visit schools and give high fives to kids with perfect attendance and every one had a favorite player. 

Superstars Larry Johnson, Muggsy Bogues and Alonzo Mourning who were also painted into a mural on the side of the First Union building downtown/uptown. Photo credit: WCNC
My parents had season tickets and there was nothing more exciting than getting to go to a game, especially if that game was on a school night. I would proudly wear my pint-sized Dell Curry jersey and count down the hours until we'd load in the car and make the - what seemed like an eternity - twenty minute drive to the Coliseum.  I always knew that once I saw the "X" and "O" lane markers,  we were close. The hours that followed - of stomping and clapping and high-fiving - were the most fun a kid could have.

My sister perfectly captured the magic of the Charlotte Hornets post-game moments in this article she wrote for Charlotte Magazine in 2008, in the midst of the NCAA run by Davidson and our other favorite Curry, Stephen.

"We'd walk outside, my parents debating the section and row of our car's location until one of us spotted it. We'd pile in and listen to the post-game radio show, highlights and interviews interspersed with commercials for Home Federal Savings and Loan and Bubblicious gum. (You may recall that Larry Johnson's personal favorite was Gonzo Grape.) My Dad would navigate the complicated lane patterns that would have given the nearby Charlotte-Douglas air traffic controllers a headache, while my mom, my sister Lindsay, and I would discuss the game's highlights in astonishingly inaccurate terms that we substituted for actual basketball vocabulary. Then Lindsay and I, exhausted from an evening of cheering, stomping (We WILL rock you, Charles Barkley, and don't forget it), and singing, would be fast asleep before we made it out of the parking lot."

Charlotte and the Hornets were a perfect match. It was a beautiful love affair between a city and a team. 

Until one wasn't.

Money, egos and business drove us apart and, in the end, the Hornets moved to New Orleans.

The Hornets and Charlotte broke up.

It was hard.

I coped by leaning on good friends like the Carolina Panthers during those difficult times, trading in my BEE-LIEVE rally rag for a KEEP POUNDING one. They helped us keep our DE-FENSE chants alive.

When Bob Johnson came along, offering to fix the basketball-shaped hole in our hearts, we were skeptical but willing to give it a shot. 

However, it was just never quite the same with the Bobcats. There wasn't that chemistry - that certain je nais se quoi, if you will. (They speak French a lot on ESPN, right?)

Many people embraced the team but, as a city overall, we seemed to still long for what could've been, often dreaming of the one that got away.  

This is when you true sports fans may want to stop reading (if you've even made it this far). You'll get mad at me and say, "You didn't even try to support the Bobcats. You're just a bandwagon 'change-the-name-to-Hornets' fan!" 

You know what? You're right. 

You know what else? It's my blog and you've already been warned.

I went to three Bobcats games in-person and watched a handful on TV. They felt like a generic, entertaining 2 hours - nothing more, nothing less. That's fine, but that wasn't the Hornets. I wasn't high-fiving strangers on the concourse. People weren't talking incessantly about the game the next day. Bobcats jerseys and team colors weren't filling the streets. They were a basketball team, but they didn't feel like our basketball team. 

And I wasn't alone. Former Charlotte Hornets fans led grassroots efforts to bring back our team, especially as it became clearer that New Orleans was looking to find their own NBA identity, shedding the Hornets brand. 

Now, I realize we aren't getting Muggsy and Dell and Larry back and I won't magically transform into an 8-year-old whose main concern is maxing out the buzz-o-meter with my cheers and stomping. 

Hell, I don't even live in Charlotte anymore.

I know this. I get it. We aren't traveling back in time. 

We're (hopefully) getting a brand and mascot - with no guarantee of a successful season or superstar players. However, the thought of the Hornets returning to Charlotte strikes a nostalgic chord for many of us and it's up to us to build off the memories of the past and make the Hornets our team of the future. 

Will Charlotte embrace the Hornets more than they haphazardly did the Bobcats? Will the Hornets actually win games? Will Charlotteans look as smoking hot in teal and purple as they did 15 years ago? 

It's all yet to be determined. 

For now we're waiting with bated breath and brushing off our best teal pinstripes. In the words of the wise Ryan Gosling in The Notebook, "It wasn't over. It still isn't over." (See this is why I'm not allowed to write legitimate sports-related posts.)

Charlotte Hornets, welcome home

P.S. Just because...


No comments:

Post a Comment