Are You In It To Win It?

I write blogs based on what is on my heart or what I feel you might want to know. 


With that said, as I walked out of Bank of America Stadium after the opening season loss my beloved Carolina Panthers took, I wondered how to incorporate the mixed emotions I felt into a blog for you. After taking another L, the next week, I knew I really needed to write a blog to help me get through, what could be, a very long football season. 


You see… 25 years ago, my husband and I made a decision that continues to yield fruit for us. We didn’t quite have the money, but we had a purpose and a vision for our future. We decided to invest in time and traditions. For us, that meant spending our Sundays watching football live.  


Whether or not you are a football fan please keep reading.

Football is so much more than a sport. The fans are truly the 12thmember of the team. For without us, who would cheer? Can you imagine scoring a touchdown with the stands empty and no one clapping? I’m sure it’s not nearly as fun! 


In 1993, the Carolina Panthers were announced as the league’s 29thNFL franchise. My husband and I were newly married at the time and decided because of our love for sports, especially football, we wanted to get in on the action. When the permanent seat licenses, or PSLs were up for grabs we thought long and hard over whether or not to purchase two seats. It was a commitment in time, scheduling, and money. However, we thought of it as an investment. An investment not only in money but in the community and our future. Our hope was that we would make it a tradition. And a tradition it has been!


Fast forward 25 years and here is what we experienced with that “YES” decision. My oldest son is a “Panthers baby” -- born in 1995 and attended his first NFL game when they were held at Clemson University. I went to a home game on a sunny December Sunday in 1997 and my younger son was born the next day. Hey, if you are all in you are all in and I wasn’t missing a game! We have sat with, in the same row, or in front of the same folks for 25 years. They were strangers then but good friends now. We now have five PSLs and are friendly with some staff.


Tailgating is a job but the anticipation before a game is part of our family hype. To me, tailgating should be a prerequisite. The fellowship is worth it, and we never quite know who will show up at our tent. All are welcome and no one must bring a thing to join in on the fun. It is our way of serving our friends or family and hoping they enjoy it as much as we do. The comradery, team spirit, team colors and sense of belonging is life for us! We have braved the cold, rain, and heat to support our team and carry out our “tradition”. 


This season, the Carolina Panthers are in its 25thseason. That is approximately 192 regular season tailgates- give or take a few that didn’t happen due to illness or extreme weather conditions. As we walked out of the stadium after the home opener, where we took a heartbreaking 30-27 loss, my son Blake said, “This is my favorite thing we do as a family and I love the tradition we have!” I thank God for my favorite season and for the forethought, and provision, to buy those tickets. If only for a Sunday afternoon, football brings people together for the common good of the love of the game. We will forever bleed Panther blue. 


If you are contemplating a big decision, try to look at the big picture and what it would mean to you long term. Don’t be shortsighted or too quick to say ‘no”. Sometimes we just have to take a leap of faith and go for it. Have the confidence and say YES! Young families out there listen up…. Your kids WILL come back to you. You won’t ONLY have 18 summers with them IF you put in the work of parenting and creating the memories and traditions that they will look forward to 25 years from now. Commitment and consistency are key. Say YES more than you have to say no because the no’s are hard. Real hard. But saying YES to something you are investing in, whether football or not, by doing so you have committed to your family or yourself that this is our/your YES and we/you are “in it to win it!”


Shelly L. Henderson is a wife, mother, author, and business owner. She is a voice of reason and reality. You can pick up a copy of her book Starting From Scratchon Amazon. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook at @shellylhenderson. Check out her weekly Starting From Scratch podcast on all major podcast platforms.