The Hood Hargett Breakfast Club, Panthers Pep Rally Celebration at Carmel Country Club, Friday morning, January 15, 2015. Highlights included: Sir Purr, Former Carolina Panthers, Top Cats, Team President Danny Morrison, Team Owner Jerry Richardson and Panthers Make-a-Wish Kids and keynote speaker, Super Bowl champion and six-time Pro Bowl center, Jeff Saturday, who began his 14 year career with the Indianapolis Colts in 1999 (1999-2011) before playing one year with the Green Bay Packers
Hundreds of men and women – the type usually only seen in this setting wearing power suits designed to help close business deals – were decked out in Newton jerseys, Kuechly jerseys, Olsen jerseys, Benjamin jerseys, and in several cases, face paint that made them look like they belonged in an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.
Yes, Friday’s meeting of the Hood Hargett Breakfast Club was given a black-and-blue and “Keep Pounding” all over twist, one that may have marked the first time cornhole games have been played beneath the tony venue’s vaulted ceilings and stunning chandeliers.
Perhaps the only thing missing from the event spearheaded by breakfast club president Jenn Snyder? A keg.
“This is the best no-alcohol-being-served party that we’ve ever seen in Charlotte,” Mick Mixon (aka “The Voice of the Panthers”) told the 300-plus people who were crowded around tables decorated with football-shaped Krispy Kremes.
The point of the whole affair was for Charlotte’s elite networking group to celebrate the Panthers, who open the playoffs against Seattle on Sunday. That’s why guests were greeted at the door by four TopCats cheerleaders; that’s why Sir Purr roamed around the country club’s hallways trolling for furry high-fives; that’s why you couldn’t turn your head without a former Panther coming into your field of vision.
There was Eugene Robinson, and there was Leonard Wheeler, and there was Rod Smith, and Mike Rucker, Al Wallace, Kevin Donnalley, the latter three of which played for Carolina when it advanced to the Super Bowl in 2004.
But they weren’t the biggest celebrities at this fete. And neither was ESPN NFL analyst Jeff Saturday, a former Pro Bowl center (and former UNC Chapel Hill star) who was the morning’s featured guest speaker.
No, the two most-buzzed-about guests at Carmel Country Club on Friday were Panthers owner Jerry Richardson – who did everything he could to stay out of the spotlight; and Mary Ward, the 95-year-old Lincolnton resident known as “The Dabbin’ Granny,” who did the opposite, happily striking her famous pose every time a camera was raised.
Richardson made no public comments, but gave a brief, quasi-pep talk through Riley Fields, the Panthers’ director of community relations: “As Mr. Richardson once said, ‘The game is scheduled, we’re gonna play it, we might as well win it.’ ”
Mary Ward, meanwhile, was more straightforward about her prediction: “The Panthers is gonna win.”
And that seemed to be the consensus.
Former Panthers safety Leonard Wheeler (1998-99): “The Panthers will win 27-17. I’m telling you: 27-17, this weekend.” I tell him if he nails it, I’ll buy him lunch. “Game is on. The game is on. Oh yeah, and I know where I wanna go: Sullivan’s.”
Dr. John Schug of Charlotte: “I think they’re gonna win big. Not just little,” he said, pinching his right forefinger and thumb together, “but big,” he promised, making the gap between those digits as wide as he can.
Susan Francis, Duke Energy’s PAC and Grassroots Manager: “Well, we traded off our (season) tickets. My husband’s business partner is going to this game.” Wait, why would you give up those seats?? “Because we knew we’d win. So we’re gonna go next Sunday.”
But one person seemed a bit less confident than others.
And not just because she’s got a friendly wager going with Seattle Mayor Ed Murray (she wins, she gets beer from Pike Brewing, wine from Northwest Wine Academy, Chinese barbecue from Kau Kau; he wins, he gets Mac’s Speed Shop ’cue, Olde Mecklenburg Brewery beer and salted caramel brownies from Amelie’s).
No, Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts said she simply can’t help it. She gets nervous about every game.
“Playing a sport is just like running a campaign,” she said, her open blazer allowing the “1” on a blue Cam Newton jersey to poke through. “There are only two ways to go into it: Unopposed, or scared.”
BY THÉODEN JANES
Source: Charlotte Observer