Sundae Horn
Super Bowl – or Bust!

Ocracoke's biggest Panthers fan is heading to the big game!

If you've been on Ocracoke recently, you probably made a stop to the Variety Store, and if you've been to the Variety Store, you may have noticed the Panther-mania that has taken hold of the place. You're greeted with window decals and flags and a larger-than-life wall-sized football player in the entry way.

The Variety Store's owner, Tommy Hutcherson, added the giant Cam Newton (the Panthers' quarterback)(I totally didn't have to Google that) in honor of his team's great success this season. 

"It's called a fathead," he said. "I got an email right before Christmas that it was 60% off, so I ordered one. I was going to put it on the door, but it was far bigger than I expected!"

Tommy is a super Cam Newton fan, and also a Carolina Panthers season ticket holder, traveling all the way to Charlotte, NC for the home games. That's commitment. I asked him how one gets tickets for the Superbowl. 

"The whole thing was really cool," he said. "All the Panthers' 32,000 season tickets holders went into a pot, and they drew about 4000 names." Tommy was one of the lucky ones!  

Getting his name drawn gave Tommy the opportunity to drive all the way back to Charlotte with an I.D., a copy of the letter saying he was a random winner, and a cashier's check with which he could purchase two tickets at their face value. That's the only way Superbowl tickets are even close to affordable. Both before and after his turn at the ticket booth, there were "loads of people" trying to buy his tickets from him. Too bad!

Super Bowl – or Bust!

By the time you read this, Tommy, his wife Kathy, and her son and daughter-in-law Farris and Chrissy O'Neal, have arrived in San Francisco, where they are staying at Fisherman's Wharf. The Superbowl is actually in Santa Clara, and Tommy and Farris will catch three different trains to get there. Kathy and Chrissy plan to eat and shop in the Bay Area while the guys go to the game. 

"I'm so excited about San Francisco," he said. "I've seen pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge all my life, and I'm gonna ride across that thing."

This will be Tommy's first trip to California, and he's ready to see the sights – they've already got tickets to visit Alcatraz on Friday.

The Superbowl party starts on Thursday with live music at the "Superbowl City" in San Francisco. Dave Matthews Band, the Band Perry, Metallica, and Pharrell Williams are among the musicians playing in the pre-game shows leading up to the super day. Farris and Chrissy will be celebrating their 8th wedding anniversary on Superbowl Sunday, making the whole trip even more of a celebration, as if this crowd needs an excuse to party. 

"Farris and I talked about going to the Superbowl even before Kathy and I were dating," Tommy said. The guys will be at the Superbowl when the gates open at 11am. There's a big stage in the perimeter around the stadium, and the performers haven't been announced yet, but Tommy's hoping for some big name bands.

Super Bowl – or Bust!

The weather is cooperating, too. "Sunday's supposed to be nice, 70 degrees, and no rain," Tommy said.

Look for Tommy and Farris on Channel 12 news; reporter Brian North plans to interview them about their trip. Other familiar faces in the crowd will be Rep. Paul Tine, and Ocracoke homeowner Susan Norvell. 

There's an app for everything and the Superbowl is no exception. Tommy downloaded the Superbowl 50 app, which will enable him and Farris to order beer and food from their stadium seats, and have it delivered right to them, thereby avoiding long lines at the concession stands.

"They don't have an app yet for going to the bathroom," he said.

Excitement for this Superbowl has been building all season. 

"Both play-off games were in Charlotte," Tommy said. "It was the first time we'd been the number one seed, so we got the home play-off games, against the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals."

Tommy is sporting a cast on each arm from an incident at the last playoff game. 

"The stadium was just electric," Tommy said. "The town was upside down." Enthusiastic fans were yelling, cheering, and honking. "Everyone was high-fiving, the cars were going by super slow with people sticking their hands out for high-fives." 

During all the excitement, Tommy fell, tried to catch himself with his hands, and broke both wrists. Ouch! It's been a pain, but it won't slow him down from enjoying his chance to see the Panthers beat the Denver Broncos.

The Panthers lost the Superbowl to the Patriots in 2003, but that was before they had Cam Newton.

Stolen from NFL website

Cam Newton, Tommy told me, was the number one draft pick for the Panthers, and this is his fifth year in the league.

"When you go to a game live, and see him play, he's a man among men," Tommy said about the 6'5", 260 lb. (I totally Googled that) quarterback.

I told him I'd heard complaints about Cam Newton, though I didn't know why. Apparently, some (jealous) people don't appreciate his amazing football skills, nor his entertaining touchdown dances. He's (in)famous for doing the "Dab" dance, and his Superman routine of pretending to rip open his shirt. (Watch for it at Superbowl 50!) Everyone who's really, really good at something will have naysayers, especially if they acknowledge that they know they're really, really good. Tommy likes the guy, and mentioned that Cam gives away the touchdown footballs to young fans in the stands, and that he hosts a big Thanksgiving dinner for under-priviliged kids. 

"He does a lot of charity work and good that goes unnoticed," Tommy said. (I Googled that, too. It's true!)

Tommy also admires the Panthers' owner, Jerry Richardson, who is taking all the team's personnel to the Superbowl, flying them there and paying for their food and lodging. The Panthers and Broncos each got 10,000 tickets to distribute among their staff, the players' families, friends, or sell to loyal fans. Tommy feels lucky to be among the chosen few whether the Panthers win or lose, but he's optimistic about a win.

"I feel confidant about the game," he said with a big smile.