You Do Not Dab The Day After You Lose The Super Bowl
On Saturday, my father, who has a track record of tucking his sweatshirt into his jean shorts, attempted to teach my 18-month-old son how…
On Saturday, my father, who has a track record of tucking his sweatshirt into his jean shorts, attempted to teach my 18-month-old son how to dab. “What’s that thing that Cam Newton does?” he asked, before raising his bent elbow up in the sort of manner that a vampire uses to cover his face with a cape. That’s sort of it, I told my dad. Then we both looked over at my son, who was intently playing with a toy train while shouting “TRAIN! TRAIN! TRAIN!” We jointly decided not to interrupt.
My father is 61, an electrician at a General Motors assembly plant in Northeast Ohio, a lifelong Packers fan (Bart Starr!), and here he is, trying to teach a dance move popularized by a 26-year-old black quarterback from suburban Atlanta who borrowed it from Migos. Admittedly, this is a personal trendiness milestone for my father, who is still trying to tell me how good Jason Mraz is. But it’s also the first time since, maybe, the Hornets Starter jacket, that a piece of Charlotte-born culture has spread to become a national fixation. The dab? Hell, Hillary Clinton hit the dab.
All of that seems so quaint. Before now, it was an Internet sport to point at some hapless dabbing person, like your local city council member, and say “See? Lookey there. The dab is dead.” But today? No dabs today, please. Too soon. This a day to mope. You do not dab the day after you lose the Super Bowl.
We’re coming off the first truly bad day for the Carolina Panthers in more than a year. Yeah, Kelvin Benjamin tore his ACL during training camp, but no big deal, the Panthers’ other wide receivers filled in admirably. Yeah, the Panthers lost to Atlanta, spoiling an undefeated season in week 15, but whatever, they were already going to the playoffs. But this? This was something that nobody expected. The Panthers were the favorite. Finally. And they lost.
It’s been so much fun, up to this point. The flips. The pictures. The smiles. There was a point in the not so recent past that the Panthers would jump out to a lead, only to lose after that lead evaporated. This year, Carolina blew leads against the Seahawks (twice), the Colts, and the Giants. And each time, the Panthers held on. They won.
After the Panthers blew out the Cardinals in the NFC Championship, the change was staggering. It was like climbing into a Wonkavator. For the first time, I actually had a team in the Super Bowl, which meant I was actually paying attention to everything leading up to it: the unmeetable expectations, the invention of new storylines, the rehashing of old ones, and the steady building of hype, overexposure, and corporatization. Only in a parallel universe would the best question of Super Bowl week be asked by Snoop Dogg. And then Sunday hits and you remember: Oh! Right! The game! The Panthers have to win, because they are no longer the underdogs, and this is not just a great season, this is the SEASON OF DESTINY. Surely, this mix of guys, with that record, having that much fun, could not possibly lose.
Last night’s game was uncomfortable to watch. Cam Newton’s early throws were high. Wide receivers dropped balls. Jonathan Stewart was stuffed at the line ad nauseum. There were fumbles. Blown calls. Bad play calls. It was like the Panthers of early 2014 were on the field while this season’s team was held hostage in a locker room. In the third quarter, Denver’s coaches realized they could win with a mere nine point lead, because the Panther offense was not capable of cracking the Broncos’ defense. That is a bold strategy against Carolina, which scored more points than any other NFL team this season. It was the right strategy against the Panthers. They lost.
It’s a hard thing to reconcile — being on a year-long high before crashing down hard in one night. Cam came out the game, grumbled his way through a few questions, then stormed off, and it was suddenly like the entire season of joy didn’t happen. That’s not actually true, of course. Yes, the Panthers had an incredible run. Yes, they will have more great seasons to come. This is how you reassure yourself when you’re in a bad mood. Remember the good times, you think, before you it dawns on you that this is what people tell each other after funerals.
There’s hope, I guess. Hope that this team can come back and do the same thing next year. That it’ll be this fun again. That the fans who made Bank of America Stadium shake during the NFC Championship will come back with the same numbers and enthusiasm. The sting will fade. It always does. But today feels like a Christmas where you didn’t unwrap the big gift you were sure you were going to get. First comes a combination of sad and angry. Then, hopefully, the realization that not everything you want is given to you.
Last night, my son went to bed before the end of the first quarter. My wife and I rushed upstairs to read him a book and turn out the lights with a little added urgency. I came downstairs a few minutes before my wife, and got to see Von Miller’s strip sack. The ball squirted into the endzone, and the Broncos jumped on it, and thus began the feeling of oh no that permeated the rest of the game. My son missed the Second Half of Sighs. Probably for the best.
That little boy picks things up quickly. He already has songs memorized. He screams out “Old MacDonald E-I-E-I-O!” out for no reason. With some prodding, he’ll say “Go Panthers.” He can count to ten. He wants us to read books to him over and over, and then, sometimes, turns the pages and says some of the words out loud. You ask him to clap? He claps. There is no doubt in my mind that if my dad had actually shown him how to dab, that he would have giggled and laughed, and then walked around the house today, dabbing on stuffed animals. He wouldn’t have known any better. On days like this, I wish I didn’t either.