Cover Story: Panthers - Salvaging the season?

By Jeff Atkinson - bio | email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Words like "must win" and "do or die" being said about the big matchup in the "Big D."  The Panthers taking on the Dallas Cowboys in Dallas.  Wondering why, with the season still so young... so much riding on Monday night's game?  PrimeTime's Jeff Atkinson explains in our Cover Story.

Look at these numbers.  If the Panthers lose Monday night, they'll have lost seven games in a row.. including four in the pre-season.

If they lose they'll be 0-and-3 in the regular season.

Only three teams have ever started the year with a losing record and gone on to the playoffs.

An 0-and-3 start brings up memories of that disastrous season eight years ago when the Cats won only one game.

It led to drastic action.. the firing of their head coach.

But even more than that-- losses on the field take a bite out of the bottom line.

"This is my refrigerator..."

Think fans aren't getting desperate for a win?

This man's sleeping on the roof of his building.. up here 24-7.. until the Panthers win a game.

Sure, it's a radio stunt.. Shadow with "The Ace and T.J. Show" on Kiss 95.1 but the message is the same.

"I don't think there is enough support for our team here in Charlotte," he says.  "So I figure what better way to draw attention to the team than come live on the roof for a couple days, you know?"

If support is waning.. it's because expectations are fizzling.

Game one of the regular season.. with the former NFL commissioner sitting with the Panthers owner.. quarterback Jake Delhomme threw four interceptions - fumbled once - was booed.. and then benched for the first time in his seven years at Carolina.

Fans scurried home in the second half..

Game two at Atlanta wasn't much better.

"They rely on that revenue tremendously."

Don Muret writer for the Sports Business Journal.. a national publication based in Charlotte known as the Bible in the sports business world.. says teams like the Panthers need revenue from merchandise and concessions to make up the bottom line.

For the Panthers.. that's about 22-dollars per game.. the average fan's spending on food and beverage.  On merchandise it's about 10-dollars per game per fan.

Under the Panthers' PSL program the organization can count on a certain amount for ticket sales.

But if the team's losing.. and fans stay home.. that ancillary money stays home too.

Says Muret, "I've noticed there is a tremendous drop off when the Panthers aren't winning in terms of fans coming into the building. And the team relies on that revenue. So I think it is very important."

And if they keep on losing it may mean trouble ahead in filling the stands.. a fact only made worse it's happning in a tight economy.

For others-- losing may mean a long winter on the roof.

"I am up here until they bring home a win," says Shadow of Kiss 95.1.  "So if they lose tonight which I don't think they will.. but if they do I'm here for 13 days without any hope of coming down. And that's what scares me the most."

13 days.. that's because the Panthers are off next week.. it's a bye week.

Also hurting the Panthers.. big spenders watching their spending.

Companies who buy the club seats and skyboxes write food and beverage expenses off as cost of doing business.

But as sports marketing costs are being re-examine.. spending on high-end items in those premium ares has decreased as well.