Quick refresher. Remember the Panthers’ last trip to the Super Bowl?

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Our beloved hometown Panthers have made the Super Bowl for the second time in franchise history. Maybe you were too young to remember the details of Charlotte’s last Super Bowl team or maybe you were in another city when the Queen City was last stricken with Super Bowl fever.

Either way, it can’t hurt to brush up on a few factoids about that team so you can casually drop them to your fellow fans as you take in the big game on Sunday. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and see what it was like when the Panthers were in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

The Roster

While the current Panthers Super Bowl team is filled with 10 Pro Bowlers and high profile superstars like Cam Newton, Greg Olsen and Luke Keuchly at key positions, the 2003 Panthers team had only four such all-stars.

The 2015 edition of the Panthers is filled with high first-round draft picks who had high expectations coming into the NFL, but the 2003 Panthers were more of a rag-tag band of castoffs. None of the major contributors at the Panthers’ top skill positions (i.e. QB, WR, RB) players were chosen in the first round of the NFL draft.

But similar to this season, everything just kind of came together for the team as they marched to the NFC South title and rolled through playoff opponents to win the NFC.

A brief list of things that didn’t exist in Charlotte on February 1, 2004

  • Time Warner Cable Arena
  • The Cowfish
  • The Duke Energy Building
  • The Light Rail
  • Duckworth’s
  • EpiCentre
  • Amelie’s NoDa
  • US National Whitewater Center
  • 7th Street Market
  • Breweries
  • Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar

The Game

Date: February 1, 2004, Reliant Stadium, Houston, TX

Odds: Patriots -7, Over/Under 37.5

As I’m sure you know, the Panthers lost this game 32-29 on a last-second field goal. If you’re unfamiliar with the flow of the game, you’ll remember the final minute was even worse than the final score indicates. The Panthers tied up the game 29-29 on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Jake Delhomme to Ricky Proehl with 1:08 left and had all the momentum.

It felt like the game was at least headed to overtime… until kicker John Kasay’s kickoff went out of bounds and the Patriots started their drive on the 40 yard line. Dagger.

Despite the disappointing outcome for Charlotte, the game was generally acknowledged as one for the ages. Peter King of Sports Illustrated even called it the “Best Super Bowl of all Time” immediately afterward. This was notable since the vast majority of Super Bowl games for the preceding decade were kind of boring.

You could say that the Panthers, who were pretty big underdogs before the game, singlehandedly made the Super Bowl interesting again. And I will.

The Commercials

This Mental Floss article says that the Bud Light commercial with the two guys comparing dogs was the best commercial of this Super Bowl, and I initially found that hard to believe, but holy cow was this a terrible year for commercials.

Maybe the Willie Nelson advice doll is the best one? I don’t even know. They’re all pretty bad. Check them out for yourself, but I was underwhelmed. You can see video recaps of the commercials here.

Some other thoughts after rewatching these:

  • It’s really weird seeing the old Bud Light logo. It seems like it’s from 1975 but it was only 12 years ago.
  • “Van Helsing” and “Troy” were the Summer blockbuster movies they were pushing? Whoops.
  • Is there a better snapshot of 2003 than the Orange County Choppers Guys being in an AOL commercial?
  • Was that Patton Oswalt in the Sierra Mist kilt ad?
  • What kind of establishment did Cedric the Entertainer think he was visiting?
  • The Dodge Magnum, Chevy Aveo and Ford GT really worked out great.

The Halftime Show

I am guilty of completely, totally, and unforgivably burying the lead on this article. The story of Super Bowl XXXVIII, despite the game-winning, last-second field goal, was the halftime show. Perhaps you’ve heard what happened.

Justin Timberlake exposed Janet Jackson’s [redacted by the FCC], which introduced the phrase “wardrobe malfunction” to our lexicon and led to a domino-effect of soap operas no longer being able to show male actors’ butts, “ER” having to edit out old person nudity, the NFL canceling the so-bad-it’s-good ESPN show “Playmakers” and (worst of all) canceling JC Chasez’ halftime performance at the Pro Bowl.

Why Janet?!? Why did you have to deprive us of a JC Chasez halftime show at the Pro Bowl? It would have changed everything we thought we knew about entertainment!!!!

It’s hard to really undersell what a huge deal this was. It not only distracted everyone from the fact that Justin Timberlake wore atrociously baggy khakis to perform at halftime of the Super Bowl, but the fallout from this incident was transformative on the trajectory of American pop culture.

It forced Howard Stern to satellite radio and raised the profile of a national conversation about “decency” at a time when 24-hour-news channels were just gaining momentum. I highly recommend catching up on the entire sordid affair here. The best part is when the guy from the FCC basically says “whoops, my bad you guys” 10 years later. Thanks, bro.

So there you go. You’re now armed with the knowledge to wow your friends with some Fact Nuggets when the Panthers are up 21-0 with 11 minutes left in the first half.

Original header image via nowverybad.com

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I live in Elizabeth, work in Uptown, and spend my time loving where Charlotte's been and thinking about its future.