Panthers games are really no place for the hungover.
I woke up late one Sunday morning, confused and surrounded by empty beer bottles, a half-drunk Gatorade and other remnants of a great 24th birthday. I knew I was in for a rough day.
After a groggy phone call informed me kick-off was in an hour, I got up to make moves. My hangover let me know early on that it would have a say in how this day would go. I grabbed my wallet to head out the door and was confused to see it stuffed with $1 bills did I stop off at a strip club the night before somewhere between Liberty East and home?
My pores reeking of Hennessy Black, Bacardi 151, countless beers and saki, the hangover had heightened my senses in a way only a hangover can. I needed shades to stand the sun when I stepped outside into a light but steady shower and made the methodical walk to Bank of America Stadium, battling tailgates blaring hair metal and fighting the urge to vomit at the sight and smell of food.
Bombarded by an obnoxious sea of humanity, I dragged my ass up to the cheap seats where I sat directly in front of a couple, who, by the looks of the water bottle turned dip cup for chewing tobacco, wasnt going to make my day any better.
I was sadly within earshot of all their annoying, uninformed conversations. First, it was him incorrectly explaining the rules. Later, she insisted that two guys seated to our left were twins (they werent). Eventually, they had the proverbial domestic dispute over the phone when she got lost trying to find her way back from a nacho run.
The only solace in that day was a pocket of Bengals fans intent on ruining our sections Sunday with matching paraphernalia and surprisingly organized cheers (I can appreciate collective asshole behavior).
Sobriety set in just after halftime. Relieved, that euphoria wore off almost instantly with the realization that I was sitting in the rain and watching one of the worst teams in the NFL stink it up. Only another hangover could drown out the pain of having paid to see this. Scrolling for Raiders scores on my Blackberry and waiting for high jinks that would never happen from Chad Ochocinco or Terrell Owens, I welcomed myself to 24.
Mike McCray, a Charlotte native and North Carolina A&T grad, is a city explorer, neighborhood partier and dress code ignorer who shakes his head at DJs getting away with bad blends, girls pretending to be drunk and grown men with low tolerances for alcohol. Follow him on Twitter.