Spent the last 40 minutes outside Bank of America Stadium.
Based on the jerseys fans were wearing and the signs businessmen were holding here's how I'd rank the groups in terms of popularity:
(1) New England.
Encountered gatherings of fans wearing Patriots' garb. They could be Charlotte-area residents waiting for their team to appear. But many looked around, at the statues and at the stadium, as if they were seeing them for the first time. Boston come on down.
Remember, this was almost six hours before kickoff. Panther fans have jobs.
(2) Need tickets.
Need Tickets was a close second to New England. Four men with professionally printed Need Tickets signs, white with red letters, walked together out of a downtown parking deck. Sellers were everywhere, some with carboard signs, others with loud voices. A security official stood outside Carolina's ticket offices to make sure nobody was harrassed.
A black Lexus pulled over in front of the stadium and the driver negotiated with a slender man selling tickets. Don't know how the transaction ended.
Downtown -- not uptown when I'm writing -- is alive. Walk down Church Street and hundreds of fans are walking in the sunshine.
Back at the stadium, some fans posed for pictures beneath the Panther statues. Since Carolina began it's five-game winning streak, the Panthers look tougher. They look a little bigger. They look as if they've been working out. Their teeth look sharper, their eyes greener.
They'll get as much attention tonight as they ever have.
So will we.