To motivate themselves over the course of a successful season, the Carolina Panthers often called on the mystique and showmanship of the greatest professional wrestler of all time, Ric Flair. The Panthers’ pregame ritual of “two claps and a Ric Flair” kept them loose and motivated, and linked them to the North Carolina icon. Flair, a resident of Charlotte, has long been associated with the state’s sports teams, being featured in special video packages at Carolina Hurricanes games and delivering stirring speeches before Charlotte bowl games when they feature in-state teams. Until recently, he was also the face of the North Carolina education lottery.
He is also a self-described Panthers fan, but pulled out of an appearance for the team due to scheduling conflicts. It would have been the latest in the inexplicable trend of old pro wrestlers delivering pep talks to NFL teams (Hulk Hogan appeared in Foxboro recently to presumably encourage the New England Patriots to train, eat their vitamins, and say their prayers). What transpired next, though, registered in the hearts of many North Carolinians as a betrayal, as The Nature Boy showed up in Green Bay to deliver a series of struts and woo’s to the San Francisco 49ers, calling them “Ric Flair’s team.”
“My heart,” he said, “is with the 49ers all the way to the end.”
But is this really a betrayal? Is Flair telling HBK stories to a room full of varyingly interested football players the Judas Kiss that it has been made out to be?
In a word, no. Flair is free to support whichever football team he wants to, and he’s free to associate himself with whatever team is going to give him the most media coverage. Furthermore, Flair predates his hometown Panthers by three decades or so. Cam Newton wasn’t even a gleam in his parents’ eyes when Flair started repping the Queen City. That gleam was itself a gleam in its parents’ eyes that long ago.
That said, the Panthers obviously can’t continue to utilize Flair’s trademark hype-up noise, so here are some possible alternates to get them through the playoffs:
1. Two claps and a Macho Man (The Panthers clap twice and then, in their deepest, throatiest growls, shout, “Oh yeah!”)
2. Two claps and a CM Punk (The Panthers clap twice an then shout, “Bbest in the woooorld!”)
3. Two claps and a Rowdy Roddy Piper (the Panthers clap twice and proceed to hit Jimmy Snuka in the face with a coconut).
4. Two claps and a Daniel Bryan (The Panthers clap twice and join the Wyatt Family).
5. Two claps and a Kevin Nash (The Panthers clap twice and book themselves to win, problem solved).
It’s also worth pointing out that Flair was born in Minnesota, and if anyone has first dibs on being miffed, it’s the Minnesota Vikings. But in all honesty, Flair’s biggest worry at this point should be angering the famously and perpetually irate Steve Smith.
Hunter writes about wrestling. He also tweets @huntwee