My Friday Five: Panthers, Bowl Season & A New Year

Photo: Chris White Happy New Year! It's amazing how fast 2015 went and we're now in a brand new year. Here's my first My Fr...

Photo: Chris White
Happy New Year! It's amazing how fast 2015 went and we're now in a brand new year. Here's my first My Friday Five of 2016!

1) Message About Giving

It seems like we have at least two or three messages on giving or tithing at my church, Grey Stone, each year. We had one this past Sunday but the way it was presented caught me - and many others - off guard. Frankly, I didn't like the message at all. The message was, more or less, a categorizing of the congregation that included a pie chart to show percentages of the congregation that don't give and give to the church. This next part is what really got me. The group, deemed "Non-Givers" were described as people who just come into the church to take in the sights and sounds and - get this - eat the free food. Yes, that phrase was used. That was way out of line, in my opinion. I talked with several of my fellow Grey Stone members and they thought the same thing. What if we had first-time guests at the services, as we often do, and that was the first message they heard? Do you think they would come back? I know I wouldn't.

2) Panthers

Well, the Carolina Panthers' bid for an undefeated season has ended. The Panthers lost on the road at Atlanta on Sunday. I had a feeling this might happen eventually but I'd rather for the team to lose now if it has to instead of the playoffs. As you probably know, lose in the playoffs, you're season is done. Carolina will wrap up the regular season this Sunday at home against Tampa Bay and can still clinch home field advantage with a win or a loss by Arizona.

3) Heels and Pack

I have to say, this hasn't been such a great end to 2015. In addition to the Panthers losing, both UNC and N.C. State lost their respective bowl games this week. The Heels lost in a pretty high-scoring, record-breaking affair to Baylor in the Russell Athletic Bowl, 49-38, while the Pack seemed to not have much of a chance against Mississippi State in the Belk Bowl, losing 51-28. Despite that, I'm proud of both teams for what was accomplished this season. It's been a blast watching both play and I was glad to be able to see some of the games in Chapel Hill and Raleigh this season!

4) My RAB Experience

I did something this year that I'd never done before: travel to attend a bowl game. I traveled to Orlando to cheer on the Heels in the Russell Athletic Bowl. It was an okay experience overall. Honestly, the best parts of the whole trip were going to Madame Tussauds wax museum and getting to see the football team at the Victory Walk. This was my first ever trip to a Madame Tussauds and it was fun, although I don't think it was worth $25/person. I got to see many famous figures and even got my picture with some of them. The Victory Walk is a customary thing that Carolina does that gives fans the opportunity to high five their favorite players and wish the team well before games. I couldn't stay in the team hotel so, if nothing else, I wanted to go to the Victory Walk - which I did. It was a blast as always and I got to high five some of my personal favorite players including Austin Proehl, Ryan Switzer, Marquise Williams and Mack Hollins.

Beyond that, everything else was just "meh" at best. Like said, I chose not to stay in the team hotel, mainly because of money. It would have cost the entire amount I spent on the trip, tickets and hotel, just for the hotel itself. Looking back on it now, I wish I'd just gone on and booked a stay at the team hotel. The hotel I ended up choosing was a short drive away on the main drag, International Drive, and it was just okay for me. I have very high standards when it comes to hotels and this one was nice and clean but it wasn't worth the $170/night I paid for it. Oh well, live and learn. The other not-so-great part of the trip was the shuttle to the Russell Athletic Bowl game itself. Instead of paying about $40 to park near the stadium, I chose to pay $15, park at a garage near the Amway Center and take a shuttle to the game. Going was fine. The shuttle picked up right near the garage and dropped off near the stadium. The problem came on the way back. I'm used to UNC games where the shuttles pick up and drop off at the designated stop you choose to park at. That was not the case in Orlando. The shuttles had three stops to choose from but made only one stop after the game. That meant we had to get off the bus and walk at least two blocks, in the dark, to wherever we parked. To top it all off, neither the bus driver nor the worker at the stop gave us much direction to the parking areas. Needless to say I didn't like that one bit. In my opinion, the bowl game was not managed or organized all too well - it was subpar at best. I've concluded that I'll never return to the Russell Athletic Bowl and, quite frankly, the city of Orlando again.

5) 2016

We made it to a new year! Here's hoping for a great 2016 full of new beginnings. I wanted to take a moment to thank each and every one of you for being loyal readers of my blog! It's hard to believe that I started Reflections eight years ago and I'm proud of the stories I've produced on here. My hope is that you are liking the posts and will continue to read. All the best in the new year and God Bless!

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