THE FINAL 49:
During the final 49 weeks until Kickoff 2013, we will take a moment each week to look at various aspects of the football program.
Apr. 21, 2013
By Tom Whitestone
Somewhere between the huge crowd and the great plays, the true value of the Charlotte 49ers football Spring Game lives.
Maybe you loved the camraderie. Maybe you loved the football. Maybe you just loved the brilliant sunshine.
There was tailgating and 49er Pride, there were cheers and chants and there was plenty of green.
And as the team raced out of the tunnel, through the smoke and rows of cheerleaders, to midfield, there were many who couldn't believe there eyes.
The Charlotte 49ers were playing football.
"How about our fan base?" head coach Brad Lambert said afterwards. "Just phenomenal. It was a real shot in the arm for our guys. To go out and play in front of a big crowd like that, it was a lot of fun for us."
For nosetackle Larry Ogunjobi, seeing was believing because he thought his ears were playing tricks on him. As the team gathered in the tunnel, he thought the crowd noise was being piped in over loudspeakers.
And slot receiver Austin Duke: "When we came back out, we were all like, “this is real”. It was time for us to show out and time to go out and do what we’ve been working so hard on since we got here. It was just a great turnout. The fans were amped, they were live. It was just an overall exciting experience."
And that excitement was certainly not reserved for the players. From the moment the lots opened at 9, to the moment the gates opened at 11:30, to the moment the team ran out out of the tunnel at 12:56 to the moment the 49ers kicked off at 1:00 p.m., "the fans were amped, they were live."
Reading the twitter timeline, you can feel the energy, excitement and pride that defined the day for many of the 13,950 fans.
Many included pictures. Pictures of good friends and old friends, pictures of the stadium and game action -- and the most appropriate: pictures of families.
Especially, pictures of kids.
Proud parents eagerly posted pix of their kids at the stadium, some no older than a couple weeks. Some of these kids will not know a time when the Charlotte 49ers didn't have football. They will grow up with it. For the parents and grandparents that pose with them, that, alone, is priceless.
Some tweets say it simply, as twitter is meant to do.
"Great day to be a Niner."
"Today was awesome."
Indeed many found the day "awe" inspiring.
"Awesome time at the spring game today. Pumped for August 31st."
"What a great day for Charlotte! awesome crowd! awesome atmosphere! awesome football!"
Others wore their emotions on their sleeve, as it were:
"I definitely have sunburn in the shape of a heart on my chest. Now you can physically see my love for the #charlotte49ers"
"Our stadium is too beautiful," one fan tweeted, probably not even realizing that the most important word in the tweet was "our".
And then there is this: one of my favorites, because it's so simple, yet speaks to the heart of why football was added in the first place: "I love my school."
"I love my school."
You want to know the true value of football. There it is.
It lives in the smiles of little kids enjoying their first 49ers football game and in the smiles of their parents and grandparents doing the same.
It lives in the words "our" and "my".
And it lives in the love burned into your chest.