This is a great week in Warren. Just seeing the old Panther up on the scoreboard in Mollenkopf Stadium makes my heart soar. It’s a great week for memories and fun conversations with people all over town who are equally excited. I don’t know who decided to do this or what their motivation was, but it was a brilliant idea and a wonderful opportunity to heal the rift that has separated the town for more than a decade.
Panther week began for many of us on Monday when Cloyd Abruzzo, Allen Anderson, Tom Daily, Ric James, Dan Sferra, Craig Simons, Bob Speicher and I, Panther teammates from the late ‘60s, got together to honor two of our teammates who are no longer with us. We sponsored the conversion of a lot on Atlantic directly across from the stadium as part of the gregg’s garden initiative, and Monday evening we dedicated the lot to Don Campbell, who died young and was a genuine hero, and Bill Schumacher who died a year ago last week after living the kind of life about which books are written.
The ceremony was brief and irreverent (as I know both Don and Bill would have wanted); when we finished we walked across the street to the football complex to meet with Coach Steve Arnold and his team, who will don the red and white and the black cat patch on Friday.
While I don’t know whose idea this was I do know it would not have happened without Steve Arnold’s support and his ability to get his players to buy into the idea – even though they were all born after they stopped making new Panthers.
We told the team three things. First, that we are proud of having them wear the old colors because they play with their heads and their hearts as well as their bodies. Second, we wanted to remind them that, if you are lucky, your teammates are your teammates for life, and there we stood – black and white, east-siders and west-siders — living proof of that fact.
Finally, we are looking forward to seeing them beat the snot out of Bedford and get into the playoffs. If you haven’t seen them play, do yourself a favor and come out Friday night for Panther Throwback Night. This is a talented, disciplined, blue-collar team that has no quit in it. They represent Warren very well.
So, then it was on to the BV for a couple of drinks and a few more stories. There was a booth full of other former Panthers who were actually older than us; we didn’t know them but of course in Warren it’s never more than 1% of separation so the party expanded. Then Mayor Franklin stopped in to pick up dinner and that lead to more talk and one more drink. What better place to end the evening than under the gaze of Uncle Nick’s photo?
The fun continues. Tonight’s bon fire begins at 6:00 p.m. in the Atlantic Street parking lot at the north end of Mollenkopf. Friday’s game starts at 7:00 p.m. The Old Panther Pride will hold down a section on the south end of the east (old) stands. Stop by and share a growl.