Andrew Dys

Different paths lead Rock Hill fans to Super Bowl

Among those cheering wildly at Super Bowl 50 – for the Carolina Panthers to destroy the Denver Broncos – will be at least two York County guys, who could not be any more different.

Elliott Close, of the Fort Mill Springs Close family, is a minority owner of the Panthers along with his brother, Derick. The two Close brothers were among 16 original investors more than 20 years ago who bought small shares of the Panthers team to go along with Jerry Richardson’s controlling ownership.

Elliott Close and other investors including his brother Derick, who lives in Charlotte but operates Springs Creative in Rock Hill, took a chartered flight Friday furnished by the team. Their tickets were a gift from Panthers majority owner Jerry Richardson. Another sister is also going, along with the three sibling’s children, meeting in California from different flights and using tickets that everybody had to pay for, Elliott Close said.

Even though he is a part owner with a very small piece of the action, Elliott Close is far more – a fan. Last week, a Charlotte television interviewed Elliott Close at a Cherry Road store buying pennants and other Panthers stuff. Close came across as just another guy. The TV person had no idea who Ell Close was, and Close didn’t offer that he is one of the team’s minority owners.

Close stood there on TV and spoke about loving the team for the joy it brings to people.

“The success of the team is great to see – hopefully it is a dynasty in the making,” Close said.

Still, Close who ran for the United States Senate 20 years ago against Strom Thurmond will be an NFL owner, no matter how small, at Sunday’s game. All the joys that the team has brought both Carolinas in its incredible regular season and playoff run to the Super Bowl, has truly been a spectacular and uniting experience for so many thousands of fans, Close said.

Not every person going to the game from York County has a textile heritage family name that is part of the past, present and future of York County. Mark Kaveh is an immigrant from Iran who owns a liquor and beer store on Celanese Road. He never saw a football game until the Panthers were created two decades ago. He is a huge fan.

He goes to all the home games and went to the playoff games. Now, a cousin from Iran who lives in San Francisco somehow got a ticket to Sunday’s game. The cousin did not tell Kaveh the cost, but tickets are being sold online for amounts well in the thousands of dollars.

“I am going to the Super Bowl!” Kaveh said. “Me! I am going to the Super Bowl!”

Like Close, Kaveh flew to California on Friday. He was not on a chartered flight. He cobbled together the money for the fare and will stay with another cousin not 10 minutes from the stadium.

With Close and Kaveh – two people who could not be more different – the allure of the Panthers becomes crystal clear. The success of the team, the rooting for the same team by all people of all backgrounds, brings all people together under one flag.

“The Carolina Panthers – Keep pounding!” Kaveh said.