Fan apologizes for inciting TB defense

Updated: November 12, 2003, 2:19 PM ET
Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. --The Carolina Panthers fan who briefly inspired the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by taunting their defense has apologized and said his comments were spur of the moment.

Joe Muscarello, aka the "Carolina Prowler," was selected as the "Fan of the Game" in the fourth quarter of Sundays' game.

Handed the microphone during a timeout with Carolina leading 20-14, Muscarello -- dressed in full cat attire -- called out Bucs defender Simeon Rice for guaranteeing Tampa Bay would win.

"Simeon Rice and Warren Sapp, you guaranteed a win," he said as he was being broadcast on the Ericsson Stadium scoreboard. "Well, we guarantee we're going to kick your butt."

Rice then registered two sacks on the next three plays and the Bucs took a 24-20 lead. Carolina rallied for a 27-24 victory in the closing minute.

Muscarello, a loan specialist for Bank of America, has since apologized.

"If I offended anyone -- and especially the team or coaching staff -- I apologize," Muscarello told The Charlotte Observer. "I wanted to get our fans fired up. I didn't even think about getting Tampa Bay fired up."

The crowd initially loved Muscarello's comments. But as the momentum shifted to the Bucs, Muscarello said he began to feel uncomfortable.

"People around me were saying 'I think you got the other team fired up,' " he said. "I had visions of people coming up in my face screaming."

Muscarello, who attended the game with his 9-year-old son, left his seats before the finish to avoid the crowd.

He said he'll be back Sunday for Carolina's game against the Washington Redskins in his cat outfit, but with a little less enthusiasm.

"Next time, I'll have to hold my enthusiasm a little bit," he said. "I apologize for the comments, but not for being a fan."


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press