Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, November 29, 2014 10:51 a.m.
The Carolina-Clemson game is coming up soon, and this is going to be a quickie blog because I want to pay attention to the game. I can’t remember the last time I was looking this forward to it. It was probably before I went to college, when I was a Clemson fan, and attended the games as a fan.
My Clemson memories go back to Frank Howard, Jimmy Addison, Bo Ruffner, and Butch Sursavage (pronounced “Suhhee-savage” by Coach Howard), not to mention Tommy Suggs, Warren Muir, Billy Freeman, and “Pepsodent Paul” Dietzel at South Carolina. If my evaluation of football greatness were based solely on the games I attended, the greatest quarterback in history would be the Gamecocks’ Jeff Grantz. I saw Clemson win, 7-6, in sleet and cold, and Carolina win, 56-20, on a day that seemed perfect to the home team. I watched from the end zone, “the bank,” and, eventually, the press box, but now it’s been two decades since I’ve seen the game in person, and I’m fine watching it on TV.
(Lots of people who are not from South Carolina read these blogs, so I feel compelled to concede that, in forty-nine states, Carolina is in Chapel Hill and USC is in Los Angeles. I, however, live in the other one.)
That having been noted, it’s been decades since happiness depended on the outcome of this game. I went to college at Furman University and care more about the Paladins, and, for that matter, the hometown Presbyterian Blue Hose, than either of the Palmetto State’s principal state universities. It is impossible, though, for a South Carolinian not to care about the Carolina-Clemson game. (By the way, the reason I listed Carolina first is that the game is at Clemson, and my sportswriter’s habit is to place the visiting team first.)
So I do care. I care that it be a great game. It won’t break my heart if either team loses. Here is my basic outlook where the Gamecocks and Tigers are concerned. In general, I want both to do well, but it amuses me when they don’t. I’m not amused at the teams, but, rather, their fans. The team that loses will have a bunch of stomping-around, cussing, irritable, excuse-making, rationalizing curmudgeons on Monday. I’ll probably wander around town just to watch. The Napa Valley will have nothing on this state’s sour grapes.
Between Carolina and Clemson lies exactly one national championship, and it occurred almost thirty-four years ago. I often think about that because it seems fairly modern in my fifty-six-year-old mind. Then I realize that the 1981 Orange Bowl is as distant to the kids of today as SMU’s Doak Walker and TCU’s Davey O’Brien were to me, which is, as one of those Texans might say, “a rat fur piece.”
South Carolinians don’t care if the rest of the country thinks the Trojans are USC and the Tar Heels Carolina. South Carolinians, in general, don’t care what anyone else thinks, anyway, which is one of the reasons their ancestors started the Civil War.
I’m atypical. I don’t so much care which team wins, but I do care about the game because, damn it, I’m a South Carolinian, and I’m stubborn. I’m just not stubborn about the same things or in the same way.
Sports is important in my fiction, too. The hero of The Audacity of Dope is an ex-football player, and The Intangibles is centered on a high school football team trying to make it through the tempests of 1968. You can buy them here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1