The Stubborn Struggle

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Homer Jordan, Number E (the negative was flipped), the Count of Monte Carlo and hero of Clemson's national championship season. (Monte Dutton)

Homer Jordan, Number E (the negative was flipped), the Count of Monte Carlo and hero of Clemson’s national championship season. (Monte Dutton)

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.

I'll probably root for whichever team is behind.

I’ll probably root for whichever team is behind.

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

 

About Monte

For 20 seasons, I mostly wrote about NASCAR. I'm still paying attention, but I'm spending more of my time these days writing novels and songs. I try to blog regularly on whatever happens to strike my fancy.
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One Response to The Stubborn Struggle

  1. John Irby says:

    Interesting, this might be one of Spurrier’s most disappointing seasons at USC. They are 6-5, and barely that. Had Florida not taken gas at the end of their seemingly-locked-down “win” v. USC a few weeks back, this game might have been for just minimal bowl eligibility.

    Dabo’s Clemson team has to be frustrated too: They came oh-so-close to knocking off ACC bully, Free Shoes U earlier this year. Had that happened, Clemson might have been heading to the ACC title and NC playoff spot.

    So it is all down to the rivalry. For USC, it will look more attractive toting a 7-5 record into a minor (Your Corporate Name Goes Here) Bowl than 6-6. For Clemson, 9-3 might get them into a lesser New Year’s Day bowl game that accepts ACC teams.

    Maybe they can put on a show similar to yesterday’s 68-67 WKU overtime win over Marshall (thanks to a 2-point conversion)?

    Hope so.

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