Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, January 10, 2017, 12:52 p.m.
I can’t say for sure they’re dancing in the streets today, but I’m fairly certain they were dancing in the aisles of Raymond James Stadium in Tampa last night. My nephew, Ray Phillips, and his wife, Jessica, may have cut a rug. Now they’re fighting traffic on the way home because there’s a heap of Clemson fans headed back this way.
I watched the Tigers’ 35-31, last-second (literally) victory over Alabama at home, awash in the excitement of the national championship game of the great sport of college football but lacking the pressure that comes with being a Clemson graduate, as Ray and Jessica are.
When Ray was younger, he and I went to see the Tigers play in a couple of Peach Bowls (versus Auburn and Tennessee) and a something-or-other bowl in Orlando, Florida, against Colorado. He was good company for several Furman playoff games, too, but once he saw those big crowds and all that orange, I knew there wasn’t any way he was going to follow Uncle Monte to Furman.
I’d be tempted to say “his loss,” but I’m not in much position to make that claim at the moment.
Ray graduated from Clemson with a nice, sensible degree in business, or accounting, or one of those other disciplines that make money and bore me, and then he earned a grant that led him to a master’s degree from the University of Alabama, the Tigers’ opponent in the last two title extravaganzas. Alabama won, 45-40, last year.
Ray and Jessica, a nurse, have two gorgeous kids, three-year-old Thomas Montgomery Phillips and four-month-old Margaret Tinsley Phillips. They planned to have little Margaret with them, staring out at the pageantry with eyes both wondering and wandering, but they found out that even an infant had to pay full price to get in, so I think they made arrangements for Margaret to stay back at the house they rented with friends while Ray and Jessica, and, I suppose, their friends, cheered themselves hoarse and came back with feet firmly planted on top of the whole wide world.
My first college football game matched Clemson and Alabama, too, but I had to wait until I was nine and it didn’t turn out so well. My chief memory is of walking right past Bear Bryant on the field afterwards and thinking he might possibly part the Red Sea if it was nearby.
I also saw Clemson play Alabama during my senior year of high school. After I played on Friday night, we all took off the next morning for Tuscaloosa with bumper stickers on the back of my grandfather’s Cadillac that read: Clemson-Alabama — The Day the Tide Died.
I remember: (1.) the first two times Clemson punted, Alabama blocked them, (2.) the final score was Tide 58, Tigers 0, and (3.) I got mad at other Clemson fans berating Clemson’s quarterback in the grandstands.
That awful night had something to do with me going to Furman, and I don’t regret it, but at the time, it was quite a surprise to anyone who knew me.
It’s quite possible that, in the privacy of my living room, last night’s game was the most I rooted for Clemson since that night in Tuscaloosa, with George Wallace watching from his wheelchair and announcing before the game that Denny Stadium would be renamed Bryant-Denny Stadium.
I’m happy for the Tigers. I’m hungry for the Paladins’ resurgence. I’ve got a hankering to go somewhere myself, and I’m liable to do it here directly. Things have about played out around here.
Stop by L&L Office Supply, 114 North Broad Street, Clinton and buy one of my novels. Buy Cowboys Come Home, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Crazy of Natural Causes, The Intangibles, and/or a volume of my short stories, Longer Songs. They’re all signed and reasonably priced.
If you’d like me to ship you a signed copy, you can find my address and instructions here. If you want to speed the process up, send me a note and I’ll hook you up with my PayPal account.
Kindle versions – you don’t have to have a Kindle, just a free app for your electronic devices – of most of my books are available here. Note that my fourth, and best selling, novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, is on Kindle sale at $.99 through December 31. Links to print copies are below.
Cowboys Come Home is my brand-new, fresh-off-the-press western, a tale of two World War II veterans of the Pacific who come back home to Texas, intent on resuming their cowboy ways.
Forgive Us Our Trespasses is a tale about a crooked politician who wants to be governor, whatever it takes, and another man trying to stop him. It’s outrageous.
Crazy of Natural Causes is about the fall and rise of Chance Benford, a Kentucky football coach who reinvents himself. It’s original.
The Intangibles is about the South in the 1960s, complete with racial strife, bigotry, resentment, cultural exchange and, of course, high school football.
The Audacity of Dope is the tale of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero with a taste for the former and a distaste for the latter.
Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that all began in songs I wrote.
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