I’m about to make a startling admission, at risk of expulsion from the state, a few of my friendships, and just society in general:
I’m probably the only sports fan in South Carolina who doesn’t really have an opinion on today’s South Carolina v. Clemson game.
Hell, for my first twelve years in South Carolina I didn’t even realize this was going on. I grew up in a staunchly NFL household — Sunday, not Saturday, was our day. It was customary to root for the Chargers and for the team playing Denver (and the then-L.A. Raiders, too). When 1995 rolled around and we finally got a franchise to sort of call our own, then it was root for the Panthers, for the Chargers, and against Denver and the Raiders. So my disinterest toward Carolina/Clemson doesn’t stem from a lack of knowledge of rivalry games; far from it.
When I was younger, college football totally baffled me. Why were there numbers next to the teams on the scoring bug? Why are the hashmarks so wide of the goalposts? Only one foot inbounds? Why aren’t the referees numbered, and why is that wide receiver about to kick a field goal? It perplexed the crap out of me, so I switched away from the game and watched The Weather Channel instead.
With time, I began to figure out most of these things (I still need to run the hashmark rule through The Google) and realized that, well, college is just a different set of circumstances, and I came to appreciate the ways the differences in the rules opened up the game a bit. I’m somewhat rehabilitated now; I did watch Ohio St. vs. Michigan this weekend, and I did manage to at least catch the championship game in January. I think my main issue with NCAA football is still the BCS, though — why can’t they have playoffs like every other sport? What’s with the 50-something day layoff between the final games and the bowl games? Hell, I think two weeks between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl is too long.
So that brings us to Carolina/Clemson. Now, I in my infinite cluelessness (likely induced by watching The Weather Channel all those Saturdays) only found out about the importance of this game four years ago as a freshman at Lander, where it seems the world literally stopped for about three hours while everyone watched this game. Okay, it’s the two big football schools in South Carolina going against each other…big deal. They’re not even in the same conference, and most of the time they’re not jockeying for any meaningful national championship position. But, it’s a rivalry game. It’s very much Carolina vs. Atlanta, San Diego vs. Oakland, or Washington vs. Dallas. The game also gives newspaper editors the unique opportunity to write such perverse headlines such as “TIGERS BEAT COCKS” or “COCKS TAME TIGERS” or something to that effect. Alas, with a lack of real allegiance to any of these schools, I have no weight on which side I should root for. I do hope that the game is clean from start to finish, and that the headlines tomorrow evoke a giggle. I’ll be busy, well, watching The Weather Channel.