|Sturgis: Clemson Fans “Get It”|
|by Mark Sturgis - Contributor - Monday, September 16, 2013 10:31 AM||
OK, I’ll admit; I had no choice but to get it. And I make no apologies for the fact that I still get it. College football was instilled in my brain at an early age. My father is a 1957 Clemson graduate and some of my earliest memories as a child are tailgating under the trees by the water in what is now Lot 4. I remember passing Bar B Q sandwiches from car to car on yet another rainy road trip to Carter Finley Stadium when NC State’s parking lots were nothing but grass fields. I remember being allowed by my Dad to announce over the CB Radio to our group of five cars on the way to the 1977 Gator Bowl that it was time for the “Tiger Train” to exit.
I’m thankful Clemson fans get it. All through high school going to Clemson games home and on the road was an event. I’m also thankful Alabama fans get it. I wanted to major in Broadcast and Film Communications and that’s why I attended the University of Alabama. The simple fact that football was an integral part of the University makeup helped confirm the decision to leave home was the correct one for me.
I’m thankful that fans of other schools from Virginia Tech to Florida State to Georgia to South Carolina and all the way out to Texas get it. Universities like Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma and others get it as well. But there are many others that don’t and it’s hard for me to reason.
College football is a celebration that comes only to your campus but seven times a season. It’s the pageantry, the tailgating, the game, the post-game tailgating, and the lasting and lifelong memories. It’s easy to recall crowding around the television set at my older brother’s apartment in Clemson when he was a student just hours after another Tiger win to watch the “ABC Prudential Post Game Show” to see if there was a Clemson highlight. That was a big deal back then and scores were hard to come by as “the ESPN” was yet to be formed. I can hear Chris Schenkel’s voice as I type.
I was impressed with the crowd at Clemson last time out. It was South Carolina State, it was 12:37, and it was hot. Minus a small pocket of empty seats where visiting fans sit, Death Valley was full. Just twenty minutes earlier David Hood and I commented it looked like there would be a “whole lot of no shows”. That did not happen because Clemson fans get it.
This inspired me to take a look around at the attendance of other games on the same Saturday. Yes, we know Athens was rocking versus South Carolina and Miami was actually sold out for a change. There wasn’t a ticket to be had for Notre Dame at Michigan. But my jaw hit the floor when I saw there were 21,000 available at Tennessee as the rebuilding Vols faced a Bobby Petrino led Western Kentucky squad fresh off an upset of Kentucky. Tennessee has dropped to the point that only 86,000 fans show up on one of those seven precious Saturdays along the banks of the Tennessee River? After living in Knoxville for nine years I never thought I would see that day come.
Tar Heel brass has overseen a massive improvement and small expansion of Keenan Stadium to 63,000 seats. North Carolina fans showed up to the tune of 48,000 for the Tar Heels home opener against Middle Tennessee. Maryland built the entire tower on one side of their stadium to bring capacity to 54,000. Terps fans don’t seem to care as only 38,000 attended the blowout of Old Dominion.
Vanderbilt, much like South Carolina, is enjoying the “golden years” of Commodore football under James Franklin. Gamecock fans are fully invested in their program, only 32,000 fans turned out at Dudley Field for Vanderbilt’s win against Austin Peay. There were plenty of seats available at NC State, Kentucky, Arkansas and all over the country.
I know the economy is hurting. I understand tickets can be expensive. I realize that every game is now on television. There’s also nothing like the memories formed from spending all day on campus and soaking in everything for what it’s worth. The day provides us with a social outlet, the drama of the game itself, and the emotions of celebration in victory or the depression of defeat.
I’m glad Clemson fans get it.
Listen to Mark Sturgis on “Straight Up with Sturg” from 7-9 PM weekdays on WCCP 104.9 FM in Upstate SC.
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