Clemson fans showed up, showed out and won it all
|Wednesday, January 11, 2017, 12:34 PM- -|
Clemson fans showed up and showed out.
Standing on the field at Raymond James Stadium Tuesday morning, the pandemonium of a National Championship celebration going on all around me, I turned and looked into the stands and saw Clemson fans celebrating in a way I’ve never seen or experienced.
Despite being down on the field with the players and coaches and their families, I couldn’t help but be drawn back to the images I saw in the stands. Perfect strangers were high-fiving and hugging each other; tears were flowing, and fans were leaning over the railings trying to catch the confetti that was blowing in the early-morning air.
I saw my friend Mike Roberts and his fantastic hat. I saw Dean Cox and Santa Paws. I saw people that I recognize (I see them all the time at Clemson events) but don’t know their names. It was a special moment, and I marveled at the amount of Clemson fans who showed up for the biggest party of them all.
Clemson fans easily outnumbered Alabama fans, and the fact that ticket prices stayed so high showed how much the Tiger faithful were willing to pay to be a part of something special. I know fans who tried to buy tickets outside of the stadium, couldn’t find any to buy and wound up walking through the security lines without a ticket after the scanners stopped working. The listed attendance of 74,512 was a record for Raymond James Stadium. The stadium was well over its capacity, which is listed at 65,890, and it showed that fans would do anything to be a part of that special night.
What made them show up? I think it’s because they knew something was going to happen. My buddy (and football coach) Brian Strickland made his way to Tampa with his wife, and as I was riding the media bus back from practice Saturday I saw them walking downtown. I quickly sent him a message about his desire to be there – and about the Clemson fans who were outnumbering the Bama fans – and he called it The Great Crusade.
That prompted me to write this on Facebook, and I think it’s ok to share it here. I have several thoughts pieces that will come out in the next few days, but we are going to start with this one.
You can feel it, can't you? You know this is happening, right?
Walking around Tampa Sunday afternoon, I should have been amazed at the orange blanket I saw.....but I wasn't. Clemson fans young and old have shown up to support their team. There is a reason they've shown up. Some little voice inside them, some feeling deep down inside their orange-colored heart, told them to be here for what will be a magical moment Monday night. Much like migratory birds follow some unknown map they can't explain, some instinct; these fans have descended on Tampa because they expect something special to happen.
There are middle-aged men wearing old Clemson hats, the same hats their dads wore to the 1981 Orange Bowl, and by wearing them, they are building a bridge between the past and the present, the old and the new. Young children are following their parents, and they know they are going to have a memory they will tell their own children about.
All of Clemson is here. People from Kentucky, New York, South Carolina, California and many states are here in body, but there are soldiers in Afghanistan, airmen in the Middle East, sailors in the Pacific and Marines guarding embassies across the globe who will be here with you, if only in spirit. All of Clemson will be here to see what will unfold.
Many of you will carry the memories of loved ones with you, loved ones who would have wanted to see this day. When the confetti falls, a small part of you will smile, knowing they are looking down and celebrating with you.
The ghosts of Clemson's greats, whose spirits are forever a part of the lore of Death Valley, are waiting. Former players who are still alive have traveled to Tampa in droves, realizing that even though are not a part of this team, what they helped build, what they sweated and bled for, will reach a pinnacle and that their contribution means just as much as the current players.
If you could walk into the locker room tomorrow night before the game, you would get a tear in your eye, and you would tell those players that when they walk out on the field, they carry a piece of all of you out there. They aren't out there alone, the spirit of Clemson nation walks and runs with them. You would tell them that this win isn't just about 2016, it's about the justification for all the sweltering noon kickoffs in September, the rain against Notre Dame and countless cold nights on the road at Wake Forest.
It's coming. You can feel it, can't you?
It happened. And many people, those who followed that instinct, that clear little voice in their ear, were there to see it.
Clemson showed up, showed out, and won it all.