For football season, there is now hope, and where there's hope, there's a party


by - Senior Writer -
Clemson fans know how to tailgate.
Clemson fans know how to tailgate.

The sunshine and the hope it brings are beginning to break through the clouds. And when we are able to get together, I want to have the biggest non-football tailgate party you’ve ever seen.

University presidents and athletic directors have gone on the record this week stating that they hope to have students back on campus and in class no later than the start of the fall semester, and that’s good news (if it happens) for college football fans.

With the coronavirus pandemic affecting sports in every corner of the globe, conference commissioners and athletic directors have looked at different scenarios for the 2020 college football season. Those include alternatives to college football's current Aug. 29 start date, including playing the entire season in the spring of 2021.

However, the University of Iowa said Thursday they are hopeful all athletes at their campus can resume training on June 1. Other schools have mentioned summer openings, and many are hopeful that all concerned can resume normal activities by the start of fall class.

That’s all hope right now – let one case affect a college athlete or two and it might all come crashing down. We don’t know, and that has been the scariest part of this entire pandemic – the unknown. We simply have never encountered something like this, and timelines are fluid. But this column isn’t about that – I will let the political and societal experts hash that out.

This column is about when it does get back to normal.

With a 19-month old driving us a little crazy while we sit at home, we’ve looked for places where we can take him and not interact with other people. We’ve taken him on walks in the woods, and we’ve found open fields where he can run with abandon. Earlier this week, with the South Carolina National Guard flying F-16s in the Upstate, we took him out to Jervey Meadows to see if we could see and hear the jets.

A quick glance showed us no one else was around, and we opened the doors and let him run free in the wide-open spaces. While he ran and enjoyed the warm sunshine, I looked at the hookups for the motor homes (water) and the green grass of Jervey Meadows and breathed a silent prayer that this lot will see crowds ahead of a football game later this fall.

Death Valley is empty. The baseball and softball and soccer stadiums are quiet. It’s not what we are used to seeing or wanting to see this time of year. This is the time of year when the baseball team is making its stretch run to the ACC Tournament and a possible NCAA Tournament. We had softball for the first time in school history, and while we don’t know how the season would have played out, they were exciting to watch and you can tell that John Rittman has the program headed in the right direction.

As we stood out beyond the right-field wall of the softball stadium, there were no cheers, only the soft squealing of a happy little boy who doesn’t know anything about this world other than mom and dad and the exhilarating moments he spends outside. The absence of the cheers means nothing to him at this point. But to us, to those of us who thrill in the spectacle of sport, the silence is deafening.

In a moment of wistful reflection, and an idea was born.

In the early days of TigerNet, the members would get together and tailgate and meet each other. Those have gone away, but maybe it’s time to bring something similar back. When we get the all-clear, when we all feel safe enough to get out and be around other people, we need to fill that field with an old-fashioned tailgate. I don’t care if it’s in late May or June or July or August or if we have to wait until the fall, I want this to happen. Let’s pull out the tents and the grills and the chairs, and someone with more money and technological expertise than me can bring a TV and we can watch past games and talk sports and re-introduce ourselves to humanity.

As I watched the sun rustle the blonde locks of my son, he lifted his eyes and squinted at the sun. In that moment of perfect clarity, I knew that everything would be okay and we will get back to sports and we will get back to normal. Because that’s what hope is all about – wanting the future to be better than the present. As Dabo Swinney likes to say, the best is yet to come.

In the year of 2020, it has to be. And when it gets better, let’s get the party started.

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