It is rivalry week and there is a different smell to the air along with a double dose of enthusiasm as we count the hours before the Tigers and the Gamecocks hook up in Columbia.
Outsiders to this rivalry don’t get it. And I don’t care if they do or not.
Last week, the television moguls sitting in their suits in Bristol passed on the option of broadcasting this game to a national audience. Evidently, there are games across the country that carry a bigger national appeal than a 7-3 South Carolina team versus a 6-4 Clemson team. It took a public outcry from the state of South Carolina before they begrudgingly agreed to broadcast the game on ESPN2 to residents of this state. So be it.
Writers within this state have written, and continue to write, that this game lacks the national appeal of other rivalry games from around the country. They can hardly fathom what it means to want to win this game so badly it consumes you for this entire week. So be it.
College football fans in Georgia, Utah, California, New York, and around the country more than likely cannot tell you anything about this rivalry game without the use of the Internet and books for research. So be it.
Web sites rank the top twenty rivalries in the nation and the Clemson/South Carolina game is not included. So be it.
There are only a few people other than fans for either of these two football programs that care one bit about this game this week and who wins or loses. So be it.
There seems to be a push to get this rivalry beyond the border of South Carolina and into the living rooms of football fans across the country. Talk of moving the game to Thanksgiving weekend by both administrations (prior to being forced to do so by the ACC) was debated for the reason of trying to expose others to this rivalry.
The bottom line is nobody outside of this state and these programs really cares about this game. And that is perfectly fine with me.
I don’t toss and turn at night in anticipation of Southern Cal and Notre Dame. I don’t plan ahead to make sure I’m in front of a television to see Michigan and Ohio State. I don’t host parties at my house to watch Auburn and Alabama.
Why? Because I could care less about those rivalries other than the obvious interest simply as a college football fan watching college football on television.
And I could care less whether others understand, appreciate, or care about the Clemson/South Carolina rivalry.
This game, between these two instate schools, is as good as any rivalry in the nation because of what it means to the people of this state. We work with each other daily and in some cases live together as mixed marriages. I have as many relatives that are South Carolina fans as I have Clemson.
I can’t go one single day without seeing a South Carolina bumper sticker or license plate in my daily travels. It is the same for South Carolina fans in seeing Clemson decals and paraphernalia on a daily basis.
We have to live this rivalry every single day, mainly because we have no choice but to live with it daily. During a year when you win there is a sense of serenity that cannot be duplicated. When you lose, there is a sense of frustration that stays with you until the next football season.
In a nutshell, this game means everything. I don’t begrudge those outsiders in the media for not understanding the importance. I don’t begrudge the television suits for not grasping our importance in the game. And I don’t belittle other college football fans for not caring about the passion that this rivalry entails.
And I don’t care to try and promote the rivalry beyond these borders because I understand the futility in trying to do such a thing.
I know how this rivalry feels. I know how my stomach churns in the days leading up to the game. I know how my heart races the day of the game in anticipation. I know how I will feel Saturday when I catch my first glimpse of Williams Brice Stadium.
And I know what type of emotions I will feel if Clemson wins the game and how that will contrast so drastically to what it will feel like if Clemson loses.
This is the biggest game in the world to you and me. This is the biggest game in the world to the fans that donate money to these schools. This is the biggest game in the world to the coaches that depend so much on winning this game to help their security. This is the biggest game in the world to these players that come from towns and counties where Tigers and Gamecocks both reside and are ready to rib those very players when they come home on Christmas break.
For all of the above, this is a great rivalry that needs no further justification. Not from the television suits. Not from the media geeks that grew up in far off places. Not from college football fans from around the nation that have their own schools to worry about.
This rivalry is ours. I like it that way.
This is the greatest football rivalry in the world…to you and me.
End of story.