Thanksgiving thoughts: A year to remember


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<span style=Photo by Mark Mcinnis">
Photo by Mark Mcinnis

Thanksgiving.

This special holiday in the United States goes back to the time of the pilgrims, who gathered together to celebrate a bountiful harvest and have one last feast before the onset of winter.

No wonder we love our football on this holiday so much. We started out with fall camps in August, we’ve gone through the early weeks of outclassed opponents, and now most conference play is over. At Clemson, we’ve had a bountiful fall harvest that includes a number one national ranking and an undefeated record, and now we hope the feast is just ahead.

We’ve traveled down to Edisto for the holiday – the in-laws have rented a beach house – and while most everybody in the house has drifted off into a slumber, I am sitting here reflecting on the events of the past few months and realizing how thankful we all should be.

Prior to last week’s home finale against Wake Forest, I drove the car up the press box to unload all of our equipment, circled around cemetery hill and then back down to Lot 19 to park for the day. I’ve been a regular on the Tiger Pregame Show all season (hey, undefeated since I started prior to the bowl game against Oklahoma) and walked from Lot 19 to our radio spot behind the Chapman Grandstand at Doug Kingsmore Stadium.

It’s beautiful on a normal day, but game day in Clemson makes everything a little more special. I passed by fathers playing catch with their sons. I saw families setting up tents. I heard men discussing X's and O's while holding their favorite adult beverage, and I took in the sights and sounds and smells of tailgating at Clemson.

The beginning of the day was one of those postcard-perfect days – high clouds and a bright sun with a nip in the air. As dead leaves circulated in the breeze around my feet, I stopped for a moment and soaked it all in. My wife Nikki and I travel – a lot – and we call those picture perfect moments. We like to take mental snapshots and file them away for another time, and this was one of those times.

There was a bittersweet feeling to it all – we live, and we wait for college football from mid-January, through the winter and the spring and summer – counting down the days until we can tailgate and watch the Tigers run down the hill. It takes forever to get here, and then it’s gone in a flash. This season flashed by entirely too quick, but there were special moments along the way that will live forever in Clemson lore.

I was there for all of those moments, and I hope there are few more left out there for us. For all of this, I am thankful. As I walked over to do the radio show, I made sure to take in every sight, sound and smell and file it away – it’s going to be a long time before it happens again – and I felt more than a little melancholy even though there was still a game to play.

Once the show was over, we headed over through Lot 5 and towards the oculus, and I began to think about Thanksgiving and my job and Clemson and I realized there is so much to be thankful for, especially if your school is Clemson. Indulge me for a few moments, and let me name a few.

*I am thankful I can find good friends like Michael Mac Lain (father of Eric and Sean) prior to Tiger Walk for a quick pep talk and a hug. He’s active duty in the Air Force, and you can’t spend more than 30 seconds around the Major (soon to be Lt. Col) without feeding off of his energy.

*I am thankful for the spirit of Clemson fans. Nikki and I can’t tailgate – the demands of the job preclude us from actually setting up and cooking and hanging out with people – but Mike Van Gieson and Missy Nolind and even DEROBERTS of TigerNet fame are always grabbing us and making sure we eat. Our working Saturdays are made easier because of people like that.

*I am thankful that for a few days each week I get to go to the fourth floor of the WestZone and work. An office that overlooks Death Valley makes for a pretty sweet view.

*I am thankful that I am not having to deal with a coaching search in the football program and that I am not really worried about a coordinator constantly looking elsewhere. It’s a nice feeling heading into the holidays knowing that we can just concentrate on football.

*I am thankful for the ferocity of Wayne Gallman, the rhythmic grace of Deshaun Watson, the athletic poise of Jayron Kearse and the grocery store kicker named Greg Huegel. I am thankful that I got to watch guys like Shaq Lawson and spend a little time on Alexander Island. These guys are as good as it gets. I am thankful for seniors like Eric Mac Lain and B.J. Goodson, and I am thankful for the Tasmanian Devil that is Ben Boulware.

*I am thankful for our new press box and the fact that the food was ten times better this season than it has been in the past.

*I am thankful for the chance to see the beginning of an era with Monte Lee and the baseball program. I haven’t spent a lot of time around Monte, but I’ve spent enough to know I would love to play for the guy. He’s a no-nonsense baseball coach that will get the best out of his players. I walked through the new facilities again Saturday and marveled at how far we’ve come. We love the heights that Dabo Swinney has taken the football program, and I think Monte will do the same with baseball.

*I am thankful that my career has coincided with two of the greats in the Sports Information business. When I first started out, I got to meet and spend time with Bob Bradley (who once sat me down beside Frank Howard and said, “Listen.” I did). I’ve also gotten to spend a lot of time with Tim Bourret, whose mind and ability to recall stats and dates always amazes me. Both men – the definition of class and professionalism.

*I am thankful for TigerNet and all of its readers and posters. You guys are why I get to follow my passion and do what I love. B-Meist and Crump allow me the chance to help disseminate information to the best fans on the planet, and I get to do it with the girl of my dreams by my side. You guys are the best and humble me. Especially when you feed me.

*But when it comes to Clemson, I am thankful that seven times a year I can walk across the campus on a fall day and see what makes a game day at Clemson special, even if it rains. I sit in the press box during games, but the sounds of Tiger Rag and the cannon signaling a touchdown never get old. The passion of this fan base and how you turn out in even the worst of conditions never cease to amaze me. You guys rock.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody. Save a turkey leg for me.

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