Friday, November 18, 2005

The Big Game

In today's Wall Street Journal there is an article about big football rivalries around the country, but they completely miss the biggest (at least in South Carolina): the South Carolina/Clemson game.

Folks not in SC find it hard to imagine how everyone in the Palmetto state must chose one or the other of these two schools--there is no waffling. Regardless of what team one may normally root for, everyone in the state must choose the Tigers or the Gamecocks for this game.

My personal experience with The Game goes back to 1960, the first year The Game began its home-and-home run between Clemson and Columbia after being played on Thursday of State Fair Week for years. I was a freshman at Clemson that year.

It had been traditional at Clemson for all freshman men ("Rats") to have their heads shaved and be required to wear a beanie ("rat hat") until the Big Thursday Game and on until Thanksgiving if Clemson lost to Carolina. There was some controversy that fall since the game had ben moved from mid October to the end of November but since Clemson won that day, it aas the end of rat hats that year.

Another interesting custom was that on the Friday night before the Big Game, all Rats painted their faces and went out to "guard" the campus, protecting it from USC vandals. Here is a typical group.

My second Clemson/USC game, my sophmore year, had several interesting highlights. I was in the Clemson precision drill team, the Pershing Rifles, and we pereformed on the field just prior to the game.

As we were waiting to begin our performance, a USC fraternity came out on the field and did a warm-up routine making considerable fun of the folks from the cow college.

We got in our fun as well. As the drill team was marching into the stadium, one of our members, Bill Miller, the Rear Guide (and shortest man on the team) picked up a dead rooster from a Clemson fan and tied it to his side during the performance. For our Finale, we formed in two facing lines and fired a salute, and just as the salute was fired, Bill tossed the rooster high between the two lines, and it loooked for all the world like that that chicken had been plugged by32 M-1 rounds!

I don't know how reliable the linked account is, butI clearly recall that the game ended with Clemson inside the USC 10 and threatening to score the winning touchdown but losing 21-14. This was followed by a number of fights both on the field and in the stands, and I was happy we still had our drill rifles with us.

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