My first introduction into the Palmetto State rivalry was 1987. I was 8.
The Friday before the game was donned Carolina-Clemson day at school (you immediately know where loyalties lie based upon which team comes first when naming the game), and we were encouraged to wear garnet or orange to support our team.
When a few friends showed up in garnet, I was a tad confused. I’d never really consorted with people from “that other” school. Should I treat them the same? Can they still be my friend?
My logic brought me here: Any team of a friend couldn’t be that bad if my friends liked them.
USC went on to win that game 20-7 to have their first two year period without a Clemson win in nearly 20 years.
On Monday morning, following USC’s win, the cafeteria was adorned with USC posters, streamers, and a DOT matrix banner (remember those – where the paper fed through the little holes on the outside. Then, when you were done, you removed the perforated edges) and the teachers and administrators congratulated USC over the loudspeaker.
I thought this a tad obnoxious, but figured USC won the state championship and probably deserved the honor.
The following year, Clemson won, and I was so excited for school Monday to see the celebration they would receive. It didn’t take long to realize little would be said of Clemson’s win. There were no posters or banners on the outside of the school. No decorations in the cafeteria. No school wide congratulations over the loudspeaker. Nothing.
It was at that point I realized you had to pick a side – and there was only one side to be chosen.
The orange my mom and dad proudly wore. The orange my mom’s mom and dad proudly wore. The orange I then chose to proudly wear.
And since that day, I have never looked back.
I met a girl that wears orange. My two little girls wear orange (and purple). My boss and most of my coworkers wear orange. Even my pastor wears orange.
Yet – there’s something about the Clemson-Carolina game I hate.
This hate isn’t for a lack of winning. In fact, Clemson never lost to USC while I was in school. And following USC’s win in 2001, Clemson went on to win four more in a row.
The hate isn’t out of jealousy. Our rival does plenty to keep themselves in the news – usually for the wrong reasons.
The hate isn’t due to any one person, but rather many people – namely USC fans. Not necessarily alums, but fans.
Fans that are waiting for you at the door when they win, but can’t be found when they lose.
Fans who stormed into Death Valley and took a chunk of Howard’s Rock.
Fans who lay claim to the entire state just because they’re named after it.
Fans who claim their superiority just because of conference affiliation.
Fans who state their dominance because they’ve won three games in a row for the first time in 35 years.
Fans who shout “Go Cocks”.
Fans who are incapable of having a rational conversation regarding the two teams.
You could actually lump me in with that last one. Maybe I’m part of the problem too.
That’s okay, at least I’m not a USC fan.