Brady, Jeff, Brent and Pete- Go Tigers!
After a week that was soured by a new level of vitriol surrounding the Palmetto state rivalry, it was welcome redemption. I have always loved Clemson-Carolina rivalry week and distinctly remember realizing, even in elementary school, what a big game it was. And I've been in the stands for many of those rivalry games over the years- from the 63-17 route in Williams-Brice to last year's frustrating Clemson loss in Death Valley. But I'm not sure I've ever seen the level of ugliness displayed (on both sides) after the Gamecocks won their 3rd game in a row against the Tigers. I realize I am in a small minority, but having received a degree from both institutions, I find it hard to pull against USC when they are not playing Clemson- or at least to be terribly vocal about it. I felt truly sorry for Marcus Lattimore when he got hurt earlier in the season. The best thing for our state would be if both teams came to the post-Thanksgiving day game 11-0. Of course I want Clemson to win, but I realize that sometimes it won't go my way.
Carolina was the team featured this year on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Carolina has had incredible recruiting classes for the past three years. Carolina has a coach that's won multiple national championships. Clemson was supposed to go 7-5 or 8-4 this year, at best. So it's no surprise that Carolina dominated every aspect of last week's game in Columbia. And won with enough conviction to land a great bowl game. So why all the hate for a Clemson team that played incredibly well against Virginia Tech and won the ACC for the first time in 20 years?
Dabo's rant, despite receiving ardent criticism from USC's fans, was true, for the most part. And it did exactly what I think Dabo intended it to do- took some of the burden and attention off of a down Tiger team. No one in DC thinks "Carolina" is the University of South Carolina- they all attribute that nickname to the Tarheels. When I tell people I went to USC for law school, they ask how I ended up on the west coast. However I have had the privilege of meeting Dr. Pastides, South Carolina's President, and I know he is just as passionate about making Carolina great as President Barker is about continuously making Clemson better. Thank goodness USC is not Clemson- they serve two entirely different purposes, and having them function similarly would be wasteful in a state with limited resources. And thank goodness for Dabo Swinney, who speaks openly about his Christian faith, cares about his players on and off the field, and is fully engaged in campus activity and even showed up on Bowman Field during Homecoming week to help pomp floats.
One of my absolute favorite people at USC Law is Sonya Paulk, in the Dean's office, whose son Rodney plays for the stellar USC defense. The Charleston Post and Courier did a great article recently on Rodney, and it was knowing Rodney's mama, along with all of my other dear friends who love cheering for the Gamecocks, that changed my opinion about the rivalry. When I think about them, I find it hard to muster any hatred for a group of 18-22 year olds who are just doing what they love on the football field. While the rivalry is good fun, I wish that this Christmas season especially, we could put aside our differences and show each other some respect and good will. There is so much more to life than football.