I celebrated my birthday weekend doing what I would want to do more than anything else: Watching football. To make the occasion even sweeter my pleasure was maximized as I just didn’t get to “watch football.” Rather, I had the opportunity to travel to a major college football destination for an awesome gameday experience.
Early Saturday morning, Sidney and I hit the road for Clemson, South Carolina. My girlfriend had arranged the whole day for me with tailgating, Clemson vs. North Carolina State game tickets, and hotel reservations. The five hour drive seemed to go quickly as we arrived in Clemson at around 11:30 a.m. After we parked, we walked through campus by legions of tailgating fans before we converged on the tailgate of the father of Sidney’s brother-in-law.
Affectionately referred to as “Papa Stanley,” we hung out at his tailgate while enjoying deep fried pork chops, chicken strips, macaroni cheese, and cold beverages. After filling our stomachs, we went to the most popular public tailgate spot at Clemson, the Esso Club. A former gas station, the place is now a famous bar that throws one heck of a party on Clemson football Saturdays. Sidney and I went up on this wood stage structure that overlooked all the tables and activity outside. With a bucket of beer in front of us and a television showing the day’s games behind us, we people-watched and had a great time.
Upon leaving Esso Club we made a quick return stop at Papa Stanley’s tailgate and then went right to Clemson Memorial Stadium. We had to hustle a little bit but we got inside the stadium and made it to our seats right before the team took part in the most heralded Clemson tradition: Running Down the Hill. If you haven’t heard of it, the Clemson football team makes its pregame entrance by literally running down a hill located behind one of the end zones as orange balloons fly in the air. Sidney made sure I got to see this iconic college football tradition.
Our seats were located about 20 rows up on the 30-yard line. Take into consideration that the stadium holds 81,000 people and you can probably understand that we had amazing seats. It was an absolutely gorgeous day. Kickoff was at 3:30 p.m. and the sun was shining the whole time on a 65 degree afternoon. The stadium was a complete sea of orange, making it a really cool atmosphere to watch a game in. The video board was crystal clear and the game presentation well done. In-game advertisements and sponsorship promotions were just like what you see (and as plentiful) at any other college football stadium. While not the loudest venue, the fans were very passionate and the school’s signature C-L-E-M-S-O-N cheer was always done with great enthusiasm. Fans were also very nice. One woman showed Sidney and I where our seats were and throughout the game the people around us offered up high-fives in our direction.
There were lots of high-fives to go around. Clemson obliterated North Carolina State, 41-0. We enjoyed watching several highlight reel type plays including a record-tying feat by one of the best defensive players in the country. Right at the part of the field where our seats were, Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley tied the school sack record by leveling the Wolfpack quarterback causing a fumble in which he caught in mid-air and returned for a touchdown. Yep, there was a lot to cheer about throughout the game. My favorite in-game stadium moment came between the third and fourth quarter when the video board showed a sweet video of the Clemson players going through strenuous workouts both in the weight room and on the football field. After numerous instances of student-athletes depicted pushing the limits the team’s “All-In” slogan flashed and the words “Fourth Quarter” appeared. It was a great way to pump up the crowd and show that the Tigers had trained all year for the most important quarter of a football game.
Despite the blowout, we stayed until the very end of the game. Walking back to the car we passed by countless fans getting ready for post-game tailgating. Traffic was heavy and it took us a long time to get out of the Clemson area. We drove for about 50 miles before settling in a town called Simpsonville for the night. Sidney and I went to Applebee’s where we watched the late college football games and recounted the day’s experience. This morning after breakfast at Cracker Barrel we traveled back to Myrtle Beach. I had an amazing trip and am so thankful to Sidney for putting it together. Clemson has a great thing going on! Don’t Blink.