This weekend it was round two of making the trip back over to Death Valley for some Clemson football. Although this time around there were a couple of major differences. First off, I was no longer cheering for the home team. Secondly, instead of sitting in the stands at Memorial Stadium, I was standing on the sidelines. Let me tell you about my Saturday…
Yesterday started off much in the same way that the previous Saturday had began. Sidney and I got up super early and hit the road at 5:30 a.m. We made it to Clemson by 11 a.m. and after a quick stroll downtown, we started to tailgate. About an hour into our tailgating I received a text from my great friend Kenny Dow telling me that he would be on campus soon. He had flown all the way from Seattle to Clemson to watch his uncle’s Louisville team take on the Tigers (Yes, his uncle as in Bobby Petrino). Sidney and I started walking so that by the time he had arrived with the Louisville team’s police escort, we could greet him right away.
When Sidney and I met up with Kenny at around 12:45 p.m. at one of the parking lots it was a cool deal for me. It marked the first time I had seen someone I knew prior to my move to Myrtle Beach six months ago. Him and I jabbered the whole way from the lot to Sidney’s family’s tailgate spot. Keeping Sidney company while Kenny and I caught up with each other was his cousin and the head coach’s son, Bobby Petrino Jr. A student himself at Louisville, Bobby Jr. was extremely nice and genuinely interested in the Clemson culture.
When we arrived at the tailgate, Papa Stanley warmly welcomed Kenny and Bobby and we all had a nice time visiting and getting amped up for some football. About an hour before kickoff, Kenny, Bobby, and myself headed to the stadium. You see, I was very fortunate to have received a sideline credential from Kenny. Although I have been on the sidelines for numerous football games in my life I had never been on one in a non-working role in an 80,000 seat stadium. It was so cool to watch these huge FBS players warm up right in front of my eyes and then witness the pregame show right from ground level.
The game started and let me say this: It was loud! Not to say that last weekend wasn’t loud but this weekend it was at a whole new level. The fact that the game was close, the stadium was packed, and I was on the sidelines (you hear more than when you are in the stands) helped make it a truly rocking place. Depending on what side of the field the action was on, you could find me on that side’s 25-yard line. I really enjoyed observing the sideline organization. When players came off the field they knew exactly where to go and coaches had everything down to a science. When a drunk Clemson fan jumped over the wall right in front of a Louisville sideline meeting, the assistant coaches immediately started screaming out for security. The fan was promptly arrested. They kept all student-athletes inside the player’s box as if they had erected invisible electric fences. Even when Louisville just about scored a game-winning 90-yard touchdown, coaches kept jubilant players from jumping outside the box.
Favorite of all for me though was watching Bobby Petrino work the sideline. I got to hear what he really says to the officials and I also got to hear what officials say back. It was so cool to enjoy that type of an all-access experience.
During halftime another special thing happened. I was able to bring Sidney down on the sidelines. Kenny very kindly slipped me an additional sideline credential to let her use. Even kinder, he left the stadium with me at halftime to make the long hike to his rental car to retrieve a Louisville football t-shirt for Sidney to wear (she was wearing orange). Kenny is a die hard sports marketer so probably all he wanted to do was watch that halftime show and see how Clemson engages their fans but he sacrificed that opportunity to help Sidney and myself out. What a selfless and great guy!
Sidney had a spectacular time with me down on the field. Although she had urges to cheer for Clemson, she was very professional and helped keep the integrity of the Louisville sideline. Her parents saw us on television and her friends and family in the stadium got to see her standing so close to the action. She too commented on how much louder it was on the field than on the sideline.
In the end, Louisville lost a heartbreaker, 23-17. The Cardinals had the ball first and goal with a minute remaining but came up just short. I felt bad for Kenny. For him to travel all this way and to come so close to seeing his team steal one in Death Valley it definitely wasn’t the way I wanted it to end. I also felt bad for Bobby Jr. He is such a nice guy and he is incredibly invested in the team. After a few minutes of cooling down time, Sidney and I went outside the Louisville locker room where Kenny and Bobby Jr. were sitting and said our goodbyes.
Despite the less than ideal outcome, I had a great time yesterday. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to see Kenny and incredibly appreciative for the experience he afforded Sidney and I. You bet that I will be rooting for the Louisville Cardinals the rest of the season. Don’t Blink.