It’s been a woeful college football season for Gamecock Nation – and for this long-suffering fan base, that’s saying something.
Even longtime coach and onetime program savior Steve Spurrier couldn’t be bothered to stick this one out, walking away midseason once it became clear how bleak things were. South Carolina finished 3-9 on the year, closing out with a five-game skid that included a loss to FCS opponent The Citadel. SMH.
But we Chickens are a hardy lot and have endured far leaner seasons than this one. Going 3-9 sounds miserable — until I remember that I attended South Carolina during the 1998 season (1-10) and its ensuing 1999 campaign (0-11). Yep. 1-21. THAT’S misery.
No, by far the hardest pill to swallow for Gamecock fans this season has been witnessing the rise of in-state arch-rival Clemson – undefeated, and playing for both a national championship and a chance at the first 15-0 record in FBS history.
We are a captive audience to a man-child named Dabo and his bewildering Swinney-isms. We are at once helpless, affronted, aghast.
On Monday, we are all Gamecocks. Here’s why you should be, too. (And please note, this is all in good fun.)
1. CLEMSON WORSHIPS A ROCK
Howard’s Rock is spoken of in hushed tones, but its origin story oughta demystify it for you. In the 1960s, a useless chunk of flint was discovered in the California desert and unceremoniously bequeathed to then-Clemson coach Frank Howard, who presumably said "Thanks?" before promptly affording it the kind of pomp and circumstance it deserved — reportedly using it as a doorstop for years.
Somehow, against all odds, that self-same rock is now encased in a display that sits at the top of a hill in Memorial Stadium and occupies a vaunted place in Tiger tradition. Players rub it and believe it has mystical powers. That’s borderline NSFW. And also ridiculous.
2. CLEMSON HAS HELP RUNNING DOWN THAT HILL
The Tigers allegedly have one of the greatest entrances in college football; Brent Musburger has called it the most exciting 25 seconds in the sport. But do you know what’s more impressive than running down a hill? Anything. Even running UP a hill.
And do you know what part of this ritual you don’t see on TV? The "breathtaking" first stage, where Clemson players climb aboard buses for a farcical two-minute ride all the way to … the other side of their own stadium — so they can run down a hill that they presumably could have walked to in the first place. Overrated.
3. CLEMSON PROPAGATES DREADFUL FASHION
Actually, this isn’t quite fair. If you can make orange-and-purple overalls seem fashion-forward, or if you still have Halloween decorations dangling from your gutter in January, then perhaps Clemson is for you after all.
4. CLEMSON PLAYS FOOTBALL IN A CEMETERY
Speaking of Halloween, the Tigers have nicknamed their stadium "Death Valley" (it allegedly was built next to a literal graveyard, but more on that later), and they erect creepy tombstones on its grounds with epitaphs that celebrate every big victory.
Do you know who doesn’t do this? Teams that are used to celebrating big victories — and programs that don’t want to frighten small children. Fail.
5. CLEMSON IS A GHOST TOWN
Two of the six colleges that make up Clemson University purport to teach architecture and engineering. But as of this writing, Clemson has yet to build anything to do in its own city. There’s a "downtown" area (two full blocks!), a train depot and a reservoir – all the elements of a bustling 1885 frontier outpost. But again, very little in the way of what you’d call infrastructure.
"Save for the downtown, sidewalks are largely absent, but some streets have bike paths," reads a forlorn passage from Clemson’s Wikipedia page. It might just as well be the motto on the town’s letterhead.
6. CLEMSON DEFACES CURRENCY
When Clemson fans travel for important road games, they buy up bunches of $2 bills, stamp them with the Tiger paw logo and selfishly introduce them into the fragile ecosystem of whatever city they’re visiting. Presumably this is to announce their presence, which seems redundant given that paying in cash is already so rare and that using $2 bills to do so is rarer still — and considering their team colors already glow in the dark (see above).
You know … just so you’ll know they’ve been in town.
Oh, they’re the "Tigers?" How original. Might as well have picked the "Bulldogs," or the "Toyota Priuses." Hell, they’re not even the most recognizable Tigers in their own region of the country.
Oh, and they play in "Death Valley?" California had it first, LSU’s done it better, and it now basically belongs to The Undertaker, but it’s OK, guys. You do have the orange-and-purple overalls market cornered.
Kenley Young is a college football editor and digital content producer for FOXSports.com. He is married to a Clemson fan and may well live to regret this post. Follow him on Twitter @kenleyyoung. And send help.