Clemson Football

Fall, Death Valley, and the sea of orange... 82,000 of your "closest friends" screaming and cheering; the sheer vibration of voices shaking the stadium. There is absolutely no better place to be on a Saturday afternoon, this time of year, other than maybe a deer blind. The family-friendly environment, die hard traditions, and fierce rivalries even led Southern Living to list tailgating at Clemson University as the best in the nation. Tiger Rag blaring everywhere you stroll, meeting the players at Tiger Walk, watching as the buses pull up to Howard's Rock, and Dabo and our boys charging down “The Hill”, all make it awesome to be involved in. Many make the mistake of thinking football begins with a coin toss and opponents choosing to receive or defend but they are wrong. Actually, football begins in predawn darkness with two opposing fan bases setting up tents, tables, grills, corn hole, and a myriad of other "necessities."

Each tailgater must determine his/her own necessities. For instance, my wife requires diet Dr. Pepper, purple sunscreen and colored lip stuff. My necessities are completely opposite. I want good friends, lots and lots of food (boiled peanuts, chicken tenders, dips, chips, sandwiches, crockpot chili, the list goes on and on), and my favorite jersey (orange of course). Our routine consists of meeting our crew early in the morning at the Jervey Gym, our tailgating destination, and pulling out and setting up our home away from home equipped with satellite, HD TV, and generators (our style of roughing it) so we can catch up on pre-game predictions and other games while we await kickoff. There is always so much to do, and, yes, it is a lot of work, but being involved in Tiger life is worth it. It is definitely a must see.

Be prepared to come early and stay late as traffic is always a concern, and prep for the weather. Early in the season is usually sweltering. Bring lots of water as temperatures can be in the mid to high 90's. Frogg Toggs (cooling rags) and ice really help keep core temperatures down as well, especially if you're like me and can't sweat a drop due to my SCI. Clemson has really done a fantastic job of having misting stations and shade near concession booths, but it can still be hot.

Know your route, with thousands of fans heading towards the stadium, dodging foot traffic in a wheelchair is sometimes your own version of the running of the bulls being "vertically challenged". Keep your tickets in hand and build a rapport with seating personnel, as many truly don't know the difference in wheelchair seats and ADA. There's nothing wrong with helping to educate stadium personnel. Cheer loud and wave your team’s banner with pride, but don't be a jerk. A quick way to get into a confrontation is to enter an opposing team’s stadium with a nasty attitude, especially in the south.

Whether you pull for the ACC, SEC, Big 10, or Pac-12, back your team in the good times and the bad, and remember these are still kids, albeit some rather large ones. As Head Coach Dabo Swinney told us at a meet and greet once, "Not all of these players are NFL prospects, but all have the ability to be productive men in society". As always, Go Tigers!!

Mike

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