Sunday, October 13, 2013

Week 7 - Where Eagles Dare

The Tailgate rolled into Clemson, SC this weekend for the matchup between the Boston College Eagles and the #3 team in the nation, the Clemson Tigers. This would be my first trip to “Death Valley”, SC and completes my triumvirate of College Football’s Death Valleys: Clemson, LSU Death Valley – Baton Rouge, LA and the other being Meth Valley, Fresno, CA. The name Death Valley was given to Clemson Stadium in the 1940’s by the coach of an opposing football team who experienced only losing at Clemson and likened it to going to Death Valley. This game had been two years in the making for me as I promised my most senior sister that I would meet her there when BC played at Clemson again. All other games this year were anchored off of this one. This venue has been on my bucket list since the Clemson glory days of Danny Ford and the Perry brothers. 

The weekend kicked off with a joint BC/Clemson party Friday night in Greenville, SC hosted by the Fee family that has ties to both schools.  The special guest speaker was BC Athletic Director Brad Bates. Great food, entertainment and camaraderie were in abundance. Saturday morning our Caravan of BC loyalists led by Pops and Peg Leblanc and Rick and Cilla Gagne left Greenville for the 45 minute trek to Clemson. Our Tailgate was easy to spot as it was the only BC canopy in a sea of Orange and Purple in Lot 2, the premier location for tailgating at Clemson. We could not have ordered up more perfect weather as it was another blue sky, 80 degree day for CFB tailgating. A mere chip shot away from “Death valley” stadium, we raised the US and BC flags on the pole, assembled tents, tables, grills and bar and the rager “Eagle Style” was on. Our crew also consisted of my brother Brian, Sister Patsy AKA The Mother OF All Foxes (TMOAF’s) and her husband BC Barney and Tiny Timmy, the golf ringer. Additionally a crew of their friends that were paroled for the weekend from the Southport institute of party animals made the five hour trek from the Carolina coast. 

What, do you get a free bowl of soup with those pants?

TMOAF when she forgets her meds.

Our Five Star tailgate main courses consisted of Pop’s secret recipe bloody marys, Patsy’s chicken wings, Peg’s meatballs and get this, grilled Lobster tails!!!.  Rick did a masterful job manning the grill and was last seen interviewing for a short order cook job at the local Bojangles. However, his thick Boston accent was a deterrent and they couldn’t understand his answers. A group of us decided to walk the tailgate lot to inspect the sites and get our cardio activity in. Adorned in BC threads, we were greeted by almost every tent we passed with a “Welcome to Clemson, we are so glad to have you here”, as well as “here, try this food and what can I get you to drink?” I have never met a more hospitable group of host fans at any game I have ever been to. One tent we stopped into belonged to the grandnephew of the man who brought “Howard’s Rock” from Death Valley, CA and presented it to legendary Clemson coach Frank Howard. Another neighborhood of tailgaters that took us in for drink and food was headed up by a Clemson loyalist named Crad and his son Jason. Crad, sorry we did not make it back after the game. I will see you at the BCS championship! (drop me a comment below with your contact info). The Clemson game day atmosphere and tailgating is outstanding on all accounts. Unfettered tailgating (no time limits, you can pretty much set up anywhere on campus and you can do whatever you want without breaking the law), incredible spirit, unrivaled traditions and respect for the game of football. Our pre game tailgate ended with the BC Eagle Tailgaters traditional “Eagle Up” shooters of yellow Limoncello and red strawberry schnapps.  

Barney and the boys

Patsy holding court

Rick grilling up the chow

The Leblancs, Dan and the Gagnes

The descendants of Howard's Rock

Diversity at Clemson

Crad and his crew taking us under their wing

Pops leads the Eagle Up salute

Love that tiger

A spy amongst us

Lobstuh tails

Brian and I made our way into the stadium early to ensure we did not miss what is called the “most exciting 25 seconds in college football”. This is a tradition that is nearly fifty years old where the Clemson Tigers run down the grass hill in the east end zone on to the field. But before this tradition, the crowd stood at attention for the singing of God Bless America, the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem. It is great to experience real patriotism where the people truly mean it and are not just going through the motions. So here is how the “most exciting 25 seconds in college football” goes down: The Clemson players exit the stadium through the locker room behind the west end zone. They load up on three busses and then drive around to the east end zone where they unload and line up behind Howard’s Rock and the coaches. As the cannon fires off a round, they all rub Howard's Rock for good luck and run down the hill, thousands of balloons are released in the air as the Marching Band, Flag Team and Cheer Squads do their things. The fans belted out their chant where they spell out C-L-E-M-S-O (pause) N! Fireworks erupt in the west end zone and then it is game on Tiger fans! Tiger Stadium was built in 1942 and has a capacity of 85,000. It is known as one of the loudest stadiums in the country. The ringing in my ears tonight is a testament to that tidbit. The setting on the Clemson campus is simply superb.

The most exciting 25 seconds in college football
 The teams are both led by two of the most energetic and passionate coaches in CFB. Dabo Swinney heads up the Tigers and first year coach Steve Adazzio is the lead Eagle at BC. Boston College got off to an early lead and contained the high powered Clemson offense in the first half taking a 7-3 lead into halftime. The teams traded touchdowns in the third quarter ending with BC holding a 14 -10 edge.  The Tiger faithful were stunned at this point as the Eagles were giving the Tigers all they could handle. Finally, the size and experience of Clemson led by Heisman candidate Tahj Boyd took control of the game and the Tigers escaped with a 24 - 14 hard fought win. The students stormed the field to celebrate with the team as is their tradition. The Eagles gave it their all and earned the respect of the mighty Tigers and their awesome fans. It just goes to show you what a good coach can do to a team. A year ago I watched BC get dominated by Army at West Point. Yesterday, they went mano y mano with a team that could play for the National Championship.  As we were leaving the stadium the Clemson fans wished us safe travels. The whole game day experience ranks up at the top of all my college football junkets. This was a far cry from the inhospitable environment that we experienced in Fresno last month. I will most certainly come back to Death Valley again for another game day experience.


Around the country – Finally, a weekend of multiple major upsets:  Boomer Sooner gets gored by the Longhorns in deep fry city at the Cotton Bowl and Mac keeps his job for the rest of the year. The Mizzou Kitties chase the Dawgs out of the pound in Athens, GA. Stanford’s unbeaten streak since last October disappears in the Wasatch mountain range to those pesky Utes. The unpredictable Nittany Lions knock off Big Blue in a four OT thriller. So we now have some shaking up in the polls. 

Johnny Autograph led A&M to a come from behind victory over Ole Miss in Oxford. Oregon continues to impress the world with a drubbing of the Huskies in Seattle. LSU’s defense proves to be tougher than the vaunted Gator D. Now chomp on that Muschump! Baylor gets tested but stays perfect slipping by the Bill Snyder Wildcats as does Texas Tech by eeking out a win over the Cyclones. Sparty disses the Hoosier Mamas in Bloomington. The baby bears of Westwood deliver the big bears of Bezerkeley another loss in the Rose Bowl. San Jose State gets its third win of the year and Boise State notches another pelt on the wall in Logan against the USU Aggies. Army is triumphant over EMU and Navy is sunk by the Blue Devils in Durham. In the post baby Lane era, the men of Troy notch an impressive win over Rich Rod’s desert rats. This is no fun for me because for the first time in a dozen years, I don’t entirely loathe the head Trojan at SC. No Cheat, No Lame, just an ogre in charge. The Terps rebound from the Tallathrashing last week and are 1 point better than the Wahoos. Read the UVA write up by legendary sportswriter and Rolling Rock aficionado Jeff “Whitey” White:   Frank BMW takes the Hokies to 6-1 after de clawing the Pitt Panthers. Local boy Sean Mannion leads the OSU Beavers to a 5 -1 record by throwing for five football fields worth of yards while damming up the Cougars and Mike Leach offense.

Bieber Award – The winner is the pint size man that resembled the “Little King from Shrek that sat next to us during the first half that drove us from our seats. I think his disorder can be described as premature emasculation or something like that. He made up for his diminutive stature by screaming, squealing, jumping and giggling like a little girl each time BC did something positive. I know what you are saying; “There goes Dan being a bully again”. Well at least I did not take his lunch money and give him a  wedgie.  I took the higher road and simply moved seats. Reports of a missing elfen like dork at Clemson are purely coincidental.

Please call the missing dweeb hot line if you see this man
 Next week the Tailgate will make its pilgrimage to the Grove at Ole Miss. It is a required duty for all serious Tailgaters to make this trek at least once in their lifetime. The Grove is considered by all College Football fans to be the #1 Tailgate spot in college football. I will report as accurately as my memory will allow me.

Happy Tailgating!