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Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

An immersion in orange

Before+the+addition+of+the+upper+decks%2C+the+Clemson+University+cemetery+overlooked+the+stadium%2C+giving+truth+to+the+nickname+Death+Valley.
Before the addition of the upper decks, the Clemson University cemetery overlooked the stadium, giving truth to the nickname Death Valley.

OLD GOLD AND BLACK WRITER GOES UNDERCOVER AS CLEMSON FAN, COMPARES FOOTBALL CULTURE TO WOFFORD’S —

I’ve always thought of football games at Wofford as a classy affair. Students dress in their finest black and gold attire. Dresses, heels and gold jewelry are common. Student organizations and alumni tailgate in a small lot. I’d never been to a big college football game, and I’d never experienced the culture shock of painted bodies, elaborate tailgates or the pure and utter chaos of rabid school spirit.

On Saturday Sept. 27, I thrust myself into the Clemson vs. UNC game and the world of large-scale college football. Not having any strong allegiances either way, I banded with my Clemson friends and prepared to immerse myself in a culture nearly counter to what I’d experienced at Wofford.

I wore the most orange shirt that I could find in my wardrobe, but it wasn’t deemed obnoxious enough for the game. I borrowed a shockingly bright Clemson shirt and blended in with the crowd of students and alumni alike.

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On game day, the roads surrounding the campus were shut down. We walked three miles from an off campus apartment to the tailgating area. On the way, we passed little girls in cheerleading outfits, high visibility vests and students in full length fur tiger suits.

“It’s my birthday, and we’re going to win,” says the tiger-laden student.

Tents and trucks line nearly every open field. Tailgaters watch big screen TVs plugged into generators, cook on grills and in crock pots, play beer pong on fold-up tables and blast mu- sic from their radios. One enthusiastic fan sets up a 6-foot tall inflatable tiger.

The tailgating lasts from noon until 7 p.m., when the game begins. A swarm of orange fills Death Valley. We’re seated in the very last row, higher than all the surrounding buildings with a full view of the stadium. The stairs are steep enough to give me pain in my legs, and looking down gives me the startling sensation of vertigo that takes minutes to pass.

With the wind whipping and the seats filled, the players storm onto the field to ear drum shattering cheers. Hundreds of orange and white balloons are released into the sky. They travel in a mass.

“The balloons don’t get as far as you’d think. Clemson did a study on it,” a nearby student says.

As the balloons vanish in the sky, the game begins. It’s typical football fare on a much larger scale. Reactions in the crowd are louder, the bands are louder, everything is, in a word, louder.

A slow motion wave upheaves the student section, and soon, the entire stadium. The audience takes their cues, shouting every cheer in a synchronization that’s disturbed by the stadium’s echo effect.

Before the game ends, and after it’s clear that Clemson is going to win, I prepare to partake in a foreign tradition: storming the field. We reach the hill, a much-sought-after student section covered in grass instead of seats. As soon as the game ends, and despite the crowd control agents holding “wait” signs, the crowd surges onto the field. I’m caught up in the rush, dodging flailing limbs and tiger paraphernalia.

The crowd circles together, singing the Clemson alma mater with their arms around each other. Students snap photos of the players and trade high fives. The field is still bobbing with fans when we leave.

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