My senior year of high school, our AP English teacher let us paint our favorite literary quote on the wall. I know she was expecting all the great lines from the world's most cherished works, and for the most part that is what she got. What she could not have expected was getting a Tiger Paw painted on the wall with the following line from Pat Conroy's The Prince of Tides painted over it....
The Clemson kicker approached the ball and I saw that awesome movement of orange helmets downfield and the roar of sixty thousand voices as that ball lifted into pure Carolina sunshine...
That wall, along with the rest of the school, met a wrecking ball several years ago, and while that quote lays in a landfill somewhere its essence is still buried deep in my soul. I love Clemson football.
I love everything about fall Saturdays when the Tigers are taking the field where the Blue Ridge yawns its greatness. I mean everything.
I love when the alarm goes off at 6am for a noon game and only wakes up my wife because I have been awake for 30 minutes. I love the sound the bag of ice makes as it crashes into the ground before it is poured over a full cooler. I love the fact that between the generator and propane we could power a village, but we just need to power a tailgate.
I love the sound of the car flag hitting the window as we travel down Hwy 123. I love the feeling of peace I get as I stare out the window around mile marker 7 and marvel at autumn's beauty and know I am getting closer to home. I love how my wife and I can still remain married after putting up the tailgate tents. I love the sizzle the bacon makes when the dove poppers hit the grill. I love not caring that my son's diet that day will consist of two doughnuts, four brownies, seven chicken fingers, 47 chips, a personal pizza, a bag of Skittles and one grape.
I love the fear in the eyes of children when I yell STOP!! like they are about to walk off a cliff when they get too close to the satellite dish. I love pointing at my son and apologizing to the lady who I hit with the overthrown football. I love the smile on my kids' faces as they high-five players marching toward the stadium during Tiger Walk. I love talking to the people who tailgate beside us who I only see seven times a year, but on game Saturdays feel like family.
I love asking people "how they feel" because it is so important to the outcome of the game. I love the tingle that goes through my body when I see the state trooper's lights flashing as the buses approach the hill and the rush of adrenaline as the band starts its march. I love raising both arms in the air, fists clinched as the cannon blasts and the Tigers come running down the hill. I love knowing that I can survive living on the sun after attending a noon September game.
I love the people who still listen to the radio broadcast on a Walkman while watching the game. I love when the guy with the Walkman screams, "It's a hammy," because he just got an injury report on his radio, while the rest of the section knew it 10 minutes before because they checked Twitter on their phones.
I love my son tapping me on the shoulder during a crucial play and pointing to a stuck balloon under the upper deck overhang. I love my daughter doing the full cheer routine during Tiger Rag. I love the ear-piercing noise after a big third down stop. I love the fact that the Tiger's tail on the scoreboard still wags after a score. I love hugging a stranger after a huge touchdown. I love when my voice sounds like I chain smoke cowboy killers for at least a week after a big win.
I love knowing that my children think winning 10 plus games and going to the playoffs is normal.
I love experiencing this ride with my family, even if it means driving home 8 hours on the day of the ACC Championship because we all have the flu.
I love that it is once again National Championship week for the Tigers. (I can't believe I am typing that.) I love that tomorrow I will most likely be standing on an interstate overpass screaming at buses going to the airport.