Clemson Tigers' Neighborhood

Author: Tess Reinhart

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Despite their dominance in the ACC (much to my constant dismay), Clemson University was in some ways the quintessential SEC college football experience for someone who had never experienced football anywhere but the north. This past football season, four of my friends and I endured a twelve-hour through-the-night road trip from South Bend to Clemson. The school is situated in the middle of absolutely nowhere, and this is in full comparison to the daunting outer limits of the greater Michiana region and my farm-covered drives out of Pennsylvania into Indiana. All this to say, I can understand why, much like Notre Dame, Clemson has a similar cult following by some of the locals, as it provides a steady source of weekend entertainment and activities to rally behind.

To start, I was astonished by the lawlessness of campus. Because attendees can tailgate anywhere on campus, people set up shop early in the day, then kept the party going at halftime and long after the game was over. There was not one parking spot on campus that seemed to be devoid of a family or tailgate enjoying the festivities.

My intense admiration of Notre Dame football and Coach Freeman does not even begin to compare to the god-like status that Tigers Head Coach “Dabo” Swinney has in Death Valley (the affectionate term for Clemson’s football stadium). I learned that for every home game, the football team and coaches traverse down the hill and onto the field, but all anyone cares about watching is His Highness, William Christopher “Dabo” Swinney prancing along the field. Again, much to my disbelief that everywhere is not as painfully flat as the Midwest, Clemson’s Memorial Stadium is no joke for anyone fearing high altitudes or prone to clumsiness.

Before the Irish’s disappointing loss, I was picturing how different my life would have looked if I had attended a school like Clemson. Imagine sunny days and temperate weather year-round. Some of the students we met lived lake-side with their closest friends and went boating in their backyards on away-game weekends. They went out to various restaurants and bars every weeknight and would storm the field every football Saturday, win or lose. It was honestly refreshing to see a crowd that loved their football as much as we do but that did not go into joint hibernation after a disheartening loss. Being a northerner, even the “Midwest nice,” is hard to digest at times, but southern hospitality is a tiger of its own. In my brightest green gear, I was still offered food and drinks at every Clemson tailgate I passed. I was treated like a welcomed visitor, not a strange foreigner. Mind you, most of it was catered by Bojangles or Popeyes (two chains at which I have never eaten before) and somehow every item was loosely related to biscuits, gravy or barbecue, but it’s the thought that counts.

Now, as I stare into the permacloud skies and am welcomed back to campus by negative temperatures, I reminisce on my weekend at Clemson fondly, knowing that while I was impressed by the charm of true southern football culture, I would not change a thing about Notre Dame and our traditions. Going to other universities and immersing yourself, even temporarily, in another school’s lifestyle is a good testament to anyone that college can be enjoyable wherever you are. Ultimately, win or lose, the only true universal that can withstand any bitter rivalry is the unifying, innately American, love for college football.