Friday, December 2, 2011

Game Day

You know that feeling you get when you go to a different church? You may not know all the hymns. You pause to see what time signature they're using to sing the doxology. You look around to make sure you're standing and sitting along with the crowd. You pause for just a second to see if this congregation says "debts" or "trespasses" during the Lord's Prayer.

I felt kind of like that at the University of South Carolina football game vs. Clemson last Saturday night. I know church and football probably shouldn't be used in the same sentence. Forgive my sacrilege.

I've been going to K-State football games since I was in elementary school. I've known the words to the K-State alma mater since I was about 10. I could probably say the words to the pre-game Ceremony of Allegiance right along with the stadium announcer.

Of course, USC had a perfectly respectful and meaningful flag ceremony. Their faithful sing their own alma mater, We Hail Thee Carolina.

But going to the USC game was a little like visiting a foreign country for me. I enjoyed it, but I didn't necessarily feel at home, though I wore the garnet and black of the Gamecocks.

A walk through the parking lots before the game had a familiar game day feel. The stadium is adjacent to the South Carolina State Fairgrounds. There’s some serious tailgating going on there, complete with garnet and black pole tents, plastic tables overflowing with food and collapsible folding chairs. We dodged flying footballs and skirted the washer games. All that seemed pretty familiar. But there's another whole level of tailgating at USC, an event called "rail-gating."

The 22 luxurious rail-bound cabooses that make up South Carolina's "Cockaboose Railroad" sit about 50 yards from the main entrance to the 80,000-seat Williams-Brice Stadium. For the record, I was not invited. I took some photos, but it was a night game and they didn't turn out too well. I didn't figure people who could afford these ritzy funhouses would appreciate flashbulbs going off as they enjoyed their pre-game rituals. (See kids, I can actually refrain from taking photos on occasion!)

These "rail-"gaters aren't standing outside their spiffed-up cabooses turning bratwursts on a grill. They're watching their big screen TVs on overstuffed sofas or are on their rooftop balconies listening to the live bands and eating catered food (sometimes served by tuxedoed waiters, if some published reports are to be believed!)

Last year, when a rival company opened seven cabooses in a parking lot down the street, they sold -- for $200,000 each -- in two weeks. All this for a 30-by-9-foot steel box on immovable wheels.

Our family doesn't often tailgate before K-State games, but a couple of weeks ago, we hitchhiked our way into a pregame gathering hosted by friends of our son-in-law and his family. (Thanks to Jay & Suzy Davis of Manhattan!)

Walking chili is more familiar fare than foie gras for K-State ballgames.

At Columbia, we had to settle for barbecue sandwiches in the stadium. But we got good music - up close and personal. We sat right behind the USC band. (Most of the time, the tubas were fairly good about putting their massive instruments down between the om-pa-pas.)

K-State has its Wabash Cannonball. USC has its sandstorm, when faithful fans twirl white fight towels above their heads and the whole stadium shakes with jumping people.

Brent warned us not to wear our purple. He even had me trade out my K-State gameday bag for a black one. He didn't want us to be confused with in-state rival Clemson's orange and purple fans.

Number 12-ranked USC was the victor over Number 17-ranked Clemson, 34-13.

And here's hoping that K-State has as successful an outing tomorrow in Manhattan. Go 'Cats! Beat the Cyclones!

O fight, you K-State Wildcats
For alma mater fight ...


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