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In the world of football, South Carolina can be roughly defined as a rather independent football kingdom bounded on one side by the Atlantic Ocean and on the other two sides by Duke University and Georgia Tech. Within this kingdom each autumn a number of minor colleges fight for minor honors. Furman University and The Citadel serve bravely as punching bags for bigger teams in the Southeast, and once each glorious October the state's two big teams, Clemson and the University of South Carolina, meet to decide who is football king in Carolina.
There are a half dozen reasons why this annual Clemson-South Carolina game, which captures the fancy of so many, should be a washout rather than a sellout. It is a midseason game, over and done with before the rest of the country has settled down to its hardest feuding. It is played on Thursday rather than Saturday. It is held within hog-calling distance of a state fair that offers as competition whirly rides and cotton candy, fat cattle and spangled dancing girls. It is played in a 35,000-capacity stadium that will not hold half the diehard followers of either team and in which the low seats slope back so much that in the heat of the game, when coaches, bench warmers and semi-official hangers-on are prancing about, only a giraffe could see anything from the choice front seats.
Traditional games, however, have a way of defying obvious drawbacks and flourishing because of their own peculiar charms. When Clemson meets South Carolina on the outskirts of the city of Columbia, alumni of both crowd in from all over the state, some of them bearing advice for the coaches and many bringing wives who want to see what sort of clothes the rest of South Carolina is wearing. Politicians come to be seen and possibly heard. There are a few traditional parties and countless impromptu ones in which anyone becomes easily involved. In the two hours before game time the parking lot becomes a vast picnicking reunion. The lucky supporters who already have tickets come out early in order to get parking spots near the stadium, where one stands a better chance of running into old friends. Many who do not have tickets come to enjoy the parking lot partying anyway, hoping vaguely that a scalper might have a pair for the reasonable price of $25. In the parking lot the car trunks are opened, the back flaps of station wagons lowered and the fried chicken and bourbon passed around.
As the crowd slips around toward the stadium a man shouts wishfully, "I'll give you a whole fried chicken for just one ticket."
Another man, cradling a large Thermos jug in his arms, waves him off, spies a Cadillac with a low license plate number and exclaims, "Jimmy Byrnes is here! Where's Governor Byrnes?"
"Byrnes isn't governor," an officer advises him. "Timmerman is governor."
A lady squeals, brandishes a pimiento sandwich and rushes across the traffic lane to embrace a friend of long ago. "Lord, Margaret, you haven't changed a bit," she gurgles. "You are Margaret, aren't you?"
"Why, hey!" shrills Margaret. "Yes, I'm Margaret. Why, you look just fine."
"You come looking for old friends," observes Carolina Alumnus Ed Potter, "and you can't remember first names."
A white-haired gentleman who is surely not a year over 70, walks by the north gate, pleading, "Doesn't anyone have a ticket to sell an old Confederate veteran?" This fancy bit of fraud fools no one. Few, in fact, pay much attention to it since most at the moment are watching with glazed fascination as a ticketless trio tries to scale the stadium wall.