What is great to a Clemson fan will not be seen so great to a die hard Gamecock. There in lies the immediate flaw with this Big Thursday Productions video, now available at Bi-lo stores statewide.
Trying to encapsulate the history of one of the oldest rivalries in the country is a 75-minute time frame is almost ludicrous to try and undertake. Trying to encapsulate that history from both sides of the rivalry in that 75-minute time frame is insane.
But, that is just what producers Jeff Sumerel and Chris White have tried to do in Bragging Rites: The Carolina-Clemson rivalry. It is hard, at least on the surface, to fault anyone willing to take on the task. We are blood thirsty for our football here in South Carolina and appreciative of anybody who is willing to attempt to give us our fix.
And Sumerel and White do a solid, if unspectacular, job of giving us a nice off-season fix that can be filed away in our video library for future enjoyment. That does not mean, however, that the video is without some major flaws and criticism.
First of all, I think it fair to tell you what this video is not. This video is not a compilation of the greatest and most memorable Clemson/Carolina football games. This video is not a biography of the rivalries greatest coaches and players. And this video is not steeped with favoritism to either side of this rivalry. All of which would have made the video better.
Bragging Rites is a blitzkrieg of everything Clemson and Carolina thrown at the viewer at warp speed. The video starts with coaches, players and fans all telling us how important it is to win the big game. Of course it is important, we did not need to be told that, especially since we just forked over $25 to buy the video. Isn't that enough proof that we know how important it is to win that game in November?
After a good Big Thursday history lesson, we are teased with a section dedicated to the coaches of the rivalry. This is maybe the 2nd most disappointing part of the Bragging Rites video, as Sumerel and White wisp us through some of the coaches from both sides without drawing us in with detailed information on any of the coaches. Danny Ford and Jim Morrison, maybe the two most influential football coaches in the history of these two schools, are devoted no more than 2 minutes apiece. You simply can't truly document this rivalry without dissecting both coaches to try and answer what these two coaches meant to these programs. Morrison and Ford are treated about as equally as Dietzel and Pell are…which is completely off kilter when you register the lasting impact Ford and Morrison had on their two programs.
Undoubtedly the most disappointing part of the Bragging Rites video is the treatment of the games in the series. While a handful of games are talked about (most notably 1977, 1980, 1987, and 1988), none of the games are talked about in great detail. And plenty of other games worthy of this video are left out all together, most notably the 1981 game where South Carolina briefly led the undefeated Tigers before a blocked punt shifted the momentum of the game, and Clemson's National Championship fortunes.
Of the players interviewed, Rodney Williams stands out the most. Williams recalls writing a paper in grammar school stating he wanted to be a quarterback at Clemson. He then talks of the frustration of the 1987 game and the "Rod-ney" chants and the jubilation of the 1988 game and the redemption he got on those Gamecock fans. Todd Ellis offers a couple of good stories as well, especially some motivation he was given by an assistant coach prior to the Clemson game in 1986. But most of the other player interviews fall flat.
George Rogers babbles on about his first experience as a football player when he was a young kid. Even die-hard South Carolina fans will bore with Rogers' long-winded story. Rogers does describe getting hit hard by Jeff Davis in the 1981 game, but his interview is otherwise a waste of time.
Matt Padgett talks about his missed field goal in 1996 game that would have sent the game to overtime. We are treated to the actual footage of the kick while Padgett talks, but Padgett seems almost indifferent to the miss. While he stated that it goes along with being a kicker, you never get the feeling that Padgett felt as bad about the miss as did the Clemson faithful.
And where is Steve Tannyhill, arguably the most controversial figure in the history of this rivalry? He is nowhere to be found on the Bragging Rites video. Not only was he not interviewed; he was not discussed at all, a terrible oversight by Sumerel and White. Surely Tannyhill would have agreed to talk, and you can almost bet that he would have said some things to spice up the video a bit.
And finally, Bragging Rites talks about the fans of both sides of this rivalry and the joy and agony that accompany winning and losing these games. Again Sumerel and White miss the boat, focusing on the people who do not anguish over the losses like most of us do. Jim Barker and Andrew Sorensen don't bleed football like you and I do. White and Sumerel could have gone around with their camera after the 2002 game interviewing Clemson and USC fans and they would have plenty of emotion to use. However, they chose to interview fans before the game when neither emotion had yet to take hold.
Some of the production is shaky by editor Jeter Rhodes. Interviewees are sometimes cut off in mid sentence or their audio level fades out before they are finished talking. Several times straight cuts are used instead of video transitions, making the interview look choppy and sloppy. Also, the use of box screens when using footage of the games is annoying because Rhodes never gives you the chance to see the footage in full screen.
Bragging Rites does have its moments, however. The Sigma Nu fraternity at South Carolina recall their prank where they dressed up like the Clemson players and started a near brawl before one game.
Danny Ford and Chuck Reedy talk about the 1980 game where the Tigers wore all orange for the first time in history, and there is some great footage of the Tigers at the top of the hill in that game right before the cannon sounds.
Although more footage from the games would have been nice, the footage Sumerel and White use is good and some of it is stuff that I have never seen. There are a bunch of crowd shots from different eras, allowing you to view Death Valley and Williams Brice Stadium much differently than you see them now.
There are some great shots from the 1987 USC win where the crowd is going absolutely crazy on that cold night. There is a brief, but solid, history lesson on Big Thursday from those that were involved in it. Although few of the stories on Big Thursday will be new to the avid fan, BR does a commendable job of documenting one of the great traditions of the rivalry.
On the DVD version of the video, fans are treated to some unused clips including an unremarkable interview with Skip Holtz. In addition, the DVD offers some 2003 pre game footage of the players in the locker rooms and the fans out tailgating. There is a great clip of a Clemson and USC player talking as they rest up against the fence in Death Valley prior to the 2002 game.
Considering the emotion that was building up outside of the stadium in the hours preceding the game, it is a bit ironic to see two players from opposite teams chit-chatting just hours before they are about to square off.
The 1943 game film from both South Carolina and Clemson is also available to those that purchase the DVD.
In the end, Bragging Rites is worthy of purchase by all serious Clemson and South Carolina enthusiast despite the frustration of not getting everything you wanted out of the video. Sumerel and White probably would have been better served to put out 2 separate videos or a double feature that would have allowed more detail to be included, especially with the games and coaches.
Trying to squeeze so much into a 75-minute flick while not showing bias to one school or another was probably a futile attempt, in hindsight. But the video does document, to some degree, this great rivalry and the names and faces that have made it the talk of this state for 100 years.
Scott Rhymer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Scott and CUTigers.com publisher Roy Philpott are the co-hosts of the CUTigers.com
Pregame Show on WCCP 104.9 FM, which airs 2 hours prior to the Tiger Tailgate Show on Clemson Gamedays.
"Bragging Rites" Video Review
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