Tater Mashing, Hot'lanta Style!

Every media outlet has a columnist assigned to different topics. We have one whose job it is to report on the fun things in the Gamecock Nation. Better known around here as "GrannyGamecock," Lorraine Davis brings us a fun re-telling of the Carolina-Clemson game through the fan's eyes.

Imagine living in South Carolina for nearly 12 years and never having visited the gem of a city called Atlanta until now. Sad, but true. Thanksgiving weekend found me enjoying its treasures, lunching at the infamous Varsity, and riding the MARTA transit from The Perimeter into downtown. But nothing compared to the experience (my first) in a sports bar. I sat with other Gamecocks, alternating between agony and ecstasy, while watching the Carolina/Clemson game on a 60 inch widescreen on the wall.

Serious Sports Stuff

We made sure that we arrived extra early for the best seats. The bar, Frankie's, opened at 11 am, so we arrived at 11 am. The place is a veritable sports museum! Priceless sports memorabilia hang on every wall in every room. We secured our seats right in front of our assigned television. Imagine my surprise when I saw an autographed picture of my favorite baseball player, NY Mets pitching great Tug McGraw! It hung above our seats, and emblazoned in bronze was his infamous slogan of hope, "ya gotta believe…" I conjured Tuggie and his words multiple times that day.

One thing I was warned about before entering the bar is that taters (Clemson fans) outnumber Gamecocks in the Atlanta area. You would have never known this was the case in Frankie's. Except for a lone orange uniform shirt that hung from the ceiling, there was nary a tater in sight. More and more garnet and black clad Gamecocks entered as the kickoff was approaching. I felt like I was in heaven! Now if we could only win this one…

Chow For Now

As the game progressed and alternated between the "ahhh's" and the "ohhhhhh's", so did our appetites, depending on the play. Chicken wings, burgers, a variety of dips and chips, beers and wines were shared and tasted among us. It was the closest thing to tailgating outside of Williams-Brice that I have ever experienced. Except that we were in Georgia. Go figure! It was great!

A Band of Gamecocks

There is nothing quite like the intensity and pageantry inside a sport's bar on game day. Multiple televisions in all sizes adorn the walls, fans colliding with fellow fans, colors clashing, hands shaking. From one room, you can hear either a collective cheer or groan, depending on the outcome of play. The Carolina/Clemson match-up was no exception.

Fellow Carolina fan and friend, Barb Fakas, put it best.

"(At Frankie's) a Gamecock community was formed. We gathered slowly, some in battle dress, some with sedate understated logo…all ages, sexes and races. We began to connect. All were coaching and playing each and every down from hundreds of miles away…we were vested!"

"We became the Band of Gamecocks…a common goal…we all believed…hugged…laughed…cheered…victory was ours, and it felt so very, very good!"

Coach Lo?

My proudest moment as an armchair coach happened in Frankie's. Following Ryan Succup's field goal, I predicted that we would win by that field goal. In the critical third down during Clemson's possession of the ball with scant time left in the game, I called the play, stunning some of those around me.

I predicted the QB sack, placing Clemson in a forced field goal position, with a 50-50 shot, at best, to score. Given (Clemson kicker) Jad Dean's unpredictable record this year, I knew it was our best effort to walk away winners. To say I was elated with the outcome would be the understatement of the century. I blew a big kiss of thanks to Tug McGraw.

Royal Treatment

Jim Price is a member of the Gamecock Club and a 1977 graduate of USC. He did not attend the game, but watched all the action at home in Columbia.

"My heart was pounding so badly at the half; I had to get out of the house. I told my wife I was going up to my friend's place to continue watching. I felt unlucky sitting where I was. I needed to change it up a bit."

"After we won, I broke out a special bottle of Crown Royal Reserve and raised a glass and a health to Carolina. This win is enormous for our university and our team."

Gamecock Nation

Carolina fans seem to be everywhere these days. Some reside in Yankeeland, others in the Heartland; yet others live as far away as Europe and Australia. GamecockAnthem message boards are filled with fellow fans conversing and exchanging ideas and information at all times of the day and night.

Stephen Hayes is a native of Clover, SC, and graduated with a degree in history from USC in 1973. He currently resides in Massachusetts, and was visiting his family in Pennsylvania while watching the game.

"By halftime I was actually limping from the boys finding yet another way to shoot themselves in the foot. And then, I was almost in awe of how we moved the ball when not making Christmas come early and handing the taters another gift."

"The 17 unanswered points with Corey Boyd, Mike Davis and Blake Mitchell clicking on all cylinders was working so well. Some great defensive plays were sprinkled among an overall good effort against one of the best back's I've seen this year, Clemson's C.J. Spiller."

"What I will take most away from the game was that last defensive stand; where 11 guys maligned, at the start of the year, took away Clemson's strength (the run) and put it on (Clemson QB) Will Proctor's shoulders to win (blitz and a sack)."

Notes from the "Pasture" (otherwise known as Death Valley)

Many USC fans attended the game at Moo U and shared their experiences with me.

Tyler Yarnell is a current student at USC.

"I was supposed to sit on the hill (my friend who attends Clemson had to work and gave me his student ID and ticket). I worked my way across the lower bowl to the Gamecock section, snuck past the usher, and was sitting in section V 3 rows behind the band."

"I lost my voice by halftime, and almost pulled out most of my hair. I though Jad Dean's kick had went through before I heard someone yell 'he missed it'. It was straight euphoria for the next 30 seconds, jumping, high-fiving, and stumbling around off the bleachers."

"I then ran past band members, and onto the field, having a part in putting Ryan Succop on my shoulder and just looking for anyone to high-five. I stayed until they kicked us out of the stadium, taking some grass, and getting Jasper Brinkley to sign my Clemson student ticket. It was the best USC experience to date."

Lemon-Aid

The poster on GamecockAnthem known as Gamecock737 has this to say about his game day experience...

"I was there with my best friend from high school. Growing up I went with him and his family to a good bit of Clemson games. They aren't mean people, but completely that arrogant obnoxious Clemson fan. I lived with so much crap from them. I've been to 4 USC-CU games in Death Valley (1998, 2000, and 2002) and this was my first victory there."

"It felt so good to tailgate with them all day and then get to enjoy their sour little lemon faces. I was sitting in exact opposite diagonal position from the missed FG, so it took a little bit longer to see the result. As soon as I saw the missed sign from the officials, I just raised my fists to high in the air, lifted my head towards heaven and yelled at the top of my lungs, "FINALLLLY!!!"

"My best friend just looked at me, and I said, "You have no idea what this feels like!" I tried to be a good sport and say good game and shake hands with all the people around me, but most of them just glared at me. I've known all along that CU fans have this different arrogance about them that they think it's their birth right to beat us and when they don't, it looks like they swallowed a lemon. Priceless."

Papa Knows Best

The poster known as VAGamecock has a son who plays on the USC football team. He and his wife are Carolina alums, class of 1983. He has this to say about his game day experience.

"I was at the game in the heavens along with the majority of the other Gamecock fans, while my wife was in the parents sections with the other player's parents. All I can say about the upper deck was that as the game got closer to the end, the Clemmers around us were wishing that (USC QB) Blake Mitchell was their quarterback. On more than one occasion they said they would trade (Clemson QB) Will Proctor for Blake any day."

"This was my third trip to the valley; I was there ten years ago with my son who was 10 years old (at the time). He said that he wanted to be on the field one day in a Gamecock jersey, and we won that game. On this day he was on the field in his Gamecock jersey and we won again."

"We hope to see many more games that are enjoyable. Like when OBC (Coach Steve Spurrier) hangs 60 on their rear ends. I will be at the next couple of Carolina vs. Clemson games to support the team and my son."

Driving Along

On my return trip home from Atlanta, I was listening to the over-played Christmas music on my satellite radio, singing along in merriment. I saw many Carolina fans returning home, many post-holiday shoppers hauling their goods and gifts; and many others busily driving to their destinations.

What I did not see were orange paw-paw trucks with their tigger tails flapping in the wind. Sore losers? Nah...just a bunch of de-clawed tiggers and mashed taters.

Happy holidays, everybody!

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