Showing 'em how to 'pump gas'

Ronda Templeton's Gridiron and Grits column each week puts a little lipstick on the football, and then kicks the pigskin clear through the uprights. Who says women don't know football? This week she takes on the coach who Gamecock fans have quickly learned how to love hatin' on him and his braggadocio – Tennessee's Lane Kiffin.

Tennessee Coach Lane Kiffin has a serious case of foot-in-mouth disease. He infamously bragged that he'd enjoy singing "Rocky Top" all night after his team beat Florida (they didn't) and now he's ticked off legions of University of South Carolina fans by saying that all a Carolina education qualifies us for is a career pumping gas.

The Gamecocks are fired up - and they're on their way to Tennessee this weekend in the hopes of showing the Volunteers how we pump gas by pumping up the numbers on our side of the scoreboard. In all seriousness, Kiffin reportedly told Alshon Jeffery - USC's star freshman receiver - that he would end up pumping gas if he signed with USC. The remark has riled up the Gamecocks, with Moe Brown (receiver and team captain) quoted on as responding this way: "Some things are better to go without saying. I'm sure he (Kiffin) didn't mean it to come out, but it did. I'm taking it personally. I'm taking it personally to the point where I'm going to show him how we do pump gas at South Carolina."

By the way, Brown is a marketing and finance major with a 3.2 average.

More Kiffin shenanigans

Shenanigans. I just love that word. And Lane Kiffin clearly loves shenanigans.

In addition to his insulting "pumping gas" comment that has USC loyalists in an uproar, Kiffin was reprimanded this week by the SEC for criticizing the officials who worked the Vol's game against Alabama. Specifically, Kiffin whined that Alabama's Terrence Cody should have received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for removing his helmet in celebration after blocking a field goal with four seconds to go in the Tide's 12-10 victory Saturday.

In all, the SEC reprimanded three SEC coaches for complaining about officiating last week: Kiffin, Mississippi State's Dan Mullen and Vanderbilt's Bobby Johnson.

Kiffin, though, is a repeat offender. It was his second reprimand of the year and he's been warned that the third time won't be a charm - he could be suspended if he violates the rules again. Ooh, let's hope he gets really worked up this weekend against USC and steps over the line (as you might guess, the "pumping gas" comment didn't sit well with me).

By the way, Kiffin didn't respond to the SEC's reprimand. I don't know why: He certainly seems to have a comment about everything else.

And to help celebrate this important SEC game with me, I'll have a special companion with me in Knoxville - my long-suffering husband, Bruce - whom I've described in Gridiron & Grits as a tolerant football widower. Believe it or not, this is the first time in our long marriage that Bruce will have the privilege of watching the 'Cocks take the field, live and in person. He's a little iffy on the game (actually, he's humoring me by attending), but he did pose a question that made me giggle: "Do people really put on those elaborate tailgates you see on television - with charcoal grills and everything?"

My answer: You're darn right, they do! Tailgating these days doesn't mean chips, dips, beer and a radio - it means serious spreads, from appetizers to desserts, along with big-screen televisions to monitor gridiron rivals before heading into the stadium. Actually, some folks never make it into the stadium at all, preferring to party on throughout the game.

While we will be on the road in Knoxville this weekend, the fans at the University of South Carolina have refined home game tailgating to a high art in the form of a sight that's unique to Williams-Brice Stadium: the Cockaboose. Put simply, a Cockaboose is a former train car that's been modified to become the ultimate in tailgating luxury.

The brainchild of Carl Francis "Doc" Howard and Ed Robinson, the stationery Cockabooses - along with a string of repurposed dining cars added later - have attracted the attention of magazines such as Southern Living and Smithsonian and are a staple on ESPN and other sports shows. According to The (Columbia, S.C) State, Howard and Robinson acquired the original 22 Cockabooses and the unused tracks at the side of Williams-Brice stadium in 1990 and sold 20 of them for $45,000 each in just two days, keeping the other two.

What did those original buyers get for their money? Basically, the shell of a 45-foot long, 10-foot wide caboose (with exterior paint in garnet and black), equipped with water and sewage, central heat and air, electrical wiring and access to satellite television.

The inside of each Cockaboose is unique: some have bedrooms and showers, others resemble Victorian train cars, and some are reminiscent of the Orient Express. Many of the owners say they've put upwards of $100,000 into their décor, and in 2006, one of the Cockabooses went on the market (a rare occurrence) and sold for $300,000. So, to answer Bruce's question: Yes, honey, the tailgates you see on TV are real. The beer, the grills, the brats and - in South Carolina - the shrimp and grits are staples. But if you really want to tailgate in style, the Cockaboose is the way to go.

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