Simpson: Do I hate Clemson enough
Editor's note: Marty Simpson earned four letters and started 44 games for the Gamecock football team. In this feature, he takes a look at a topic as an analyst, letterman and comedian.
Until very recently I would have counted myself among the "reasonable Gamecock fans." You know the type I am talking about? The fan that says he pulls for Clemson occasionally when they are not playing against South Carolina. I had my reasons.
I maintained a relationship with my former coach, Brad Scott. I always respected Chris Rumph. He was one of my favorite teammates. I always thought the state, as a whole, benefitted from any national media created by any Clemson success. Michael Roth and company actually made me feel sorry for Jack Leggett in Omaha. Overall, I just didn't have that total hatred for Clemson that I see in so many of my friends.
Then I realized what the difference was. I was a former player. Current players and former players don't see it from the same vantage point as the average fan. The players have former high school teammates on the other team. The players have former coaches coaching on the other side of the field. The players don't have the raging idiot at his cubicle all year long spouting ignorant non-sensical comments about why Clemson is a better "community" and why Dabo Swinney will lead a spiritual revival in the upstate the likes of which haven't been seen since the Apostle Paul.
But at some point, the former players graduate into becoming fans. Raging, biased, annoying fans. That has happened for me this season. I am part of a list-serv email that goes out to a few dozen or so Carolina and Clemson fans. All the folks on this list are friends with each other in their daily lives. They all are men that either love Carolina or love Clemson but have stayed friends over the years. We have interacted all season long on various topics from Dabo's post-game displays to Garcia's melt-down. This group of people respects each other while hating their respective teams.
After Clemson started out so strong, the Clemson faction of the email list began getting arrogant and it started to get annoying. I went into the week of the Clemson-Auburn game thinking to myself I would love to see Auburn get trounced. I hate Auburn. I wanted bad things to happen to Auburn no matter who they were playing. Auburn is an abomination. When Clemson won that game I found myself hating the reality of having to read all the emails that week from the Clemson part of the list-serv. It really started to wear on me. I just assumed all fans were as equally reasonable as I was. I was wrong. The adult equivalent of "nanny-nanny-boo-boo" ensued on the emails that week and only got worse after Carolina lost to Auburn.
But we got through it all. I will give my Clemson friends credit for acknowledging how impressive the Gamecocks were playing without Lattimore and Nunn. I was equally impressed how the Carolina side of the emails would compliment the play of Boyd and Watkins. I was also pleasantly surprised to read how the Clemson side of the email would continually make fun of their coach's antics. Here is one email from a Clemson supporter about Dabo.
E-mail From a Clemson supporter:
I think I figured out why I don't like Dabo...it's the mock turtle necks that I can't take seriously. Too fresh or something. And oh yeah - all the yelling Jesus at Erin Andrews! Maybe stop cussing five minutes before barking out the Lord's name on tv coach! Or not have a poker "All In" be your slogan if you're preaching the Bible at them! Just me?
But then the season started getting deeper and deeper and closer and closer to the "big game." This is when things changed for me.
I posed a question to the email group. "Why do you hate Clemson or Carolina so much?" The answers given were funny and disturbing.
From a Carolina supporter on why he hates Clemson:
I hate Clemson because I was raised to and it is as ingrained in me as the taste of sweet tea, the smell of pine trees and the sight of the option pitch. I instinctively recoil at the site of orange.
I asked this Carolina supporter to give the real reason why he hates Clemson not the reason his parents taught him. He said,
It certainly is the reason. I've been taught to hate Clemson since birth. I was sent home with a note in kindergarten from my teacher to my parents stating that I had been disrespectful and insubordinate for refusing to use an orange crayon during an exercise at school even after being ordered to by my teacher. Had the subject matter been any different my father would have whipped me. To this though he only smiled.
You stated that you are color-blind. How did you know the crayon was orange?
Carolina supporter's response:
I can recognize orange. I think everyone can see orange. That's why it's the international sign of caution. It's offensive to the eyes and gets people's attention. That's also why people don't wear that butt-ugly color except in connection with that tire-fire in the upstate or some other state school where some other school had already taken a nice, attractive shade of red (see Miami, UF, FSU & Ok, Ok State).
This type of ingrained hatred reminded me of the musical, South Pacific. Rogers and Hammerstein teach us that this type of hatred is carefully taught to us by our parents. It's not genetic.
From South Pacific:
You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!
Within the confines of sports, hating your rival is to be admired on some level. It is "politically correct" to hate your rival. Hate is a strong word. I don't hate Clemson. I just hate some of their fans.
It was interacting with these other Carolina fans that hated Clemson so much that actually changed my opinion as to whether or not I wanted Clemson always to lose. I stated to my friends that I wanted Clemson to beat NC State so that when Carolina beat Clemson they would be ranked 5th, and it would be all the more tragic for Clemson to lose. They railed at me for this sentiment.
Then the question that ultimately helped change my mind got posed to the entire group. That question was, "Would you rather win 30 conference championships in row losing to your rival all 30 of those seasons, or beat your rival 30 times in a row never winning a conference title?"
I realize there are some fans out there that are incapable of operating in these types of complex hypothetical situations. Those fans will quickly respond to the above question with this answer, "I want to win 30 conference championships AND beat my rival 30 times in a row." Well, NO DUH! But that's not what we are discussing here. Use your imagination, people.
The answers to the above question made me realize that I would not be able to live with myself if Carolina was to lose to Clemson for 30 straight years. I realized when pondering this question that I would MUCH rather win 30 straight times versus Clemson than lose 30 straight times to them no matter what the consequences were of this. No conference championship would ever be worth losing 30 times in a row to the Tigers.
Here are some of the responses from other folks in the email group to the same question.
Losing to South Carolina negates everything accomplished in a season. The thought of finishing 11-2 with a win at WB makes me giddy. The thought of finishing 11-2 w/an ACC championship but a loss to South Carolina makes me want to vomit. Just sayin'.
Agreed. I'd take 100 straight victories against Clemson with no championships. What a great way to spend the final years of my life.
I would give up a lottery winning ticket if I was guaranteed 50 straight victories over Clemson for it, provided I got to live long enough to see them all.
I would take a weekly shower with Jerry Sandusky for 30 years if that meant 30 straight versus South Carolina. In no way am I joking.
This last response reminds me of an old joke. Two guys eating pie. One a Gamecock and the other a Tiger. The Tiger realizes there is only one piece of pie left and he spits a huge loogie on the last piece and then says, "That last piece of pie is mine."
The Gamecock looks at the pie then spits his own huge loogie on the piece of pie and says, "You can have it."
After all those emails went back and forth and all the ribbing I took for not hating Clemson enough, I went into the NC State game still dead set on pulling for Clemson so they would be ranked 5th when we beat them at Williams-Brice. Then something happened inside of me that I cannot describe. Something spiritual.
NC State started playing "lights out" and dominating in the second quarter. Clemson began to self-destruct, melting down on all fronts. I got tickled to death like a little school girl. I didn't plan to. It just happened. With every bad thing that happened to Clemson the world started to get a little brighter. As NC State intercepted another pass, the air around me started to seem fresher. The email list was blowing up with Clemson supporters selling their team up the river and Carolina supporters so ecstatic they didn't even know what to say.
For lack of a better way to say it, I am now "All-in." My brother once shared with me something that I thought seemed ridiculous. He graduated from Chapel Hill and we were discussing his hatred of all things Duke. I asked, "So you basically want Duke to lose no matter what, always?"
He responded very quickly, "No, no, it's not like that at all. It's not that I want them to lose, Marty... I want their team's bus to explode into flames on the way to the game and just for good measure I want it to be the time that Christian Laettner was travelling with the team for PR purposes."
When he told me this I judged him for being so unreasonable. But after this season and after being involved on a personal basis with a few key Carolina and Clemson supporters, I can now say,
"Hello, my name is Marty Simpson. I am a recovering reasonable fan. It's been six days since I was last reasonable, and I feel great. Go Cocks!"
To read more entertaining comments from the email list that didn't make it into this article, check out my website's blog entry, which contains dozens of comments, by clicking here.
From coach to comedian: Marty Simpson is a former Gamecock Kicker and Punter and now tours the country doing stand-up comedy.
Marty performs in downtown Columbia, S.C., on December 9th and 10th in the Vista.
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