Behind enemy lines

Fall means college football in the South.

So it was strange that on Sept. 3, the first football Saturday, my day didn’t revolve around going to a game or watching one on TV. I didn’t see any cars on the roads with school flags flying from the windows or magnets announcing “I’m going to see the (insert your team here) play.” Kenley had to work and I didn’t want to sit at a bar by myself to watch a game — even if I could have found it on television. So I followed the score on Twitter and on my iPhone’s FOXSports.com app.

Ever since I could walk, my parents took me to every home Clemson football game. My dad and his brother graduated from Clemson, and my grandfather on my mom’s side graduated from the university when it was an all-male, military school. He later worked as a Clemson extension agent.

And although I went to Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., I remain a loyal Tigers fan.

Kenley graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2001. For those of you not steeped in the culture of college football, Clemson and Carolina are bitter intrastate rivals. (My grandmother did not approve of my dating a Gamecock until Kenley assured her that he was more a basketball fan than a football fan.)

So when it’s time for kickoff, tipoff or the first pitch, the Young house is a house divided.

But in Los Angeles, nobody seemed to care.

Until Saturday.

Being the loving wife that I am, I discovered that the Carolina Alumni Club of Los Angeles was getting together at a sports bar in Santa Monica to watch the Gamecocks battle the Georgia Bulldogs between the hedges in Athens. (Those who know me might remember that I went to UGA for grad school.)

Let’s say it was part of my birthday gift to Kenley, who turned 32 the next day.

When we walked up to Q’s Billards, there was a “My Carolina” banner hanging out front. Kenley’s longtime friend and fellow Carolina alum Ronnie Cleland met us there.

Inside, fans of several teams (including SEC rival Tennessee) had reserved separate seating areas with large-screen TVs. The room for USC (not the Trojans; the “other” USC) was packed with more than 40 people.

I must admit it was kinda nice to see people wearing the familiar garnet-and-black T-shirts and baseball hats. No one heard my accent and wondered where I was from.

The enemy you know, huh?

Many in the group, including club leader Mallory Schwartz (’08), had recently graduated, but they welcomed us older folks with Southern hospitality nonetheless. The guy we sat next to graduated from the same high school I did, although more than 10 years later.

(I kept my true identity secret, though I declined to be photographed holding the “My Carolina” banner or to be part of a group photo.)

When Carolina scored, the “Game! Cocks!” cheer volleyed across the room. When it was clear that Carolina was going to preserve the win, they chanted “U-S-C,” despite the fact that the University of Southern California just several miles away stakes a claim to being “The real USC.”

(The University of South Carolina was founded 79 years before the University of Southern California, by the way.)

I was conflicted as I  followed (via FOXSports.com and Twitter) Clemson’s struggle to defeat Wofford.

And even though the Gamecocks are rivals , it was fun to watch an exciting college football game with a room full of passionate fans, including Kenley.

Kenley says he can relate to my experience: While spending the day locked in a room with a bunch of Clemson fans wouldn’t exactly be his idea of a wonderful Saturday afternoon, there’s something calming, familiar and even educational about hanging out with your arch-nemesis. We share a state and a culture; we don’t like each other, but we are bound by that.

Kenley refers to it as “the commonality of intense dislike.”

So next time, I’m taking Kenley with me to the Clemson alumni game-viewing party. I think they’ll let me be an honorary alum.

C-L-E-M-S-O-N, T-I-G-E-R-S Fight, Tigers! Fight, Tigers! Fight! Fight! Fight!

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3 thoughts on “Behind enemy lines

  1. A very touching blog—thanks for making Kenley’s b’day so special. Don’t let him forget that his maternal grandfather was a Tiger!

  2. Shelley, I love your writing and how your story comes to life. Football spirit is in the air here – glad it found its way to California.
    Enjoy your fall, Karen Davis

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