The Girls on the Hill

The Girls on the Hill

By Sheryl McAlister

There are those time-honored traditions of college football Saturday. At least in these parts. Tailgating. Laughter. Wings. Pigs in a blanket. Cocktails. Friends.

I recently made my first trip back to Clemson’s Death Valley in a long, long time. And it was everything I hoped it would be. Fun. Good football. Laughter. And my friend, Lynn.

Lynn and I started attending Clemson football Saturdays when we were in college. We didn’t attend Clemson; we just loved the place and its traditions. So we adopted them as our own, orange pants and all. Over the years, I covered Clemson as a sports writer and attended a few games here and there. And then there was that great Rolling Stones concert in 1989. Smile.

Lynn, on the other hand, has gone all in. Tailgating, for the uninformed or not-so-inclined, is a ritual. A serious one. Packing the car on Friday. Checking the weather to determine if rain tents are needed. Checking the temperature to determine if heaters or fans are needed. Having enough ice to keep the beer cold and enough clean ice to mix other beverages. Chairs. Television. (That’s for watching the other college football games until the one you paid to see started 7 hours later.)

HDMI cords. (She forgot that one.) It was funny, but you had to be there.

Loved her friends — the Girls on Cemetery Hill. And loved her Clemson tailgate friends that make up this family of fans who gather together because of their love for Clemson football. They share food, fellowship, football and cocktails. There isn’t a good F-word to describe that particular tradition of college football Saturday.

There was Christine who greeted us at 1 pm with her version of a Bushwacker. (Google it and then get creative with additional ingredients.) Day-um. Christine didn’t go to Clemson either. Just fell in love with the place like the rest of us.

There was Deborah who blew the whistle every 45 minutes. That was the signal for all over the age of 21 to gather in the center of the lot on Cemetery Hill, grab a shot glass and hold steady. No premature drinking, someone in the crowd shouted. Only after Deborah led us through the Clemson fight song was it clear that everyone could drink. I was uninformed of this ritual and was nearly kicked off the hill for chugging too soon.

For the girls on Cemetery Hill, the walk to the game was a short one. The lines to get into the stadium were shorter and hassle-free. The band was terrific. Free water stations were set up inside the stadium so fans didn’t have to shell out five bucks for a bottle of water. The coaches played a bunch of kids in a game that was sure to be a blowout. Veterans were applauded. Howard’s Rock… well, that’s a story all by itself. The traditions of excellence were everywhere on display.

The winning tradition that is Clemson football is special. Built over decades of inclusiveness and an inability to settle for anything less than excellence. The fans know it in their bones. Even if they had no other connection to Clemson than a tailgate party they kept showing up for year after year. All-In.

I met more people who didn’t attend Clemson than did. It didn’t surprise me really. I fell in love with the place in college and again during the 1980s when I covered the sport for a South Carolina newspaper. The folks there, including former coach Danny Ford, were incredibly kind to a young sports writer who had more to learn than they had time to teach. Clemson has held a special place in my heart ever since.

Funny thing, traditions and old friends. As the years pass, they become non-negotiable. We rely on them. Cherish them more, somehow. If we are lucky enough to have a friend for 40 years, we are lucky enough. A chance meeting with Lynn in college led to a lifetime of friendship, that’s included a passion for Clemson football.

All-in, my friend. All-in.

Copyright 2019. © Sheryl McAlister.

View All

6 Comments

  1. Great story and even better friend!! 

    Reply

    1. Thanks Marsi! Love you!

      Reply

  2. I spoke to a girl at dinner tonight wearing a t-shirt that said ALL IN. I looked puzzled and asked her about it. She was incredulous that I didn’t know it was Clemson! Well, clue me in, what’s that about? She walked away from me, disgusted at anyone so dumb!

    I loved your story and glad you had such a good time. Great team and coach!

    Reply

    1. When Dabo took over he wanted to make sure that the players were All In with his beliefs and dreams fro the team and what his vision for Clemson was. He wanted you to be all in, give 110%, believe. It has stuck. That has become their mantra. They actually drop all in chips in a bucket before each game so signify that the players are All In for the game. Hope this helps. Sorry but we all have those kinds of fans.

      Reply

  3. Beautifully written and a spot on depiction of Clemson football and fans!

    Reply

  4. Margie Tillotson November 6, 2019 at 4:36 am

    Loved recent blog………I am not really a die hard Clemson fan, but respect their sports program immensely………Loved the friendship connection .nothing like it and especially the old friendships…I am honored to still have a group of friends from kindergarten……keep on writing……I’ll keep on enjoying…… Margie

    On Sat, Nov 2, 2019 at 12:02 PM OldBroad & NewTrix wrote:

    > Sheryl McAlister posted: “The Girls on the Hill By Sheryl McAlister There > are those time-honored traditions of college football Saturday. At least in > these parts. Tailgating. Laughter. Wings. Pigs in a blanket. Cocktails. > Friends. I recently made my first trip back to Clemson’s D” >

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s