It's time to cross The Desert
Saturday, June 22, 2013 8:20 PM
Well, fellow sports fans, it's official.
We have officially entered what I have come to refer to as "The Desert."
You might be asking "Chris, Sweet Cheeks, what is The Desert?'
First, don't call me Sweet Cheeks. That's my stage name, and I only use it professionally. Second, if you'll be patient, I'll tell you what The Desert is.
The Desert is a frustrating, desperate time for a sports fan, especially in the South. It's the long, hot period of time every summer between the end of the NBA Finals and the beginning - that glorious, replenishing, soul affirming beginning - of college football season.
Following Thursday night's ending to an absolutely epic seven game NBA Finals series between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs, Southern sports nuts have now officially entered The Desert.
It's a time when, quite simply, we wait. With great anticipation, perhaps bordering on anguish, we wait.
Oh sure, we've got the Atlanta Braves to keep us company throughout the summer. And, on the local level, the American Legion Post 20 baseball team is having another fine campaign. (In fact, Post 20 has a home game at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Legion Field. Go out and show them some love.)
But, our eyes are on the fall. We're already casting longing glances at Williams-Brice Stadium and Death Valley. The strains of "Tiger Rag" and "2001" are calling us, beckoning us from somewhere out there in the deep distance.
The preview magazines - Athlon, Lindy's, Phil Steele's and other such holy books - are starting to pop up on newsstands. Most have South Carolina and Clemson ranked among the top 10 teams in America.
Greenwood residents have been further teased recently, as there were Clemson and South Carolina fan day celebrations in Uptown, as part of the S.C. Festival of Flowers.
Numerous Clemson players, including dynamo quarterback Tajh Boyd, attended Clemson's fan day in Countybank Plaza.
Meanwhile, former and current South Carolina players - including junior defensive lineman and Greenwood High product Kelcy Quarles - signed autographs at South Carolina's fan day at the Gamecock topiary.
Magazines, newspaper reports, Internet message board chatter, topiary fan days, these are the scraps fans cling to as they trudge through the summer. The dog days. The Desert.
The local favorites will start their seasons in late August with a pair of border wars. South Carolina will host North Carolina on Aug. 29, while Clemson will take on Georgia on Aug. 31.
For those counting the days - yes, I'm talking about you - the Gamecocks and Tar Heels square off in 67 days, while the Tigers and Bulldogs will go at it in 69 days.
In the just more than two months leading up to those first games, the teams will be working on strength and conditioning, watching film and opening fall practice. Basically, they'll be getting ready.
As fans - sickos walking through The Desert - we have things we can do to get ready, too. In fact, I've compiled a quick list for Clemson and Carolina fans to work on for the next two months, things you can do to make sure you're ready when the season arrives.* Practice your ticket search - South Carolina and Clemson typically draw 70,000 to 80,000 fans to home games. Tickets can be tough to come by on a game-by-game basis. Season tickets are expensive, with their club dues and seat taxes and the like. That being the case, sometimes you have to wander around outside the stadium and buy tickets from scalpers or other fans.
So, make sure your form is proper in this regard. You can practice in Uptown Greenwood or on Court Square in Abbeville. Simply stroll around town holding two fingers in the air and, when people walk by, say "Hey, you got any extras?" or "I need two! Who's got two?!?"
Sure, they'll probably look at you kind of strange when you are asking these questions in June in Uptown Greenwood, but you'll be glad in September when you are in good ticket scalping form.
* Streamline your tailgating - For many, the ritual of tailgating is an integral part of the season, perhaps as much as attending the games. So, you've got to practice to make sure you're ready.
I'd suggest you actually drive to the stadium of your favorite team, to your normal tailgating spot. If you typically tailgate in an enclosed or fenced-in area, you might need a pair of bolt cutters and a willingness to be put on trespass notice.
Take your significant other with you. You'll need someone to work the stopwatch.
See how fast you can unload your vehicle, get the table set up, get the cooler out, get the charcoals fired up. Be furious, but efficient. Push yourself.
Following that, you need to actually make the walk to the stadium. You should put a stopwatch on that, too.
Sure, you'll likely be the only ones in an otherwise empty parking lot going through this practice routine in the middle of summer, but at least you'll give the cops a funny story to tell.
* Talk to George Rogers and Danny Ford - Rogers is USC's famed 1980 Heisman Trophy winner. Ford is the legendary coach who guided Clemson to a national title in 1981.
Talking to them would be a great way to get ready for the upcoming season and get a little football fix as you bide time in The Desert.
If you live in Greenwood, striking up a conversation with Ford or Rogers should be quite easy. Why? Because it seems like they are in town at least once a week.
If there is an event going on in Greenwood - a fan day, club meeting, silent auction, car dealership promotion, barbecue or maybe a golf tournament - there is a chance you will see Ford or Rogers there.
In fact, put down your newspaper and peek out the front window of your house. There's a good chance Rogers or Ford - perhaps both - are standing in your front yard right now.
I hope you will find this practice regimen helpful. If you work on these items periodically during the next two months, and make sure to read your Lindy's magazine every night, you'll be ready for the start of the season.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go talk to George Rogers. He's in my kitchen enjoying some Frosted Flakes right now.
Trainor is the senior staff writer at the Index-Journal. Contact him at 943-5650; email email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter @IJCHRISTRAINOR. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.