The excitement started on Friday, as throngs of University of Louisville fans took to the freeways making the trip to South Carolina to watch their Cards take on the Tigers at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Red flags fluterting proudly from vehicles, “L’s” waving between cars, and horns blaring in anticipation of what, some would say, was the collegiate football game of the season.
Arriving on the tree-lined campus with blue skies overhead and an autumn breeze whispering among the leaves at 10 a.m. on Saturday, the cheers of fans participating in ESPN Game Day could be heard above the music and merriment of the tailgate parties that were in full swing. Walking toward the sound of the broadcast, Clemson fans were more than eager to assist our group, giving directions for the shortcut to Bowman Field, where the excitement of this morning could be heard.
Among the Game Day crowd were Kathy and Dennis Sherman, Kim and Travis Kerns, and Klein Holter, all of whom traveled from Louisville for the big day. “We are hoping for a good game and, of course, a Card Win!” they exclaimed.
As we exited the Game Day crowd, Clemson fan and employee, Zack Roach, happily gave us a ride in his cart to the Stadium. There, we met father and son, Eric and Trip Pottinger, Tim Woock, and U of L Alumnus, Steve Fackler who made the trip from Fort Lauderdale. Steve attends all of the away games, not only to cheer on the Cards, but to visit with his Louisville friends.
This seemed to be “boy’s day at the game,” as we crossed paths with yet another group of Cards faithful’s. Fathers and sons, Ronnie and Zachary Stevenson, and Keith and Brandon Lamkin stopped to speak with us. “This is going to be a terrific game!” retired firefighter Ronnie declared. Zachary and Brandon agreed. As they turned to experience their next pre-game adventure, “Go Cards!” could be heard from all of them.
The fans who win the “we traveled the farthest award” were Louisville natives, Jordan Wolff and Nathan Lurie, who came in from Denver, Colo. for the match up. Although they attended college in Arizona and Indiana, they were born Cards fans and would never think of cheering for anyone other than “their Cards!”
The crowd of over 83,300 began filling the stadium where, at one point, the decibel level reached 111 on the barometer. Tigers and Cards fans, alike, cheered their hearts out for their respective teams. At the end of the second quarter, however, Cards fans were dismayed to see that the Cards were not at the top of the scoreboard.
Our fans were relentless in keeping our players’ spirits high, motivating them to victory. As hard as the fans cheered and as hard as the players fought, the end result was a loss for the Cardinals in the last minute of play.
Despite the loss, I would be remiss if I failed to issue a formal “Thank You” to the Clemson Tigers staff and fans for the overwhelming respect and friendship they extended to our photographer, Cindy Rice Shelton, and I. That being said, there was no one that created a more hospitable atmosphere for us than the Senior Associate Director of Athletic Communications, Sam Blackman.
Sam’s parents graduated from Clemson, and he began attending Clemson games at the age of three. He graduated from this school and has worked here for his entire professional career. Sam has never missed a home game in over 50 years! From the first phone contact we had with him until the moment we left the stadium, he was on hand to ensure that we “felt like we were home.” The kindness and courtesies with which Clemson University gifted us gave us that “home” feeling. He and his staff certainly achieved their goal.
My hope is that, when Clemson comes to Louisville in 2017, we can return the favor to them: mutual respect, hospitality, and a UofL win!