Your Northern guide to Southern football


When I touched down in South Carolina on Friday night it was just my second time in the South (I tend to argue that Florida doesn’t count).  With a sister who’s a freshman at Clemson, I figured this was the perfect time for a city-student, born and raised in the New Jersey suburbs, to jump cowgirl boots first into the uncharted territory of the South — and that meant football, tailgating, and a whole lot of questions. I made some mistakes so you won’t have to.

  1. My first lesson I learned quickly: the color schemes aren’t always normal, but rock ‘em with style anyway. One would never think that purple and orange would be the perfectly crafted statement of both fan spirit and fashion but in Clemson, S.C. that’s exactly what it is.  Orange dresses with purple accents own the day. But don’t mistake this for tacky. Kate Spade and Tory Burch with their flirtatious color palates work perfectly for the spirited southern sorority girl or proud Clemson mama.  Chevron is in, and if you’re feeling extra ambitious you may even rock the hair bw. Croakies are a must.

    Clemson SLM

    {Dresses from left to right: Banana Republic | Urban Outfitters (similar) | Francesca’s}

  2. Come hungry. Tailgating should not be mistaken for pre-gaming. For the less classy, northern city-faring crowd (such as myself), this idea of tailgate may be mistaken as a kickoff to an all day darty. These tailgates are in fact not that at all. While the drinking abounds, these pre-football BBQ’s are a family affair. Many parents make the trip to Clemson, set up their spots with the whole nine-yards of food, fun, and beverages and provide for students, family, and friends.  It’s a common practice to drop by other family’s tailgates, nosh on their pulled pork and coleslaw, drink a beverage, and chew the fat about Clemson, Clemson, Clemson. So, come hungry and friendly; people love to share.
  3. Mind your manners. Make your parents proud and  be polite. Never recoil at sound of people using “sir” and “ma’am” in everyday speech despite the fact that you’ve probably never thought to address someone that way before in your Northeastern lifetime. When walking through the crowds its normal to hear ‘excuse me ma’am,’ ‘excuse me sir.’ While this use of ma’am and sir reminds me, as the cynic I am, of a young subservient child being reprimanded, it proves to be refreshing and respectful when not overused. A note: When you’re at a party later that night and a frat star calls you sweetheart, he’s supposedly not demeaning you– he’s really just calling you sweetheart as a Southern Gentleman. Even if you don’t believe that, err on the side of faking a smile anyway. Not need to cause drama where there isn’t any.
  4. It’s okay to fake it. Football is a way of life in the South. With no NFL team, South Carolina invests all of its exuberant love for the pigskin into its college teams. So it’s not worth people staring at you like you’re Medusa because you don’t know the name of their quarterback. Rule of thumb is that even if you don’t, pretend you do. Never undermine the Southern sacrament of college football with your lack of knowledge. A tip: If you don’t know and you want to know, big fans are always eager to impart their wisdom on willing parties. Ask smart questions and you’ll have more than enough people around you to give good answers.
  5. Not a big football fan? Maybe brush up on the rules a bit before you go. The basics? A touchdown is 6 points, field goals are 3, and don’t you dare call those yellow flags butterflies or “thingies” at any point. You should be fine.

By Kelly Brand

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  • Reply October 13, 2013

    Margaret Mulkerrin

    Love the article! As a Northern transplant at a Southern school- there is totally a different scene for football. I recommend everyone experience a huge Southern tailgate- its unlike anything else!

  • Reply October 14, 2013

    Brooke Searcy

    As a due hard Alabama fan I just say everyone needs to experience a tailgate in the south! Especially a SEC school because we know how to throw a tailgate!!!!

    Roll Tide!!!


  • Reply October 14, 2013

    Brandon Faske

    I just went to my second game at Ole Miss. Coming from New Jersey, it is certainly a cultural experience. Yet, there is nothing quite like the lead up to kickoff at The Grove. Should be on all bucket lists!

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