Statehouse tackles 'honest-to-goodness red-blooded battle'

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comFebruary 7, 2012 

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South Carolina's legislature finally has produced a bill it can understand.

And if the bill introduced by the honorable gentleman from Lexington succeeds in mandating that Clemson and the University of South Carolina play football against each other every year, it could be the most worthwhile thing the legislature does in our lifetime.

The Statehouse is supposed to be the house of the people. It now has a chance to prove it.

This is a case of the people rising up against the pinhead television executives and greedy universities and their conferences that are ruining what little local culture we have left in our franchised society.

When state Rep. Nathan Ballentine's bill was introduced, I'm sure you noticed how fast the athletics directors got up off their fat wallets to say it was not necessary.

Long-suffering South Carolinians know better. We've lost the Pavilion, driving at 14, white lightnin' and cock fightin'. They can't have our good old-fashioned hate on the football field.

The Gamecocks and Tigers have been fighting it out -- sometimes literally -- to the glee of South Carolinians for 103 consecutive autumns. But it could all go away in a slippery second because insatiable sports cable television networks don't want to play reruns of the Lumberjack World Championships. They pay the athletic conferences big bucks to provide programming. The universities lunge for it, and poof, you have crimes against nature. The University of North Carolina and N.C. State are no longer guaranteed home-and-away basketball matchups. That's crazy. It's an executive order forced on a people with baby blue bumper stickers that say, "Teach A Child To Hate State."

Greenville News sports editor Carter "Scoop" Latimer, whose column gave the world the "Shoeless Joe" nickname, knew what the football game meant when it was part of the State Fair, always played in Columbia on "Big Thursday." Latimer wrote in 1928:

"They are converging in on the State Fair like ants crawling through dust for the barbecue of a sweetened crumb. Except they're not crawling; they're pushing their gas gondolas and sway-back mules faster than, perchance, the law allows, but who cares about a goggle-eyed speed cop when Carolina and Clemson playmates are tossing about restlessly on their feather beds waiting for the biggest game of the year in state athletics. Everybody who has the pristine guts to get the fullest enjoyment of life out of a real honest-to-goodness red-blooded battle of brawn, wants to be in Columbia for this day of days, when the Tigers and the Gamecocks risk life and limb for a glorious cause. Yep, we do think football, inherently an American institution, is a game that's worth the spill of blood, like in love."

The battlefield is, appropriately, back in Columbia. Fight, legislature, fight.

Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.

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