This morning I want to talk about some of the fun, excitement, and trouble I had back in 1981/82. If you're wondering what those memories have to do with the title of this post, that was the first and last time the Clemson Tigers won the national championship in college football. I was living in Clemson on that unforgettable day. On campus, no less!
Some good friends were all living together in a cottage for students. My friend Mike and his fiancee Cheryl were kind (or crazy) enough to invite me to join them and 2 other friends for some down time around the Holidays. This came on the heels of having my heart broken following a failed love affair back in my hometown. I grabbed my guitar, and I hit the road!
When I arrived I quickly learned that the Tigers were having a great season, and the town was buzzing with excitement over the prospect of the team playing for the championship. Everywhere I'd go, I ran into huge orange tiger paw prints painted on streets, signs, and buildings. People were out of their minds. I immediately began looking for some sort of income, as I had arrived without any. I lucked out by quickly procuring a job playing music in a bar/restaurant a few blocks off campus. It was only for 2 or 3 nights a week, but provided me with enough scratch to hang out.
Any money we had at the time went to beer and cigarettes, so we survived by eating a steady diet of baked potatoes and ketchup. Mike was delivering pizzas, so occasionally we'd also get some slices to compliment our tatos. Life was good! As the college season was coming to a close there was only South Carolina to beat in order to make it to The Orange Bowl for the championship. Clemson was #2 in the polls at the time. The game was played on November 21st, just before Thanksgiving. We were all gathered in the living room partying as Clemson won 29-13! Clemson was now #1 in the country, and would play Nebraska (#4) for the Championship on New Years day.
Christmas break began in December and the town became virtually dead. Mike and Cheryl had gone back home at Thanksgiving, and Oscar, Gary, and I remained on campus. The 3 of us were equally bad influences on each other, but miraculously we stayed alive. As I recall Christmas was a blur of merriment, with a wish that we could get to the following week.
Finally the BIG DAY arrived! New Years Day 1982! By this time, many of the students were back, but Oscar and I watched the game by ourselves with a lot of beer. Every time Clemson would score we'd run outside screaming and banging pots and pans. They were down by 4 points in the first quarter, but after that, they never looked back. When the game was done, so were we, but that didn't stop us from going into town to celebrate. Bad decision. Oscar and I got separated, and within an hour I found myself under arrest.
It seems as though we weren't the only rowdies that evening. In fact, the State Police were called in to help contain the wildness. There was garbage in the street, lots of hooting and hollering, and destruction was beginning to take place. I was walking down the street minding my own business, when I accidently kicked an empty beer can someone had thrown there. A Policeman said to me; "Pick that up!", to which I replied ; "Fuck you, you pick it up"! He didn't appreciate my candor and placed me under arrest.
When we got to the jail, I was mugged, printed, and put into a cell with 6 or so other guys who had also been arrested for misbehaving. I was drunkenly talking to one cell mate when I heard from the next cell over a voice saying "Dave?" It was Oscar! He'd also gotten arrested for something similar to me, and was scheduled like myself, to be released in the morning. I guess they wanted to give us all a chance to sleep off the booze.
It wasn't long after that our hosts returned to town. I was feeling kinda stupid and embarrassed, so without much fanfare, I left Clemson on a mission. That; I will explain in another post a bit later. The main point I want to make is that once again (33 years later) Clemson's football team is #1 in the country and may play for another title! If they do, I'll definitely watch it in my own living room, thinking about those days in between plays.