After traveling the highways and back roads, listening to all the tailgaters’ stories and covering the Clemson-Carolina games for three decades, I understand how anxious everyone is to see 7 p.m. roll around today.

I’ve interviewed Frank Howard, Danny Ford and Tommy Bowden in one town and then sat in the offices barely a day later of Jim Carlen, Brad Scott and Lou Holtz. The game was all business for those guys. But it is the fans who really seem to make sure this rivalry maintains its passion.

Clemson coach, Charlie Pell, once said, “the game decides who walks down the street as a state champion and who hides in a closet for a year.”

It’s a game that was first played in 1896. There have been pranks, brawls and bad blood ever since. But even with all the history, the blowouts, the bad calls or disappointed folks who decide not to be seen in public the day after the game, one tried-and-true sidebar that keeps the rivalry going are the jokes.

Did you hear the one ...?

Most Clemson-Carolina jokes are interchangeable in their content. Depending on your loyalties, here are some designed to make you smile, no matter who you are.

Q: How do you compliment a Clemson fan?

A: Nice tooth.

Q: What are the 3 best years of a Carolina grad’s life?

A: 3rd grade.

Q: How do you keep a Clemson girl from biting her nails?

A: Make her wear shoes.

Q: What do you get when you cross a Carolina fan with a pig?

A: Nothing, there are some things a pig won’t do.

Q: How do you break a Clemson fan’s finger?

A: Punch him in the nose.

Q: Hear about the power outage at Carolina library?

A: Forty students were stuck on the escalator for 3 hours.

There have been books written about the rivalry and even a documentary detailing the significance of the game told by those who played in the annual showdown.

Some of these jokes have been told so many times, the punch line is derisively blurted-out before the person telling the joke is even finished.

It’s no joke, though, if you’re on the losing end. Depending on the closeness of the game, it’s always interesting to see which flags are still waving on vehicles Sunday.

Pigskins & Punch Lines

Maybe it’s good we deflect the disappointment with good humor. To some, though, this is no laughing matter.

That can be a problem when folks can’t live with the outcome or come to grips with the understanding that it’s “just a game.”

About half the state will be very happy later tonight, the other half will be a little grumpy. There also are those who really enjoy rubbing-it in, on both sides.

Those with houses divided probably suffer the most. Mixed marriages, fractured families. It’s probably best the game is played after Thanksgiving and a few weeks before Christmas.

In an effort to keep us all smiling, at least until kick-off, I’ll leave you with two more semi-humorous efforts at Q and A.

Q: Why did Forrest Gump choose ‘Bama over S. Carolina?

A: He wanted an academic challenge.

Q: Did you hear they found a skeleton on the Clemson campus?

A: He was the 1967 Hide & Seek Champion.

We’re getting closer and closer to kick-off. My pick is on the sports page. Some fans might consider my pick a joke, too.

Reach Warren Peper at wpeper@postandcourier.com.