Our rivalry is tame by comparison

Outside of the Palmetto State, seldom if ever does the Carolina-Clemson game make much difference outside the state lines.

The South Carolina-Clemson football rivalry is a good one. I've been around it all my life and people in the Palmetto State have a lot of fun fussing over the Gamecocks and the Tigers.

But, by comparison, it's a rather tame, respectable event.

Other games around the country are more intense because, quite frankly, they mean more.

Some say the Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn is the most hate-filled, intrastate game and they might be right. There is absolutely no love lost between those two schools and it plays out in the daily life of Alabamans.

Then there's the Ohio State-Michigan conflict, where people can get downright nasty about the Buckeyes and the Wolverines.

There are a lot of these college rivalries around the country and each has its own special meaning to those involved. The ones that get the most attention, of course, are the ones that tend to have consequence.

Unfortunately, seldom, if ever, does the Carolina- Clemson game make much difference outside the state lines.

About respect

But that's OK. It's our rivalry game and we don't care much what other people think about it.

It would be nice if someday the Gamecocks and the Tigers were battling it out for a BCS bowl or a shot at the national title, but that hasn't happened and really isn't likely.

So, while people dress up in their team colors and tell off-color jokes about the other school, the venom is usually more about whether the barbecue sauce is vinegar or mustard base at the pig- picking before the game.

When it comes to such rivalries, those who have been a part of other hard-scrabble games put this one in perspective.

'In the Alabama-Auburn rivalry, the fans are that way, they really dislike each other,' Clemson interim coach Dabo Swinney, who spent 13 years at Alabama as a player and coach. 'But in this game, for the players, it's more of a respect.

'Both sides want to win very bad. And there have been some years when there's been some personality conflicts and some issues that somehow arise. But I would say, for the most part, those kids respect our team and our kids respect them. A lot of them know each other.

'They got some good folks down there. I wish them well in every game except this one.'

Social calendar

Which is kind of the way the whole state feels about his game.

There are always the hard-core fans who hate everything about the other school and hope and pray they lose every game. But for the most part, we're civil.

South Carolina and Clemson fans are friends and neighbors who enjoy some light-hearted ribbing from the other side.

Quite frankly, since the Tigers have dominated this series (64-37-4), there's not much the Gamecocks can say except wait until next year, which has become their mantra.

But the series occupies a comfortable place in our life, mainly because it's a part of the South Carolina social calendar.

As for what makes it unique, even Swinney had to think hard to find an answer.

'They're very similar,' the Clemson coach said, searching his mind for a good comeback. 'Very passionate fan bases. It's a 365-day-a-year deal. The losers are usually miserable.

'So I guess the thing that makes it unique is that they are in different conferences. That's it. The ACC vs. the SEC. There you go. I stumbled upon it.'

Reach Ken Burger at kburger@postandcourier.com.