Ah, sports. I just can't quit you.
Last night, I cried as my Dodgers bowed out of the NLCS in embarrassing fashion. Earlier this afternoon, I threw a sofa cushion, worried my husband and scared my cat as my South Carolina Gamecocks put on a clinic in Clock Non-Management in losing at Tennessee.
But here I sit, 8 p.m., raring to go for Clemson vs. Florida State.
See, here's the dirty truth. I grew up a Clemson fan. Painted my face with Tiger paws for Big Thursday, the day when every elementary school student in my part of the world declared their soul-defining allegiance before Saturday's Palmetto State showdown between Clemson and the then-despised Gamecocks. I've bought orange TopSiders at Mr. Knickerbocker at Haywood Mall in Greenville, S.C. In third grade, we had pen pals in Wisconsin. In the harmless, myopic world view of 8-year-olds, my pen pal asked me what I was giving up for Lent. I asked, What's Lent, and, Who do you like, South Carolina or Clemson?
I saw players rub Howard's Rock and run down the hill years before I was eligible for my learner's permit. I heard my daddy talk about the ice cream from the on-campus dairy and the beanie he had to wear as a freshman at Clemson Agricultural & Military College since about the time I could walk.
One of my more resonant sports memories involves Clemson and blood. In 1988, I was 14 and babysitting two neighborhood boys on a Saturday. Their parents had gone to the Clemson/Florida State game (the Tigers were No. 3, the Seminoles, led by a shy, retiting violet named Deion Sanders, were No. 10.)
I was a dutiful child-minder, playing with the children and trying to cater to their individual personalities., I thought we'd established a reasonable rapport, and come kickoff, we negotiated a deal where they would color and I would watch TV.
Only. They decided to color on the kitchen tile, in magic marker.
This resulted in panic, and I grabbed the Pine-Sol to clean the marker off the very nice kitchen floor. In mid-scrub, something tickled the hairs on the back of my neck, and I slowly turned to see that one of the boys was, contrary to popular belief, tall enough to flip the lock on the door that led to the unfinished (read, no railing) wooden deck.
I abandoned my Cinderella routine and rushed onto the deck. Fortunately, the interloper had only gotten a few feet from the door. Unfortunately, I was barefoot, and "unfinished" meant splinters. Large ones. One of which lodged itself a good inch and a half into my foot.
This had barely registered before an unearthly scream came from the kitchen. Grabbing the elder child's hand, limping and trying not to bleed on the carpet, I hurried back to find the younger had channeled a flexible monkey and climbed onto the counter where I'd left the open Pine-Sol - and poured it into his eyes.
Foot elevated to contain the blood flow, with a stern warning to Child One not to move, I scooped up Child Two, hobble-ran to the sink, ducked his head under the water and rinsed his impossibly blue eyes. Immediately, he stopped crying and smiled the most beatific, angelic smile from beneath his soaking wet brown curls.
At this point, I lost my shit, and called my parents - who, as memory serves, were either also at the game or on the way there. So I called my Granny, and she and my Pop came to get me. They loaded the boys into the car and entertained them while I got four stitches.
The worst part of the day, though, was the outcome of the game. LeRoy Butler and the puntrooskie, the 24-21, last-second FSU win that hurt more than my foot.
So yes, I probably have a sickness. But it's old and ingrained and deeply rooted and impervious to modern medication.
That said. 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, T-I-G-E-RRR-S. Fight Tigers, fight Tigers, fight fight fight!
And let's pray for no bloodshed tonight.