There is a running conversation in college football about where the real Death Valley actually is. In the desert of California? Literally, yes. In Baton Rouge Louisiana at LSU Stadium? Literally, no!
That brings us to the only stadium worthy of being called The Death Valley. It’s perched up in those hills right here in little old Clemson, South Carolina. It’s always been a loud, rockin’ place for opponents but now it’s rockin’ on steroids.
This year, the nationally recognized entrance of rubbing Howard’s Rock and running down the hill, known as the most exciting 25 seconds in college football has taken intimidation to an entirely different level. The massive new scoreboard, light show, and sound system have blended with the traditional components of the pregame ritual to create something mind blowing.
Watching from home, I intently looked at and listened to something my grandfather and father could have never imagined, nor fathomed. It is, as I see it, the the crowning touch to what has been called “Dabo World,” and spectacular wouldn’t sufficiently describe what the world saw on Saturday night in Clemson.
It’s often said that there’s no place like home and seeing that Clemson owns a 37-game home winning streak, proves it. Every team loves playing in their own place, it’s where each team’s traditions dwell, where it’s all about them. It’s one of the things that makes college football the greatest sport of all time, in my opinion.
The concept of home-field advantage is real and if you don’t believe it just ask Pitt about their recent, tumultuous trip to Atlanta. I’ve always heard playing at home gives a team a minimum of a 3-point advantage over the visiting team. I dare say, for Clemson, the new experience adds a good bit more than that, for sure.
Like in many things, Clemson does it just a little bit differently. Athletic and university leaders have enhanced an already iconic tradition and as we know, it can ruffle the fur of the more traditionalist element of the fanbase. I was one of those fur ruffled fans until I watched. It was awe inspiring, so much so, this proud old alumnus teared up. It felt like I was watching with pride, something I’d love get another step closer (at least in my mind) to… perfection.
One last thought. Imagine, if you will, when the College Football Playoff expands to twelve teams, the first round of the games will be played on participants’ college campuses. Teams that have never experienced Death Valley will be in shock. Just remember former Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly’s face when he first experienced it? That will most likely be repeated many times. What an advantage for the Tigers.
While I’ve come to the end of my “Ode to the Real Death Valley” it’s not the end of my excitement, that’ll never end. After what I saw last Saturday night, my excitement is immeasurable, off the charts. I don’t know about you but I can hardly wait till the next home game.
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