Indulge me for a moment, if you will. My story is bittersweet, at least for me.
Fast forward 11 seasons and four co-hosts and the one constant was my role as host, and that the Tiger Pregame Show would be “live on location where the Tigers play”.
That’s 132 consecutive games, spanning as far west as College Station Texas, as far north as Boston Massachusetts, and as far south as Miami Florida. The streak meandered at least once to every ACC stadium (minus the new entries Pitt and Syracuse). The streak included both the old Orange Bowl and the new Sun Life Stadium.
Yet somehow, every single time, the logistics of traveling as a one man studio always worked itself out and we were on the air on game day.
But that streak will come to an end this Thursday. That muggy, early morning in August of 2003 is about to have a bookend.
The wheels were set in motion for the streak to eventually end way back in 2004 when I entered graduate school at Clemson University to get my Masters in Education Administration. When I started the show in 2003, I was a public education teacher in Anderson and committing to go to every football game on a Saturday was something that was tough on family but had no impact on my “real” job.
Even after earning my Masters and moving to Pendleton High School as an Instructional Coach, commitments to my job and school were not something that kept me from broadcasting the show at home and on the road. There were a few tricky times after I became an Assistant Principal at Dorman High School, including a Dorman/Byrnes game on Friday night in Spartanburg and an all-night drive to Tallahassee for a night game in Doak Campbell in 2006. But the streak continued.
But in my mind I knew the next step, whenever that may be for me, was to a high school Principalship. With that, the Tiger Pregame Show on the road would be in serious jeopardy because of Friday night high school football and travel logistics for early kickoffs on the road for Clemson.
So this June, when the call came to take over as Principal at Mauldin High School in Greenville, all of the excitement of this new opportunity professionally for me was weighted by the realization that the end of traveling with the Tigers was probably upon me.
This year, a home Mauldin game and trips to Syracuse and Maryland were going to be very difficult, if not impossible, depending on game times yet to be set. Logistics can be overcome in most cases, but the crazy travel schedule seemed a bit silly to me now that I am in my 40’s.
This July I went to Chris Downey and the management of WCCP and gave them my decision…I would not attend all of the road games this year. After a moment of stunned silence, the WCCP team immediately started looking at dollar signs flying in the air! You see, going to the games was actually a bad financial deal for WCCP.
So for the first time since that warm August morning back in 2003, I will not be where the Tigers are on game day. And that is bittersweet for me, partly because of the streak. But mostly because traveling to road games, at least for me, became more enjoyable than going to games in Clemson.
There is something great about the people that go to road games. I found them to be true and dedicated football fans. They were not there just to tailgate or network with business colleagues as you see sometimes in Clemson at home games.
These folks traveled with the Tigers because they loved Clemson and they loved Clemson football. And for 132 games, I was right there with those road warriors of Clemson football.
But on Thursday, we will broadcast the show from a Tailgate Party for WCCP advertisers from 1:30-4:30 in Clemson and then I will be in front of my television watching Clemson football instead of living and breathing it from the stands. And that will be a very strange feeling.
We will still be on the road this year if schedules for Mauldin and Clemson allow it. We will be in Columbia no matter what, so it is not as if traveling with Clemson is over and done with all together. It’s just going to be sporadic now, instead of being a streak.
And as we all know, the game will go on with or without me and the Tiger Pregame Show being on location.
The Tiger Pregame Show 1:30-4:30 Thursday on WCCP 104.9 FM and wccpfm.com
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