Certainly you’ve heard the big news – the University of South Carolina beat the number 1 football team in the nation, the University of Alabama. Boy, it was something to see! I would have loved to have been there, but I am a “casual fan”.
Now I consider myself a pretty loyal Gamecock supporter, but 1) I am not a Student; 2) I don’t give a ton of money to the Gamecock Club; so the athletics department considers me a Casual Fan. And like most venues, the Casual Fan doesn’t qualify for Premium Seating Options (a fancy way of saying “Good seats”). Sit in the student section? Nope! Take the elevator to the skyboxes or sit close to the field? Surely you jest. Casual fans get the leftovers. But there are 80,000 seats in Williams Brice Stadium – lots of leftovers! And even with my heart defect I am mobile, so I don’t sit in the Handicapped section. Someone else may need that space.
You still have to think ahead, because with 80,000 people trying to get to the same place, not everyone can park close. Usually the closer you can park, the more money you contributed. So a guy like me might as well plan to leave early, because I can’t get there five minutes before game time. Sprinting to my seat just doesn’t work for me – especially if I have a seat in the upper deck. The advantage to getting there early, of course, is that you get to take your time, look around, and if you are lucky, bump into a friend who invites you over to a tailgate party!
But then you have to hike the steps to your seat – and not at your own pace anymore. Steps and I do not get along well, I need to take it slow and easy and rest occasionally. That’s really hard to do with a group of fans behind you, all anxious to get to their seats. (Yeah, I’m the slowpoke that’s holding up progress!) And if my seat is high enough, I ain’t coming down until the game is over. No concession stand trip, because the fan who walks down must walk back up. Once is enough for me!
I’ve sat in some high seats at times. A friend and I went to an Atlanta Braves baseball game in the early 1990’s. That was before my stroke and I could handle steps better back then, and we had very high seats. The game announcer told us that Steve Avery was the Braves’ pitcher that night, but we weren’t sure – this little guy about half an inch tall walked out to the mound! He was a very good pitcher, but we couldn’t tell you if it was actually Steve Avery or not.
I had two sets of tickets to an opening round baseball game at the 1996 Olympics – one pair was low on the field, the others were very high. I kept the low seats and gave the higher seats to a friend and her boyfriend. Since we never saw each other at the game, I called her later and asked if they had made it.
“We were there! It was great, thank you again!”
Where were you two sitting? I asked.
“We were in the very top row! I think we were two rows above Jesus!” (Which team was He pulling for? I thought, but didn’t ask.)
Weather can also be a factor. It can get cold in South Carolina – and I’m cold natured. When I get cold, I can’t feel my fingers and toes. Then I can feel them again – they hurt! And until I get warm, I can’t move them without pain. My dad and I were able to go the 1981 South Carolina – Clemson game, when Clemson finished with 12 wins and no losses. The game was miserable (Clemson ran us off the field) and the weather was miserable – highs in the 40’s with a stiff breeze blowing. Not pleasant at all! Still haven’t figured out what I was doing there.
So when you add the walking distance, the steps, the weather, and my heart defect, I usually just don’t go to ball games. But I still have the best seat in the house…
…right in front of the TV!