With the arrival of the college football season, what better way to get things under way than to warmly welcome our neighbors to the North for the opening game?
That’s right, our good friends from Chapel Hill and the rest of the Tar Heel State will be crossing the border to watch their boys in blue take on those feisty Gamecocks, ranked No. 6 in all the land.
Usually, the only time people travel from North Carolina to this state comes when they head over to Myrtle Beach in the summer to play miniature golf and shop at the Gay Dolphin. (They don’t even go to Clemson to play football every other season any more.)
So forgive them if they’re not too well-versed in how the Palmetto State works. The last time they came to Williams-Brice Stadium occurred during the Bush administration – the first one. It was 1990 to be exact, when the football programs were run by guys with funny names like Sparky and Mack.
USC won that one. But UNC has twice as many wins in the all-time series – 34-17 with four ties – dating back to the 1700s, when the border between the states was first created and the old pigskin was actually a dead pig.
Residents of the two states have long harbored some resentment toward each other.
First they argued over where Andrew Jackson, the seventh U.S. president, was born in 1767. Both states claim his birthplace – right where our Lancaster County touches your Union County – and the dispute has never gone away, despite the fact Jackson tweeted out in 1825 that he was born in South Carolina. North Carolinians still question the legitimacy of that particular Twitter account, @OldHickory.
Next, they argued over basketball coach Frank McGuire, who led UNC to a national championship in 1957. McGuire later left the school and eventually settled in Columbia as USC’s coach. McGuire’s 1971 team beat the Tar Heels in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game, causing so much bitterness that all the schools on Tobacco Road held their breath and stamped their feet until South Carolina left the conference in a snit.
That’s why USC and UNC haven’t met many times in any sport since then, which has left Tar Heel fans with little experience on how to act when they enter the world of smiling faces and beautiful places.
So we’re here with some practical advice for the 5,500 UNC fans making the trip to Columbia. Please pay close attention. It just might keep this border war from escalating.
WATCH HOW YOU USE THE TERM “CAROLINA”
Once you ride past Carowinds on I-77, “Carolina” no longer means North Carolina. It means South Carolina. That’s just how it is, and nobody here cares what the rest of the country thinks. If you stop for lunch at Steak ‘n Shake off the Rock Hill exit, don’t say you’re rooting for “Carolina” while you’re wearing light blue. You might get leg-whipped with a tire iron in the parking lot by an irate guy wearing garnet.
DON’T BRAG ABOUT THE SUPER REGIONAL
Sure, your baseball team beat the Gamecocks in June to go to the College World Series. But you still haven’t won it all, and USC has grabbed two national titles in recent seasons. (However, USC coach Chad Holbrook is a UNC grad, which has a few Gamecock fans wondering if he’s a double agent. You can be certain that when UNC scores Thursday, they’ll be checking to see whether Holbrook is doing a touchdown dance while exchanging a secret handshake with his good buddy Tar Heels basketball coach Roy Williams.)
AVOID DISCUSSING BARBECUE SAUCE
If you turn your nose up at a mustard-based barbecue sandwich here in the Midlands and start extolling the virtues of vinegar-based barbecue, you may find yourself stuffed into a bottle filled with Hite’s sauce and floating back up the Catawba River.
DON’T TRUMPET YOUR ACADEMICS
Or else USC fans will pull out a UNC African studies course guide filled with no-show classes (which got the Tar Heels is some trouble with the NCAA).
TRY NOT TO BRING UP YOUR BASKETBALL SUPERIORITY
You wouldn’t want Frank Martin to fix his really mean glare on your tailgate party, now would you?
GAMECOCKS VS. TAR HEELS
Who: No. 6 USC vs. UNC | When: Thursday, 6 p.m. | Where: Williams-Brice Stadium
TV: ESPN | Radio: WNKT-FM 107.5 | Line: USC by 11
Coming Thursday: Our Game Day countdown
Start your day Thursday with thestate.com, and watch throughout the day as we post stories, photos and videos from folks gearing up for the USC’s season opener against UNC.