The commercial break was ending. The boom — a camera on a crane-like arm that swept over the crowd like a windshield wiper — was ready.
It wasn’t like the folks on the USC Horseshoe had to be reminded that they were being filmed for ESPN’s “College GameDay,” but then again this was live TV.
And it was time for action.
“Let’s show the nation what’s going on in South Carolina this morning,” Mike Ruhlman said before beginning the countdown.
The symphonic horns of the USC marching band blared before being drowned out by a familiar three-letter chant. On Saturday morning, though, it sounded like one of an uprising.
“U-S-C. U-S-C. U-S-C.”
Sights and sounds from the Horseshoe began the morning for many college football fans across the country. That’s what they saw for three hours as host Chris Fowler and “GameDay” broadcasters Erin Andrews, Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso and Desmond Howard broke down the day’s games.
So. How did we look on camera?
“It looked tremendous,” Ruhlman, “GameDay’s” stage manager, said. “It definitely has the feel of a college campus. It looked good on TV.”
Then he added: “It definitely has a lot better feel than a parking lot,” referring to the State Fairgrounds where the program was staged on four previous visits.
The setting was beautiful on the tree-lined horseshoe. The estimated 4,000 fans, some of who camped out to ensure a spot in front against the guardrails where a camera was sure to capture the myriad ways a face can contort when screaming “Woo!”, cheered and booed on cue. In the age of Facebook and reality TV, putting a camera in front of someone’s face is like turning on a light switch.
USC President Harris Pastides, who leisurely walked on the brick sidewalk and backstage, might have been the only Gamecock fan who didn’t high five or fist bump anyone, though one can’t be entirely certain.
The signage ranged from bland to extremely creative. A few of the memorable: “Ingram’s got Bieber Fever,” “Lattimore taught me how to dougie,” “Kenny’s spirit plays on” and the image of the Tide logo — the detergent, that is — crossed out. And, yes, for those familiar with “GameDay” history, there was a Washington State flag in the crowd.
Taylor Daylami and his roommate Jorge Villamizar, who were on the front row behind the stage, which was set up near Sumter Street, had easily the oddest sign of the morning.
But it wasn’t a sign; it was a cardboard photo of a monkey.
“It gets people’s attention,” Daylami said.
It was also something that Andrews autographed when she walked around like an all-American player recognizing shouting, autograph-seeking fans.
“It’s now a prize monkey,” Daylami said. “It may be on eBay.”
For those who follow Andrews’ every move: She drank Smart Water, did a jig that wasn’t part of her “Dancing With the Stars” routine during a commercial break, and wore a blazer with skinny black jeans and flats.
Janice Geller looked better than Andrews. It was her coordinated outfit of a houndstooth dress over tights pared with houndstooth flats. She topped it with a houndstooth fedora, a nod to legendary Alabama coach Bear Bryant. She was confident, like many of the Alabama faithful.
One noticed something that was more out of place than the crimson of Alabama T-shirts on the Horseshoe: All the orange.
Home Depot, the show’s sponsor, had its orange and white logo on the stage, the plastic hard hats passed out on the front row, the T-shirts of crew members, the guardrails and it wrapped a jumbo screen facing the crowd.
But the “GameDay” crowd didn’t seem to care because they weren’t concerned about being swiped by a Tiger.
They didn’t want to get swept up by the Tide.