This is the first of hopefully several articles written by contributors of the show. If you would like to be a guest columnist email Robertsanders@iheartmedia.com
The Cologne Box by Trey Gunnels
At 53 years of age, I can’t read anything without my $6 Dollar General readers. I probably need prescription glasses but I am too vain for that. I have a drawer in my night stand that is totally devoted to my “back-up” readers. These are old glasses that I can go to when I break or lose my current pair. The other day, while rummaging through the drawer to find the most qualified back-up, I bumped into the ole Cologne Box.
The Cologne Box doesn’t hold actual cologne anymore. I haven’t worn cologne in years. No, it’s a box that houses something more important. Memories. Old football game ticket stubs mixed with some old casino player cards. One stub is from a magical day. November 12, 2005. Florida at South Carolina.
This game marked the first time that the Head Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier, would face Florida as an opponent. Spurrier was a Heisman Trophy winning QB for the Gators as a player and in 12 seasons as the Gator coach won a National Championship (1996), six SEC titles and was SEC coach of the year five times.
We were surprised about the noon kick-off time but would not be deterred. The 11 person Aiken, SC caravan hit the road at 6 am for Williams-Brice stadium. We parked at the old Brickhouse gym. The crew of 10 Gamecocks, with our one token lady Gator Wendy, were enjoying 9 am shish kebabs, burgers, dogs and washing them down with Bud Light.
My friend Kishan and his wife, were attending their first college football game. Kish, who was raised in India and spent his adulthood in London, had been to big time events before though. Multiple World Cups. I don’t think he was expecting much from this local redneck American college thing. But we needed Kish. His cousin owned the Holiday Inn (called something else now) within walking distance of Calloway’s Sports Bar and Grill. We had a block of rooms at a “deeply discounted” rate. So Saturday night was covered. But first the game.
And what a game it was. Despite only getting seven completions from QB Blake Mitchell, the Gamecocks lead by the “first” Mike Davis’ 2 TD’s shocked the #12 Gators 30-22. Afterword, Kish comes up to me and in his unique Indian-English accent says, “Get me the season tickets.” I guess he temporarily thought I was a ticket broker. I wish I was a ticket broker today that could get tickets at that 2005 price. We sat in the West Lower level. Great seats. Price of ticket: $30.
Today the face value for the South Carolina-Alabama game and South Carolina-Clemson game is $125. If a family of four would like to attend the first USC-Alabama game in nine years and enjoy a decent (not 50 yard line) lower level seat, StubHub is going to charge around $1500. The prices are ridiculous and it’s starting to show in the actual stadiums.
For the seventh time in eight years, college football attendance declined. Lowest numbers in 22 years. And if you think that the football rabid crazed SEC conference is immune, think again. 2018 SEC average attendance was its lowest since 2004. Obviously, there are a lot of reasons for the decline other than price. Those can be discussed at a later date.
Here’s what I know. What separates college football from the NFL is the live game day experience. Tailgating. Parking at the same place every year where you see old friends for the first time since the last football season. Night football in Baton Rouge. The Swamp. Calling the Dawgs in Athens. Howard’s Rock and Running Down the hill at Clemson. Sandstorm and 2001 Space Odyssey in Columbia, SC. Rolling Toomer’s Corner in Auburn. Rammer Jammer in Tuscaloosa. The Grove (and the young ladies) at Ole Miss. The Cowbells in Starkville. The Vol Navy in Knoxville. I could go on and on.
I was hooked on college football because of going to games with my Daddy. My sons and I have definitely continued the tradition. College football is a generational thing and it will never be the same if we lose the game day experience.
My very good buddy, Brian, is a successful lawyer in Aiken. Even though he went to law school at USC-Columbia, he’s a lifelong Clemson Tiger fan. I mean big time. He’s milking this current wave of unprecedented Tiger success for everything it’s worth. He and his family attend everything. ACC championship games in Charlotte. National Championship in Santa Clara, California. Everything. I asked him, “If you were making 50k a year and Clemson was 7-5, what would you do?” His response, “Couldn’t do it.” That’s the problem.