Atmosphere at Death Valley is second to none

Atmosphere at Death Valley is second to none

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Atmosphere at Death Valley is second to none

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First, best and worst stadiums I have covered games

One of the advantages of my job is I get to experience and go to some pretty cool sporting events.

In my career as a sportswriter, I have covered national championship games in college football, the College Football Playoff, the Sweet 16 in men’s basketball, ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament Championship Game, the College World Series, conference championship and playoff games in the NFL.

I have done a lot of great things and have been all over our country doing it. However, there is nothing like covering a Clemson football game at Death Valley.

This past week, a question was asked on The Clemson Insider’s message board in regard to what was the first big-time stadium you went to, what was the last, what was the best and what was the worst? It was a good question because it allowed me to reflect a little and appreciate how blessed I have been to see and experience so many great stadiums and atmospheres over the years.

If you know my background, then you know Memorial Stadium in Clemson, a.k.a. Death Valley, was the first big-time stadium I ever went to. I was a teenager then and it lived up to the hype. I had a great time and Clemson won. The atmosphere was amazing that day. I’ll never forget it for a lot of reasons, too many to go into right now.

Growing up as a Clemson fan, I attended many more games at Death Valley through the years. After working as a sportswriter for nearly a decade in South Georgia and South Carolina, I got an offer to cover Clemson in 2004, and April 5 will mark my 16th anniversary of covering the Tigers.

Through the years, I have covered 108 Clemson games at Death Valley, missing just two. One due to a death in the family and the other due to being extremely ill.

Clemson has never disappointed in any of the 108 games I have covered. The tailgating is second to none. The atmosphere is second to none, even when Clemson plays a noon game against an FCS team the atmosphere is impressive.

Not many places in the country can top Clemson.

But the best stadium I have ever gone to, as a fan or as a sportswriter, is AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. I have attended two games there, one for fun and the other for work.

In 2012, I went as a fan to see my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers play the Dallas Cowboys. In 2018, I covered the Cotton Bowl Classic between Clemson and Notre Dame.

The Steelers-Cowboys game was great. I have never been to a Super Bowl, but I imagine this is what the atmosphere at a Super Bowl must be like. There were over 90,000 people there and there were just as many Steelers fans as Cowboys fans that afternoon. I was told their might have been even more Steelers fan.

As I was leaving the game, which unfortunately Dallas won in overtime, one of the Cowboy fans looked at me very seriously and said, “That was the best road win we had all year.” It was a fun atmosphere to be in and it was a great game.

Prior to the game, I took a tour of the stadium, and it is unbelievable, and that scoreboard is amazing. It is like nothing you will ever see. My seats were great, too. The only thing I did not get to see was the press box, which I heard was the largest press box in the country.

I finally got to see the press box in 2018 when I covered Clemson in the Cotton Bowl. It was very impressive and lived up to its billing. Once again, because I was in the press box this time, I had great seats. Unfortunately, I did not see a great game as Clemson steamrolled the Irish, 30-3, on its way to winning another national championship.

However, the atmosphere was great, there were a lot of Irish fans in Texas that day, but Clemson fans represented well too and the back-and-forth before the game between the two fan bases was great.

The worst place I have ever been to, from a stadium standpoint, is at Duke. I have been there to cover a game three times and neither time was very memorable, except for the fact the press box is used as a classroom during the school week. When you get off the elevator you can actually see the chairs and desks lined up against the wall.

Also, the visiting locker room is like a mile away from Wallace Wade stadium it seems, which is also where we did post-game interviews. As far as the atmosphere goes, if it was not for all the Clemson fans that show up, there probably would not have been an atmosphere.

Since my last trip to Wallace Wade, which was in 2012, they have done a lot of work to the stadium, so maybe it isn’t as bad as it once was. But as of right now, it is still the worst stadium I have been to with Maryland’s Byrd Stadium a close second.

My top 10 stadiums

(This is a list of the best stadiums I have attended a game)

  1. AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
  2. Memorial Stadium, Clemson, S.C.
  3. Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga.
  4. Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn, Ala.
  5. Kyle Field, College Station, Texas
  6. Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Ga. (No longer stands)
  7. Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Va.
  8. State Farm Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
  9. Bank of American Stadium, Charlotte
  10. Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans

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