The pregame politeness between fans of the 2014 Discover Orange Bowl teams, Clemson and Ohio State, could be summed up by an exchange in Sun Life Stadium’s west parking lot between a pack of walking Clemson fans and two young men in Ohio State sweatshirts sitting on a rear bumper.
Clemson fans: “Enjoy the game!”
Ohio State fan: “Stop being so polite! Be a little rude!”
Clemson fan: “Why be rude? We don’t hate anybody. It’s a football game.”
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The nippy (by South Florida standards) night prevented only the revealing wardrobes for which the region’s known. Otherwise, a warm, communal spirit and good-natured joshing predominated among fans of two schools who don’t have much history with each other. Their only previous bowl meeting was the 1978 Gator Bowl, when Clemson, coached by 30-year-old Danny Ford in his first game after Charley Pell left for the Florida job, beat Ohio State 17-15 in what turned out to be legendary Ohio State coach Woody Hayes’ final game.
Going by observation on sweeps of the parking lot and stadium walkways, Ohio State brought more fans, and they brought more creativity than their Clemson counterparts. Orange overalls and the occasional tiger head seemed to be the outer limits of Clemson fan funkiness.
Also, the Ohio State band electrified the crowd that had arrived early by doing its traditional pregame routine, including the Script Ohio with the high-kicking band member dotting the “i.”
While the parking lot portable toilet lines broke down equally, as opposed to Notre Dame’s bulky numeric advantage on Alabama at last year’s BCS National Championship Game, Ohio State’s greater host was apparent inside Sun Life Stadium even with Clemson’s color situation (orange seats, Orange Bowl Committee members in orange blazers). Buckeye scarlet and gray occupied about 60 percent of the lower bowl and club level seats and half the upper bowl.
Out in the parking lot, both Ohio State fans and Clemson fans stopped to take photos with Santa Claus, even though this Santa’s hat declared his allegiance to Ohio State.
“Who doesn’t love Santa?” Pembroke Pines resident and Ohio State graduate Amanda Martin laughed just after her Santa-clad father, Columbus, Ohio, resident Gary Martin, slapped hands with passing Clemson fans.
While Martin declared his get-up was for this game only and because it’s the holidays, Minerva, Ohio, resident Dave Miller — nicknamed “Block O” — says he drapes himself in paint and buckeye necklaces every game he attends.
“And every Michigan game, even if I’m watching at home on the couch,” Miller said.
Miller said he began dressing this way for games with the 2007 Michigan game to change Ohio State’s fortunes — the Buckeyes had just lost 28-21 to perennial Big Ten doormat Illinois, coached then by former Florida coach Ron Zook.
Ohio State beat Michigan, then went on to play LSU in the BCS National Championship Game in New Orleans. After a positive reaction from Buckeye fans before that game, Miller made it a tradition.