Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Atenas, Costa Rica
Re: Say a prayer for a loyal Gamecock, Dick Bernish
Sorry here is the article.
Nothing could be finer.
by Glen Waggoner
Fingers so coated in fried chicken grease that they can barely grip the third cold Bud of a humid South Carolina morning, teeth overcast and brain partly cloudy from the night before, I lean against Limo One and ponder the pageant unfolding around me.
"Come on down to Carolina and we'll show you what college football is all about," Dick Bernish had said. "I guarantee we'll have a good time."
What better moment to visit Gamecock country? The 'Cocks are 8-0 right now, their best season ever, by far. Bowl scouts are crawling all over Columbia, coach Joe Morrison has every-one believing his squad's No. 5 ranking in the polls is about four notches too low and the sellout crowds at USC's Williams-Brice Stadium seem fated to bring down the deck with their full-throated cheering ("If it ain't swayin, the 'Cocks ain't playin' ").
Carolina, here I am.
If ever you need a guide to good times or college football—make that Carolina football—Dick Bernish is the guy to call.
The University of South Carolina has no stronger supporter than this 41-year-old businessman from north of the border in Charlotte, a man who joined USC's alumni booster organization two years before he graduated. His annual $2,500 contribution to the Gamecock Club gives Bernish elite status among Carolina football supporters: a listing in the football program as a "Silver Spur" (the top contributor category); the right to spend $1,000 on game tickets each year to give to friends; and prime spots in the Silver Spur parking lot for Limos One and Two, the two fully equipped Cadillac limousines he owns for the express purpose of bringing those friends to games.
"Let's see, I may have missed six or seven games—home and away—since 1966," he muses, but that's only part of it. Once, he was part owner of a student hangout in town where Gamecock athletes could do their beer-drinking and stay out of trouble. In earlier days, he would show recruits around campus, and employ his considerable personal magnetism in direct service of the Gamecocks. Dick doesn't recruit athletes anymore because, he confides, "They don't want me to," and he won't do anything that might hurt his Gamecocks. "I know there's no cheatin' going on he says, "because if there was, I'd be doin' it."
Today, game day, began the afternoon 1 before at Sundries, a neighborhood bar in Charlotte where the first of many cold ones helped while away the hours until it was time to pick up the other passengers booked aboard Limo One for the weekend.
"Normally, Lee B. would be right behind us in Limo Two;' Bernish explains, "but he'll be coming down tomorrow with the chicken!" At the halfway point of our journey we make an obligatory stop at the "Talking Tree;' a freeway service stop without services, where habit and circumstance, not to mention the day's beers, prompt a brief communion with nature. Then back in the car, more beers, as Limo One heads south.
"We'll just pop in at the Blythewood Golf and Country Club for a minute;' Dick says, as he eases off onto the exit ramp. Makes sense. Cocktails at the club. Except that Blythewood is a down-at-the-heels country crossroads that's never been blythe, and the Golf and Country Club is a Gulf station and country store, specializing in beer, cigarettes and staples, Franklin Hagood, Prop.
We stop for gas (the tank is three-quarters full), a beer (the coolers in the back seat and trunk are full) and 10 minutes of chewing the fat with Mr. Hagood. Dick always stops there, going and coming, on Carolina football weekends. "You don't let associations like that just drift away," he says.
Half an hour later at our motel, a spontaneous parking-lot party erupts, then shifts from cocktails to dinner and finally to Don's, a hole-in-the-wall beer joint, once a hot student hangout in Dick's college days, now gone to seed.
"C'mon, let's go to somewhere else;' someone says just after midnight, "we want to see everything!' "But ... Dick's voice is that of a patient older brother`this is everything."
Somehow it gets to be 8:15 A.M. on Saturday, and I'm being given the "$10 hysterical tour" of the Carolina campus. Dick and I are the only souls about on the Horseshoe, a group of beautiful, nineteenth-century buildings built around a long, rectangular courtyard that is encircled by a brick walkway. "The place just gets inside you. Once you're here, you never really leave, no matter where you go?'
Kickoff is at 1:30, but Game Time is at 11. That's when we rally around Limo One, crack the first Buds of the day, start to work on the chicken and get our game faces on. The parking lot fills up, tables start to groan with tailgate spreads worthy of Henry VIII, and splendidly coiffed women stroll around with jaunty garnet-and-black ribbons saying "Go 'Cocks!" pinned over their hearts.
Now's the time for serious football talk: I want to be in Jacksonville for the Gator Bowl ...You suppose Joe will keep runnin' everybody in?... That Lewis boy is coming on strong ...You damned well know Tennessee cheats, but the NCAA won't do anything ...I heard that a scout said that Hillary could go in the first round... Clemson, too, if you ask me...Hey, Dick, remember the time you and some old boys hired that moving van to go around to Dietzel's house ...Yes, I do. Paul didn't seem to be getting the message that we were weary of his brand of football... How 'bout one more?... What time you got?
Too bad. We have to go in and watch a football game.