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Columbia Missourian

FROM READERS: Welcome to game day in the other Columbia

By JACOB LASOVAGE/MISSOURIAN READER
September 21, 2012 | 3:59 p.m. CDT

Jacob LaSovage is an assistant general manager at Liberty Taproom and Grill, 828 Gervais Street, Columbia, S.C.

First, let us say: Welcome to football in the SEC. This year will be an experience for both your fans and your players like no other. Why yes, the Big 12 has a great football tradition, but with all respect, there is nothing like football Saturdays in the south. We here in Columbia are no exception. The football program has had its ups and downs, but one thing remains constant through it all: We love our Gamecocks.

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If you’re looking to experience the football culture here, look no further than the fairgrounds, the old farmers market and the “Cock”abooses. The number one priority in Columbia on Saturdays is tailgating. And don’t let anyone tell us they do it better, because I’m pretty sure that’s not true. But, if you think you can keep up with our tailgating experience, the best part of Columbia is that the southern hospitality in us comes out, and we will show you a great time our way well, unless you're a Clemson fan. But do know: Tailgating here is a profession and a science. It's not just something we do, it's something we live for. From food to beer to all the entertainment in between, it’s down to a science.

Now, as for what to expect, I would assume that, this weekend being your Tigers first visit down here, it will pretty tame. No one really knows what to expect from your fan base yet, so the courtesy will be extended to you fully. It is parents weekend, so the kids will on their best behavior. However, please don’t think that our students here are dressing up for their parents; they look like this every game day. The young ladies in their game-day dresses, done up to the nines, looking more like they are going to afternoon tea than to a football game. DO NOT BE FOOLED. They are prim and proper 'til kickoff, but let me tell you: Once the game starts, it's on. The gentlemen will be in khakis and bow ties and button downs, but again, kickoff here in Columbia changes people. Still very much southern and hospitable, but it's game time.

One of the most chilling moments in the stadium, at least from my time there, is the entrance. The theme from "2001: A Space Odyssey" plays, with 85,000 people going absolutely crazy – jumping, yelling and just about to explode while waiting for this moment when their Gamecocks come running out. And then, a sheer exuberance blasts from the stadium and, I swear, we are about 2 miles away, and we hear it. But the experience here in Columbia is a unique experience, unlike anything your Tigers have seen. It will be a great new thing for your players and your fans.

There are two main areas that people head to after the game. They are The Vista, where I am located, and Five Points. These two areas are both great and very different. The Vista is the area with multiple dining options as well as multiple bars. It has two large hotels, 20-plus restaurants, 25-plus bars and is lots and lots of fun. This area is centered on Gervais (pronounced ger-vay). It’s an old rail house district that has many unique buildings and stores tucked everywhere. The larger restaurants are Liberty Tap Room, Blue Marlin, Wild Wings and Ale House. This is where a lot of out-of-towners usually stay. It is a safe and secure, well lit and high-traffic area with lots to offer in both food and drinks. The Five Points area is the college bar part of town; it has shops, bars, a couple of good restaurants and lots of fun people-watching space.

The restaurant I work at would be happy to help our newest fans of the best football conference in America get accustomed to this wonderful new world. Like I said before, nothing beats SEC football in the South — well, one thing does: Carolina Gamecock football. Hope this will help your Tigers get comfortable with their new home in the SEC, and good luck it's not going to be easy.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.