By Dan Mennella
The conversation around college sports these days is passionate, to put it kindly, but the games must resume. And with the return this week of the venerated institution that is college football in places like Columbia, S.C., where it is closer to religion than recreational endeavor, we are reminded of the awesome culture around the sport.
For several years, the unofficial start of the major-conference college football season has been marked by a South Carolina home game on the final Thursday in August. It's a production fraught with excitement, as are many college games, but with that extra buzz of being a nationally televised contest. This year's affair was no different. Here's a look at some quintessentially college football sights and sounds from that game and others, as we usher in a new season.
This adorable tyke, decked out in South Carolina cheerleader garb, awaits the arrival of Gamecocks players outside Williams-Brice Stadium prior to Thursday's game against Texas A&M. Let's just hope she doesn't end up going to mortal-rival Clemson -- that's how families are torn apart.
The talking heads are back, too, and TIM TEBOW has taken his place among them on ESPN's new SEC Network. We'll also be seeing plenty of the traveling band of troubadours known as the College GameDay crew. A staple of these shows is to allow the throngs of students standing behind the sets to display homemade signs that are funny, weird, and, in some cases, controversial.
Also, why are Tebow's co-hosts laughing so hard? As it turns out, he's pretty funny. Check out his impression of South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier:
Of course, no college football game worth its salt goes on without a dynamic marching band performance. As someone who can't dance even when it's just me and my two left feet, these talented guys and gals get my respect for doing it while toting heavy instruments in really awkward uniforms. Ohio State's "Moonwalk" holds the crown at season's outset -- will anyone challenge?
Power couple alert: NASCAR drivers Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse were decked out in Ole Miss gear at Thursday's Rebels-Boise State game in Atlanta.
These brodacious Texas A&M fans presumably travelled from Texas to South Carolina to cheer on their Aggies, and they went home very happy after witnessing the birth of a star.
And Utah's mascot -- this caped, muscled bird of prey -- is a legitimate challenger to Pierre the Pelican for the creepiest in all of sports.
Welcome back, college football.