The Daily Gamecock

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright

Annual event roasts Upstate rival, attracts hundreds

Their masterpiece sagged, teetered, separated and eventually disintegrated into a heap of embers and charred wooden boards in a three minute span Monday night, fueled by a torch-wielding Cocky and captured by the cameras of the hundreds who flanked the intramural fields adjacent to the Colonial Life Arena.
All that stood of a formerly formidable feline: his plywood frame, quietly and slowly burning above the watchful eye of his dutiful creators.

"If you built it to stay there forever and someone burned it, you'd be crushed," said Travis Edwards, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student who has contributed to the last three tigers. "But I enjoy watching it burn."

The flames and cheers served as the climax to the annual 45-minute festival, complete with a lengthy "eulogy to the tiger," several hearty cheers and free refreshments. This year's event came with an added perk: rain-free skies and temperatures around 60 degrees, which made the hot chocolate irrelevant to many.

"Here lies the remnants of a mascot who, despite all effort, could not be revived after being wounded by yellow jackets on Halloween Weekend and then put on life support this past Saturday after being attacked by wolves," said Kevin Huston, pastor at The Shack campus ministry.

For those in attendance behind the marked boundaries, a good 50 yards from the sacrificial kitty, the burning was a quick photo opportunity, a vow to continue hating Clemson and a beloved start to the Thanksgiving holiday. The students who huddled near the tiger — armed with flames of their own to facilitate its burning — had a more vested interest.

Their creature, built with $900 of nails, braces, boards and bolts, had one significant revision from last year: It only possessed two legs. Would they support the arms and meaty body, stuffed with hay? Would the tiger burn bright in the forests of the night, as William Blake famously wrote centuries ago?

"It actually turned into a better design and was more stable with two legs instead of four," Edwards said. "... The arms did put up a fight, though."

Had the arms not burned, Allison Toney wouldn't have been terribly upset. Toney, the coordinator for USC student organizations charged with planning the event, received her undergraduate degree from Clemson.

"I'm kind of crying right now," Toney said with a laugh.

A few minutes later, Toney added a few more words.

"We both celebrate tradition, and it's good to be a part of that," she said.