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Column: Random thoughts

Posted: April 2, 2018 2:43 p.m.
Updated: April 3, 2018 1:00 a.m.

I read a piece from the Daily Gamecock regarding the Carolina Cup and the demise of College Park.

The writer was exploring the apparent decline in attendance by groups of college kids, often members of fraternities and sororities, who would pay big bucks to rent buses, set up tents and have a big hootenanny across the racetrack from the infield, well away from the mainstream of Cup attendance.

Apparently, the general consensus from those the writer interviewed is that the police presence and enforcement policies are too aggressive. To wit: these kids apparently got tired of spending a lot of money to travel to Camden for a better than even chance of getting arrested.

My take, now and for always, is simple. Don’t want to get arrested for underage drinking? Don’t drink alcohol in public until you’re of legal age. Don’t want to get busted for public disorderly conduct? Don’t get hammered and naked in the infield.

In other words, use your head for more than just a hat rack and you’ll probably be OK.

But, that applies all across the board.

Yeah, too many tales of the hordes of berserkers-in-paisley have filtered across the field for too many years for too many of us to take such a complaint too seriously. Stories of kids stumbling off buses, already spackled to the gills well before noon, stories of fights, general mayhem, utter idiocy have been repeated over and over again. How anyone has not died in the zoo over there is nothing short of a miracle, if even a tenth of what comes out of the rumor mill is to be remotely believed.

But we’ve also heard just as many stories, every year, about the hordes of overzealous law enforcement types, all with the singular mission of making it a point to empty as many full and fragrant cat boxes into as many punchbowls as possible.

We’ve even heard some of the righteous proclaim that Cup day is not a free pass to flout the law. I don’t disagree with that.

We’ve heard a lot of it. We believe very little of it. As always, somewhere in the middle lies the truth.

Here’s the thing: despite efforts over the years by some to downplay some of the more bacchanalian aspects of the Carolina Cup, the fact is, the Cup has been known as one of the larger (and better) cocktail parties in the South for many years. That will probably never change and why should it? Who doesn’t like a good party once in awhile -- especially on as magnificent a spring day as this past Saturday was? Who doesn’t feel great about dressing to the nines, packing a picnic basket and a cooler and hanging out with 65,000 or so of your best friends?

Before people start battling to un-bunch their Fruit of the Looms, I will point out the following: I grew up in Camden; I went to my first Cup when I was 9 years old and since then, I’ve missed maybe five of them, including this year’s. That means I’ve been attending the Cup for the better part of nearly 45 years, indeed, have seen them in pretty much every phase of my life. In other words, I have a pretty good idea of what goes on and what it’s like.

What can I say? It’s a wonderful, unique, fun, interesting, much-looked-forward-to experience. If you love all things equestrian, then this is probably as close to Nirvana as it gets this far east of Churchill Downs. If you like a day of dressing up and socializing, this is generally one of the more civilized places to do that. It is even quite OK to have a few of your favorite adult beverages while you do all that.

But if you like to get stinking, blithering, knee-walking, commode-hugging, fanny-faced drunk, then you can probably expect a visit, possibly even an assist, from the guys and gals in blue. And if you do show your fanny, then you should expect trouble in direct proportion to how much of it you decided to put on display for the rest of the world.

On the other hand, when a number of different folks -- allegedly responsible adults -- voice concerns about how increased law enforcement presence makes them uncomfortable, then someone needs to take note. Not everyone who has a couple of beers is going to start a fight, get nekkid in public or get behind the wheel of a car for the sole purpose of plowing through the nearest church day care center.

We know; if you’re not doing anything illegal, you have nothing to fear.

Yeah, right. Let me just finish launching that last flying monkey from the back of my boxers. Or to crib a line from a famous crooked politician: “It’s about the perception, stupid.”

If you send a message that we’re an uptight, puritanical place then you will, in fact, drive a stake through the heart of the community. Not only will people not want to visit; they won’t want to live here, either.

When that happens, those who are left can try to make their livings trading hats with each other.

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