Morris Massre's Blog

Thoughts on South Florida Realty and the Planet in General

Why It’s Great to be a USC Gamecock

Beat Clemson

Being a Gamecock fan is about as easy as being a Chicago Cub.  So much hope and promise every year and then we are let down.  My journey as a fan began in high school.  Up until then I was as big a Clemson fan as one could be.  But one evening in front of a television changed all that.  I was about 16 and a USC baseball game of all things popped up on the screen.  So I watched it out of curiousity and was instantly hooked.  You have to remember that back then in the early ’80’s you basically got sports on Sunday and even that was limited.  There was no ESPN.

Later that year my best friend and I watch our first bowl game, Cocks vs. Mizzou.  I really liked what I saw even though they lost.  As a matter of fact, the Cocks lost their first eight bowls before they finally pulled one out in the Carquest Bowl.  I started looking into everything Gamecock by then and made the journey to Columbia in 1980 to see George Rogers steamroll over the Pack.  If you grew up in South Carolina you either went to Clemson or USC, period.  I wasn’t even thinking about other schools.  It was as if they did not exist.

By the time I graduated I was off to Columbia and followed Gamecock sports of all kinds while there, even the sports nobody else pays attention to like swimming.  What I found was that USC was more than just a football, basketball, or baseball school.  It had so much more to offer.  The soccer program is incredible and has had the same coach for decades.  But having the time to constantly go to every game in every sport is exhausting.  It is not until after you graduate that you realize you are an even bigger fan now than when you were actually in school.  I just didn’t have the time to be as big a fan while attending school.   But today, even my WordPress handle is associated with a South Carolina great, Shoeless Joe Jackson of 1918 White Sox baseball fame.

I arrived in the ’80’s when USC was an independent, almost unheard of today, unless you are Notre Dame.  We could never win a conference championship in anything.  But in ’84 we really had something going when we won 10 football games, but blew our shot at a national title by losing to Navy of all schools.  They haven’t won 10 since then and it was really all downhill after that when Joe Morrison died.  Things didn’t start to come together again for the football program until Spurrier arrived.  No, Holtz did not make a difference.  He was dedicated to the Irish first and foremost and did nothng to endear himself to the fans other than winning 9 games once.  He never beat Florida and had a losing record against Clemson.  In other words, his heart was always in South Bend.  Spurrier had his chance for 10 wins in 2010 too.  It was as if God himself was a Gamecock fan and was giving him and the team chance after chance by scheduling more games, including a conference championship in Atlanta and a Chick Fil A bowl game against FSU.  In the end it turned out to be the letdown loss to Kentucky, after a big lead, that prevented the 10 wins season.

Spurrier really adopted the city and the school in a big way, however.  He goes to other games and gets involved.  To see him smiling and cheering at the College World Series in 2010 sealed his loyalty to me.  Everything he has done to turn the program into a consistant winner is visible everywhere from the incredible new uniforms to the recruting of literally some of the best talent in the country.  No other coach could have landed Lattimore, Jeffery, and Clowney to USC.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Up until 2010 the football program only won one conference title and that was the 1969 ACC championship.  The once proud basketball program under Frank McGuire’s influence had fallen on tough times, and periodically showed flashes of brilliance in ’95 and ’96 when they won the SEC two years in a row.  They were bounced from the tournament in the first round both years.  For those of you who don’t know McGuire, he was the man at St. Johns and then UNC prior to Dean Smith’s arrival.  He even won a national championship there.  He made USC a powerhouse in the ACC  throughout the ’70’s.  I had the greatest pleasure of meeting the man face to face right before he died and purely by accident.  I was dining at a local restaurant in Myrtle Beach and a friend of mine was there.  He asked me if I wanted to meet McGuire.  Do I?!!!  He introduced us and Mcguire and I sat and talked for about an hour about Gamecock basketball.  It was a moment I would never forget.  The man is truly a legend.  He loved the Gamecocks too and had a great deal of influence on the program even after his retirement.

Baseball and soccer, on the other hand were always powerhouses.  But nobody ever talks about that.  The problem with the Gamecocks was they were always the bridesmaid, but never the bride in both sports.  The soccer team played in a national title game against Virginia and came up short and the baseball team made it to the finals three times before finally winning it all in 2010 in dramatic fashion in what has to be the most exciting college baseball series of all time when you consider the fact that they won it all after losing the opener and then sweeping everyone else, including Clemson twice.  Even Spurrier was there.  Holtz was invited in 2003, but was a no show.  This baseball team made history by being the last national championship team to win the last game at historic Rosenblatt Stadium.  I watched every single game they played in for ten straight nights thinking they were going to blow it.  So many times they were on the brink of elimination, only to fight back and pull it out each time.  Then in 2011 they did it again.  This time they blew through the regionals, super regionals, and then the World Series and became only the sixth team in NCAA history to win two championships in a row and broke the series record of consecutive wins in a postseason.  Nobody is laughing at the Gamecocks anymore.  The best part was whereas in 2010 they had to beat arch nemesis Clemson twice to advance, this year they had to beat arch nemesis II Florida twice as well.  There is something about orange I just hate.  And that was sweet satisfaction.

Although not  the first national championship for the university in it’s illustrious history, it was the first for the men in a major sport.  Now everyone knows who the Gamecocks are.  And now that the Gamecocks have won the SEC East  football crown with a win over hated Florida and the soccer team took home the Conference USA title in the same weekend it appears that the chicken curse has indeed finally been lifted.  This is a major accomplishment considering the level of talent in both conferences.

Living in Florida now I have to hear it all the time from the Gator fans.  But now I can rub it in their faces because the Gamecocks have indeed arrived.  USC is truly a wonderful university in many ways and I still go back just to reminisce.  What the rest of the country doesn’t know about the school is that the sports facilities are incredible and rival those of some professional sports.  It sits in the middle of downtown Columbia and is within walking distance of everything happening.  It has a balanced mixture of old and new buildings

Gamecocks

with a beautiful setting at it’s center, the horseshoe.  And no, not just Southerners go to school there.  A lot of kids from the Northeast also attend.  The school is also at or near the top in business, journalism, and engineering.  Walking through downtown Columbia is like taking a trip through time with it’s brick pavered sidewalks, mix of older buildings, and the 100+ year old clocks that adorn the streets.  It’s really such a nice way to spend an afternoon just walking and enjoying the scenery.  And fraternity row is simply majestic with it’s large fraternity and sorority houses lining the streets.  Ah, to be a student living and attending school there today would just be fantastic.

The best advice I can give anyone who is attending college at USC today is to enjoy it and savor every minute of it.  Suck it all in and get involved in as much as possible by visiting everything the university has to offer.  For instance, USC is the sole owner of all Movietone news reels and anyone can feel free to walk in to the theatre and watch it all day.  Why is this important?  Because Movietone is a large piece of American history.  Before television and the internet, Americans got their news by attending a movie and having the news flash on the screen prior to it starting.  The university is also home to the most comprehensive research collection for the study and teaching of F. Scott Fitzgerald. It is housed at the Thomas Cooper Library.
Yes, it is getting easier and easier to be a University of South Carolina Gamecock fan today. I appreciate the university and all it has to offer more today than I ever did as a student probably because I have a better appreciation for history now.

GO GAMECOCKS!

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