Another season of hope and heartbreak

Bea takes it easy in the Gamecock Hut

And so it begins . . . my blog, and another season of hope and heartbreak.

Don’t get me wrong, I love football. Particularly college football. But when your team is a perpetual SEC also-ran (or, as the wizened sages of ESPN argue, a never-ran), fandom can be tough.

As an avid supporter of my alma mater, the University of South Carolina — and a proud flag-waving, black-and-red-sporting Gamecock — I’ve learned to be strong.

Say what you will: If you’re not Florida or Georgia or LSU or Tennessee, being part of the SEC bites.

Gamecock fans are a proud breed. We suffer season after season of disappointment with equanimity, never doubting that our time will come. We have great coaches, great players, outstanding facilities — Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C., on a sunny Saturday afternoon is a rockin’ good time — but season after season, we suffer heartbreak.

It usually plays out one of two ways

— We lose game after game and take solace in flashes of on-field brilliance that leave us saying, “Next year, next year!”

— Or, we start the season with a bang, winning game after game and surprising the experts, before losing momentum and winding up with a series of disappointing losses.

Face it, the University of South Carolina is the Rodney Dangerfield of the SEC. We get no respect. I’m going to say it: I can already hear the howls of bitter disagreement, but being a Gamecock has made me strong enough to withstand them — we’d win more often and be better looked upon if we were part of any other NCAA conference.

Because the SEC is without a doubt the toughest conference of all. The Sun Belt? Please. Mid American? Whatever. Big East? Hah. The ACC? Pantywaists — particularly that other South Carolina school, the Gamecocks’ native enemy and archrival, whose colors are ill-advised orange and purple and whose very name I shun: CL_MS_N.

And now, another season begins this Thursday night with an away game against NC State and gets even tougher the next weekend when we play the Georgia Bulldogs on their home turf.

Which way will it go? Will the losses begin immediately, along with the choruses of, “Next year, next year”? Or will this season be the one? Will Steve Spurrier be our hero, leading us to improbable victory, week after week, against Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky, LSU, Tennessee, Arkansas and Florida?

I’m dreaming of the latter, but am experienced enough in USC fandom to expect the former. After all, my husband has coined a word for hope followed by disappointment: Gamecockian.

Whatever. I’m a Gamecock, tried and true, win or lose. On game days, you’ll find me and a small group of fellow diehards at a San Antonio sports bar, cheering every hard-fought first down and shrugging off our losses.

And, of course, cursing the SEC.

Photo: My kitten, Bea, awaits the season by lounging in her beloved Gamecock Hut.


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