Wooed, wilted and jilted

Football will break your heart. I’ve long compared it to a high school dance: When the lights come up at the end of the evening, sometimes your crush is kissing the wrong girl.

That’s how Gamecocks fans felt Saturday night, as the footballs gods romanced our rivals in Auburn and we walked away, rejected and wiser. For an instant — well, for about 30 minutes, the length of the first half — we really believed we were looking at a transformed team, one that had the will and talent to take us to a 4-0 start for the first time since 2001.

Sadly, it was not to be. Powered in part by two inopportune fumbles by junior quarterback Stephen Garcia, Auburn instead advanced to 4-0. As my friend Susanne Jordan Witteborg so astutely put it, “I think Garcia started out, for the first half, playing pretty well. Then something happened. He remembered he was a Gamecock.”

But why dwell? As Chuck Little of the Alamo City Gamecocks said, “Baseball season starts in February.” I’m looking at it this way: Now that we’ve fumbled away our hopes for a dream season, we can just relax and watch the games without the tension that comes with the pressure of success.

I’m your bad luck charm

OK, that’s enough about the Gamecocks for now: The pain is too fresh. But, hey, I should have seen it coming, because if I was rooting for your SEC team this weekend, chances are you ended up on the short end of the victory stick.Let’s break a few of ’em down:

No. 1 Alabama at No. 10 Arkansas — Well, I’ve never been a fan of too much success. And while I believe Alabama has a straight shot to repeating as the SEC champion, I wish those aforementioned football gods would share the wealth. Arkansas hung tough, but eventually fell to the Crimson Tide juggernaut, 24-20.

Kentucky at No. 9 Florida — Same story as above: Florida has had more than its fair share of success and it would have been nice to see Kentucky fans rewarded for their faith. (OK, that’s actually true. But in the interest of full disclosure, I wanted the Gators to lose in order to increase my Gamecocks’ fast-dimming chances for an SEC East championship. What can I say? I have my priorities straight.) In the end, it wasn’t much of a fight down in the swamp: Florida took it, 48-14.

Georgia at Mississippi State — I can’t kick a Dawg when it’s down, and Georgia is really down. Their season is looking increasingly pitiful, and they’ve lost three in a row for the first time since 1990. As a Gamecock, I understand the pain of losing, and Georgia fans are in serious pain. Mississippi State 24, Georgia 12.

University of Alabama-Birmingham at Tennessee — It’s hard for me to root against an SEC team, but I was actually hoping UAB would take this one. Why? Because of my horrible experience last season, when I traveled to Knoxville and shivered in a cold rain as the Volunteers crushed my Gamecocks. To add insult to injury, those Tennessee fans were flat-out mean. Mean, I tell you. At least they got a good scare Saturday — and some embarrassment, to boot. The Vols won, 32-29, but UAB dominated in every way except on the scoreboard, picking up 544 yards to Tennessee’s 287.

Texas isn’t in the SEC, but my husband Bruce went to UT and he suffered a shocker of a Saturday. UCLA crushed the Longhorns 32-12 — and in Austin, no less. “Where is UCLA ranked?” he asked as the game crawled to a thank-goodness-that’s-done ending. “Just outside the top 10?” Uh, not quite, honey. Face it, UT suffered a meltdown of Gamecockian proportions.

Feeling like a wallflower

Back, for a moment, to my broken heart. It’s not the first time the Gamecocks’ fortunes have left me bruised, nor will it be the last. We USC fans are a hardy breed, although the “wait ’til next year” refrain gets old. Once again, we’re staring straight-on at a battle to stay over .500. Up next, after a bye week, is Alabama – and, later in the season, Florida, Arkansas and our cross-state nemesis, Clemson.

Yep, the dance is in full swing and my corsage is wilting.



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