Archive Page 2


Read ’em and weep

To:            Lee Corso

From:        Ronda Templeton

Re:            Your date with the Astroturf

I wanted to take this opportunity to thoughtfully suggest that you buy yourself a pair of kneepads, just in case your future includes a long crawl across Williams-Brice Stadium. You’re not a spring chicken, let alone a mighty Gamecock, and I hear Astroturf can be hard on the knees.

If you’ll recall, you’ve gone on record more than once about South Carolina’s chances of winning an SEC Championship. I believe your exact words were, “I don’t think (Steve) Spurrier can win an SEC or national title. I don’t care if he coaches here for 400 years.”

If we beat Auburn in the SEC championship game Dec. 4, I hope you’ll honor the promise you made to Spurrier last month before the GameDay broadcast of the Alabama-Carolina game. Spurrier reported your conversation this way: “He would love to crawl across Williams-Brice Stadium and salute the fans. That’s what he said he would do if we ever win it.”

Anyway, Lee, we trust you’re a man of your word. And because Carolina fans are compassionate, we won’t make you crawl from end zone to end zone. Straight across the 50-yard-line will do.


To:        Bruce

From:    Your wife

Re:         Our friendly wager

Hi, honey. Hope you enjoyed the Spurs game Saturday night, because I really enjoyed watching my Gamecocks win the SEC East. Just a friendly reminder that you need to check your bank account balance, because I’d like to collect on our wager before the holidays.

In case you’ve forgotten the parameters, we’re in year two of our five-year bet. I said the Gamecocks would win the SEC championship by 2013. You said no way. So we made it interesting by putting $5,000 on the table.

By the way, I received your text message. I’m sorry, but I don’t take credit cards. This is a cash-only deal. Love you, too.


To:         Clemson Fans

From:     Annoyed

Re:         Sour Grapes

I know you’re having a bad year, and Saturday was a pretty tough day in Tigertown. Really, it was a double whammy – losing to Florida State and watching us win the SEC East on the same day. I feel for you. OK, that was a lie, but it sounded good for a moment.

In any case, quit whining. We hear you talking about how we only won our division because it was a down year for the other SEC East teams. Blah, blah, blah. Sure, we’ve lost three games, but last year – when you won the ACC championship – your regular season record was 8-4. One of those losses, in case you need a reminder, was to the University of South Carolina Gamecocks.

Whatever. We’ll decide things on the field in a couple of weeks. Until then, we invite you to join our celebration. No need to RSVP.


going spur to spur

Well, my husband is in the doghouse.

After decades of waiting, my Gamecocks are finally playing for the SEC East championship, and where will he be during the big event? At a San Antonio Spurs game. The nerve, I tell ya.

Don’t get me wrong – I love pro basketball and I think it’s really awesome that he lucked into free courtside seats. But Tim Duncan & Co. will have to survive without me, because there’s no way I’m skipping out on what could be the precursor to our trip to Atlanta.

In other words, I’m choosing Sir Big Spur over the San Antonio Spurs.

I mean, seriously, as appealing as Bruce’s invitation sounds, he’s going to have to find another date to the basketball game. I’d never forgive myself if I wasn’t watching when the ‘Cocks won their first league title.

By the way, when I say “watching,” I mean watching live. I’m shocked by the number of people who’ve suggested I view the game on DVR delay. Puh-leeze. I want to absorb the joy of the moment (or the weeping and gnashing of teeth) in real time.

So, here’s my message to our players and coaches: As fans, we make sacrifices to watch our Gamecocks take the field. We pay for tickets. We travel long distances by car, plane and train. We sit in the rain and the cold and the blazing sun of hot-as-dog’s-breath Columbia. We make up excuses to skip weddings and work and family reunions. We give up courtside tickets to pro basketball games.

We show up to watch you play, so we’re begging you to return the favor by showing up on the field. Well, actually, not just by showing up, but also by showing up ready to kick some Gator tail.

Because let’s face it, if you play Florida like you played Alabama – and you coach like you coached against Alabama – you can expect after-game euphoria of mammoth proportions. I’m talking riotous joy that’s shared by Gamecocks fans from Five Points to Fresno, from Huger Street to Houston.

All the crumpled visors, missed tackles, intercepted passes and cursed seasons will be bygones. And fans across the nation won’t be smacking themselves on their foreheads, asking: “I gave up (fill in the blank) for this?”


surprise, surprise, surprise

OK, let’s face it. Given the Gamecocks’ history, Saturday’s loss to Arkansas was not unexpected. The fact that it was a total humiliation? As Gomer Pyle would say, “Surprise, surprise, surprise.”

Seriously, people, by the end of the game, the only thing more crumpled and crushed than Steve Spurrier’s visor was my poor Carolina heart.

But, hey, let’s look on the bright side: When it comes to honoring tradition, today’s Gamecocks are doing an outstanding job. We’re known for melting down in the second half of the season and, doggone it, the current crop of Gamecocks is doing its best to maintain our reputation.

I’m not bitter; truly I’m not. I’ve said it before: We’re known for being lovable losers. If that changed – if we actually won an SEC championship – the shock might be too great to bear. Besides, we’ve built up a huge storehouse of woe. It unites us in shared misery, and that’s a powerful legacy.

Speaking of the SEC championship, it’s astounding that we’re still in the hunt to win the SEC East. Unfortunately, it speaks to the overall weakness of the conference this season – something that pains me because I always pin my pride on the fact that my Gamecocks are mediocre only in comparison to Florida, Georgia and the other powerhouses we battle each year.

Still, we control our destiny. The question is: Do we have what it takes to win in Gainesville and secure our first-ever SEC East championship? Well, that depends on which team shows up Saturday. If it’s the team that played Alabama, heck yes. If not, there’s not a chance in Hell.

What I want to know is: What happened to the team that played Alabama? Were they imposters? The Gamecocks that suited up against Kentucky and Arkansas – and, to a lesser extent, Vanderbilt and Tennessee – didn’t remotely resemble the ‘Cocks that unflinchingly battled the Tide.

I saw a headline on an SEC roundup that said of the Gamecocks, “They are who we thought they were.” The piece went on to talk about how we’re faltering down the stretch, just like always.

Well, I’m tired of faltering down the stretch and Chicken Curses and history repeating itself. I want to see the team that played Alabama suited up and ready to kick the bejeebers out of the Gators next weekend.

Our guys are talented enough to win. They have the heart to win. And, despite evidence to the contrary, they want to win.

Sixty minutes. That’s all we need: a good, solid 60 minutes from the team that took the field against Alabama. If that team shows up Saturday, we’ll have the satisfaction of looking our SEC foes – not to mention the sports pundits – straight in the eye and saying, “Surprise, surprise, surprise.”


Things that come back to haunt you

OK, I’m going to admit it: I’m pretty freaked out (with apologies to Doug, one of my most loyal readers, who complains that I’m never euphoric enough when my Gamecocks win).

If you’re a longtime Carolina fan, you know why I’m feeling shaky. We have a history of folding at crucial moments, and this moment is the epitome of crucial. We hold our destiny in our hands and are on the verge of winning our first-ever SEC East championship.

So, yeah. I’m excited. I’m happy. I’m deliriously euphoric. And I’m hoping and praying . . . although, let’s get real; God has much bigger concerns than the outcome of a football season.

I’m also fretting a bit, thinking that perhaps our loss to the University of Kentucky is the equivalent of a missed extra point.

You know how you’re watching a football game and the kicker shanks it and you’re thinking, “Hey, no big deal, it’s just one point”? But then, somehow, that extra point turns out to be the game’s deciding factor?

Kentucky was just one game – One game! – but, dang, that one game is looking huge in retrospect. Just like an extra point. We shanked it and, barring a miracle, we’re going to have to beat the University of Florida in the swamp.

The miracle, of course, is the faint chance that Vanderbilt will do the job for us and pull off a surprise victory over Florida on Saturday. After all, we’re talking about the SEC, right? As my friend Gigi says, “The SEC is like a circular firing squad.”

Steve Spurrier, King of Crumpled Visors, isn’t holding out much hope, but even he admits it’s possible. “I don’t think they’re going to lose to Vanderbilt,” he said of Florida this week. “Stranger things have happened, though.”

Checking out Stephen Garcia

So, I was front-row at the Tennessee game this weekend and I got a close-up view of Stephen Garcia. I liked what I saw. Quarterback-wise. (OK, he’s cute, too. Just sayin’.)

Anyway, here’s what’s great about Garcia: He doesn’t panic. When we blew a two-touchdown lead in the second half, he stayed calm, stepped up and did his job. Sure, he takes a lot of chances – sometimes he reminds me of Tony Romo, throwing into coverage – but, overall, he seems like the kind of guy I’d like to have beside me in a fox hole.

Beyond that, he compares well to Florida’s quarterback, John Brantley. Although Garcia has thrown seven interceptions this year, one more than Brantley, he tops Brantley in yardage (1904 to 1459), completion rate (70.6 to 62.2 percent) and touchdowns (13 to 6). And did I mention that he’s cute?

Sweating and betting

Regular Gridiron & Grits readers know about The Great Bet. My husband, a smug Texas fan who’s not so smug this year, is of the belief that my Gamecocks will never overcome the Chicken Curse – at least on the football field. We’re in year two of our five-year wager: If the ‘Cocks win the SEC by the 2013 season, he owes me $5,000. Not that he has $5,000 to spare, mind you, but that’s beside the point.

Anyway, this is the first time I’ve seen beads of sweat on his forehead . . . faint beads, but detectable on close inspection. After all, if we beat Florida, the SEC championship game is a one-game, winner-take-all event.

As Steve Spurrier says, stranger things have happened.


Paging Jethro Bodine

I attended the University of South Carolina but certainly wasn’t a math major. To fulfill my graduation requirements, I took Math 101, which involved addition and subtraction, with a dash of multiplication thrown in to lower my GPA.

My father is a math genius – for real – but his aptitude skipped a generation. Well, that’s not strictly true: My sister is an insurance analyst, so perhaps the aptitude for calculations skipped only me.

Anyway, I was having a rip-roaring good time at work today writing employee reviews (thank goodness the numerical ratings are automatically calculated) when I received an e-mail from a friend outlining all the possible outcomes in the SEC East.

After reading through the various scenarios, I emerged from the fog of numbers with just one takeaway: My Gamecocks control their own destiny.

Three games. Tennessee, Arkansas and Florida. That’s it. That’s all we need to take the championship.  (Of course, there are other mathematical permutations that could give us the title, but they’re too complicated for me to wrap my brain around.)

The easiest way for us to achieve our collective SEC East goal is by powering through with three consecutive wins, starting Saturday.

Unfortunately – or fortunately, given that I’m the checkbook-balancer at our house – I can count to three. And if you look back at the Gamecocks’ record you’ll see we haven’t won three in a row in the second half of the season since 2005, the first year of the Steve Spurrier era.

In fact, in three of the past five years, we’ve capped off our SEC seasons with losses to, yes, Tennessee, Arkansas and Florida. So, just to make things easier, we’re going to have to ask Florida and Georgia to help us out here by losing a few.

Then again, maybe lightning will strike and the Gamecocks will do me a favor by running the table. That would be the most satisfying route to Atlanta, and it would save me the trouble of trying to determine who has to lose, how many, and to whom.

After all, given my math skills, figuring it out would involve effort, along with some fancy cipherin’. And let’s face it: When it comes to cipherin’, I’m no Jethro Bodine.


Bad romance: My tortured affair with the Gamecocks

I break up with the Gamecocks an average of three times every Saturday.

It’s like a bad romance: I start the weekend deeply in love, we break up and make up several times during the game, and then we reconcile at the end of the fourth quarter. (Sometimes I withhold my affection until Sunday morning if the “date” has gone really awry.)

Seriously, my relationship with Carolina football is like a years-long love affair, complete with all its respective emotions: adoration, disgust, anger, humiliation, passion, exhilaration . . . you get the drift.

If you think about it, the Gamecocks are a lot like a romance-novel hero:

  • Romance-novel heroes have tough-sounding, individualistic names, such as Chance, Chase, Brock, Rafe, Wolfe or Thorne. A run-of-the-mill, common name simply will not suffice.My team doesn’t go by a mundane moniker like the Tigers or the Bulldogs. They’re the Gamecocks. The ’Cocks. It’s a name that has tough, individualistic and strong covered – and then some.
  • The best romance-novel Lotharios are antiheroes. They’re from the wrong side of the tracks; they’re toughened by disappointment – battle tested and hardened by past frustrations. Disappointment and frustration? Yeah, let’s check those off the list, too. The Gamecocks don’t have the battle-hardened part mastered quite yet, but they’re close enough.
  • They play with your emotions, creating a taut, expectant atmosphere – a “Will we or won’t we?” vibe. You know what I’m talking about. The Gamecocks are masters of, um, romantic tension. You never know if they’re going to kiss you (Alabama) or leave you wanting (Kentucky, Auburn). They keep you guessing. It’s a masterful display, actually.
  • They’re mysterious. When it comes to the Gamecocks, you never know who’s going to show up. Will it be the team that returns your ardent passion, or the team that doesn’t seem to care? Here’s a tip: Women don’t like their men to be too available. We want them to like us, but not to like us too much. The Gamecocks know a lot about unfulfilled longing, and they never give us more affection than we can handle.
  • In a romance novel – as in a fairytale – there’s always an obstacle to a happy ending. The Gamecocks have overcome two: Alabama and Georgia. We stumbled but recovered our equilibrium after Auburn and Kentucky.

My happily-ever-after (at least for this season) can be summed up in three words: SEC East championship. That means there are three obstacles yet to conquer – Tennessee, Arkansas and Florida.

In my world, they’re the real-life versions of Cinderella’s evil stepsisters, determined to keep the Gamecocks from dancing at the SEC championship ball. Of course, in that scenario, Steve Spurrier is playing the role of Fairy Godmother.

I hope the Head Ball Coach and his visor are up to the task. After all, he’s holding thousands of meticulously patched and re-mended Gamecock hearts in his hands.


Bartender? We’ll have another round of despair

OK, let’s play a quick game of “Would you rather?”

If given the choice — and if you’re a man — would you rather have a beautiful house and an ugly car, or a beautiful car and an ugly house?

If you’re a woman, would you rather publish your diary or have your most embarrassing moment viewed again and again on YouTube?

And here’s one for everyone: Would you rather support a team of eternal (but lovable) losers or enjoy a fleeting moment of sports glory?

See, there’s the rub. After awhile, losing becomes kind of a unifying factor. When you think about it, Gamecocks fans are bound by our perpetual misery. What if we actually won a football championship? What would we be without our communal commiseration?

The winter of our (eternal) discontent

Sure, I love my Gamecocks — and I was devastated by our loss to Kentucky last weekend. But for a moment, when the SEC East looked like an almost-sure-thing (or as close to an almost-sure-thing as possible for ‘Cocks fans), I wondered: Would winning take the fun out of it? Would I rather win the SEC East or continue to wallow in despair?

I’m not sure what we’d do if our long national nightmare actually ended. After the celebrations were over, we’d have to restart our misery from scratch.

Ask yourself: Are Red Sox fans having as much fun today as they were having before hell froze over? And what about the poor Boston scribes? Eighty-six years of writing about the Curse of the Bambino down the drain.

I don’t know, perhaps I’m just looking for some sort of consolation. But at the end of the day, if Charlie Brown actually kicked that football or won the heart of his red-haired girl, euphoria would soon be replaced by wistful nostalgia.

You know what they say . . . unrequited love is the sweetest.

Really, Ole Miss? That’s the best you could do?

Honestly, could Ole Miss have been more bland when choosing a replacement mascot for its now-retired Colonel Reb? Seriously . . . The Rebel Black Bears? Snore.

I mean, Mississippi’s unofficial motto is, “We may lose a game, but we never lose a party.” Surely they could have come up with an equally snazzy mascot.

Then again, perhaps not. The other finalists were Rebel Land Shark and Hotty Toddy. Although, now that I think of it, I would have voted for Hotty Toddy. After all, the “Hotty” part had real slogan possibilities; it was a T-shirt maker’s dream. Talk about missed marketing opportunities.

Speaking of mascots, shouldn’t there should be some sort of penalty for the mundane — or at least a one-per-conference limit? According to USA Today, the 12 most-used names of four-year college mascots are: Eagles (74), Tigers (46), Bulldogs (39), Panthers (33), Knights (32), Lions (31), Bears (30), Hawks (28), Cougars (27), Pioneers (27), Warriors (27) and Wildcats (25).

This means Auburn, with it’s double-hitter of War Eagle and The Tigers, is the champion of redundancy. And that the Ole Miss Hotty Toddy is looking better by the minute.


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