Carolina Garnet?


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In August 2003, I became a South Carolina resident. I relocated to fulfill a lifelong dream of living in Charleston while pursuing a Masters degree in History at the College of Charleston. I had been there on vacation and fell in love with the beaches and beautiful downtown area. The first month was extremely exciting. I was in a gorgeous new town with a good month and a half worth of beach weather left to look forward to. One Saturday in late August, I spent a couple of hours at the Isle of Palms then popped into a local Cabana for a Margarita.

It was there that it first happened.

The Tar Heels were playing football on television so I bellied up and prepared for a relaxing afternoon. While I was sitting there watching Carolina play, a gentleman beside me asked Bryan the bartender, “What time does Carolina play?” Now being the kind and courteous person that I am, I happily informed him, “They’re on right now.” This was the first and the last time I would say this in earnest without knowing what someone truly meant.  The gentleman looked a little perturbed and said, “South Carolina.” I was puzzled but remained light-hearted as I thought, “Hey, this guy calls the Gamecocks, Carolina . . . that’s funny.” This was the first time in my life that I had ever met a non-baby blue wearing “Carolina” fan.

Growing up in western North Carolina, I was fully aware of the cult following Clemson football enjoys. However, the South Carolina Gamecocks were nowhere on my radar. I mean I knew there was a university in Columbia that I assumed had a sports program, but I had no idea people actually followed or paid attention to it. However, it was not long before I realized that I had moved smack dab into the middle of Gamecock country. When South Carolinians say “Carolina” they are referring to a football team where once great coaches go for early retirement and enjoy the luxury of coaching a program that champions mediocrity. I also quickly learned that Gamecocks took great umbrage when I nicely pointed out to them that they were not Carolina. To be honest, after four or five bourbons I did it just for spite, and it may not have come off shall we say, “nicely.” Nonetheless, other transplants from neighboring states agreed with me that the South Carolina Gamecocks indeed had an identity complex. In 49 of 50 states, USC means Trojans and Carolina means Tar Heels. I used to use the argument that until the Gamecocks won a national championship that this would always be the case. However, for the past two seasons the Gamecocks have managed to win back to back College World Series. So I have to concede college baseball to them. But, I maintain that until they start using wooden bats and making the World Series the best out of 7 games as opposed to 3, college baseball is a colossal joke.

It wasn’t just the whole thinking they were Carolina part that ticked me off about Gamecock fans, it was the fairy-tale, fantasy world they seemed to live in regarding their football team. When they hired Spurrier in 2004, some of my South Carolina classmates predicted a National Championship within three years. Year in and year out Gamecock fans are under the delusion that they are an elite college football program. This season the national title hype started early when top high school recruit Jadevon Clowney committed to South Carolina over Clemson. I will admit that South Carolina has had a decent college football team the past two years. Last year they won the SEC East but were quickly brought back down to Earth after being pummeled in their final two games against Auburn and Florida State. I don’t know what kind of Kool-Aid they serve in Columbia, but it is awfully stout. Remember the bartender Bryan that I mentioned earlier, he is also a South Carolina graduate and fervent Gamecock fan. He and I have become friends over eight years of him mixing up margaritas for me. A couple of weeks ago I saw him at our neighborhood Mount Pleasant bar. He assured me that the South Carolina football team was going to win the SEC championship. I seized the opportunity to make a bet. Not wanting to take too much advantage of my friend’s stupor, I only bet him a shot of Rumplemintz. Just in case he forgot or tried to renege on the friendly wager, I documented the bet on a beverage napkin and had the bartender behind the bar witness and notarize it. I am happy to report that this past Saturday, Georgia clinched the SEC East, thus the next time I visit the Charleston area, I will have a nice, crisp 100 proof shot of alcohol waiting on me.

This is where UNC’s Friday basketball match-up with South Carolina comes into play. If UNC does not win, I am not sure I can ever set foot in the state of South Carolina again. I will not be able to enjoy my well-deserved shot of Rumplemintz, and I have some really good friends in Charleston that I would like to see again one day. So no pressure on Coach Williams and his boys, but my future happiness weighs heavily on you guys getting the “W” against the Gamecocks. If the boys in blue were to lose I might be forced to start referring to Garnet and Black as Carolina.  So guys there’s some extra motivation for you. Get out there to Vegas and show those Lamecocks how the REAL Carolina rolls!