The Gamecocks and Great Expectations

Posted: August 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

Okay, so it’s been a while!!! I’ve been a little busy taking full advantage of suddenly being single getting adjusted to a new city. And besides, it’s not like there’s been any relevant things happening in sports, right? Right?!!?!???

You may be aware of the fact that the South Carolina Gamecocks are the choice (by the media, who never knows what the hell they’re talking about mind you) to win the SEC East. I would be surprised if they don’t begin the year ranked in the Top 15, maybe even Top 10 (Author’s note: The Gamecocks are in the USA Today preseason poll at #12). And we’re probably two weeks away from the “Marcus Lattimore on the cover of Sports Illustrated” moment that will likely send me on a fatal drinking binge. In a related story, this is the first time in the history of ever that people are expecting the Gamecocks to be good. While it seems that some of the team is busy celebrating this newfound praise, not only am I legitimately terrified about all this praise, I am actually wondering…why? Who says that the Gamecocks are even…good? No, seriously. Now, if your next question is: “Jordy, are you going to list reasons why this hype might actually die hard?”…well, THE ANSWER TO THAT IS A RESOUNDING YES.

1. The Gamecocks won the SEC East by default last year.
If you’re ready to be like, “Hold up, now!” stop and shut up. It’s true. It’s time to be honest about last season. If the Gamecocks didn’t win the division last year, they never would have. Georgia and Florida struggled mightily. The thrill of topping Alabama was quickly dashed by a loss to Kentucky (We won’t mention that the Gamecocks were ahead 28-10 at the half in this game nor the fact that yours truly called it well before the season started). Up 20-7 at eventual national champion Auburn? Meh, let’s blow that lead too? A pretty decent Arkansas team at home? Let’s give up 40 points! I will chalk the SEC Championship game up as the equivalent into running into a buzzsaw. But that bowl game? A disaster. Especially considering that this was an incredible chance to really gain momentum heading into the offseason. But who needs that? Anyway, are we certain that Florida and Georgia will lose to South Carolina for a second year in a row? Raise your hand if you remember when that happened previously. (Yeah, that’s what I thought) Can we really believe that the Gamecocks can pull this off two years in a row? Hmmm.

2. The disease of more. It’s real!
Okay, so work with me for a second here. Pat Riley wrote a book called “Showtime” where he talked about the disease of more. Okay, I’m going to let Bill explain this:

According to Riley, after the 1980 Lakers won, everyone shifted into a more selfish mode. They had sublimated their respective games to win as a group; now they wanted to reap the rewards as individuals, even if those rewards meant having to spend way too much time at Jack Nicholson’s house. Everyone wanted more money, playing time and recognition. Eventually they lost perspective and stopped doing the little things that make teams win and keep winning, eventually imploding in the first round of the postseason. So much for defending the title.

Great concept, greater name: the disease of more. It festers in every sport — in the 2005 Red Sox, the 2003 Lakers, the 2006 Steelers. I remember watching a montage of Johnny Damon clips with my father before Opening Day 2005 — Johnny on “Regis and Kelly,” Johnny on “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” — and at some point, Dad turned to me and said, “There’s no way we’re winning this year.” Once you get caught up in everything that comes with winning, you stop winning. Rarely does a team avoid pettiness, acrimony and self-flagellation to stay focused enough to repeat. You need a great coach and a greater star to keep everyone in line, and you need character guys up and down the roster.

Quick question: Can you name anything relevant that the Gamecocks won before last year? (Don’t you give me that 1969 championship!) Not only did the Gamecocks get their first measure of success last year, everyone seems to think that they will do it again this year? Do you trust this team and expectations? Marcus Lattimore is expected to be even better. Alshon Jeffrey will certainly have people whispering in his ear about the NFL. Stephen Garcia will have G.A. Mangus to hang out with (okay, that was too easy). The clamor will come for Jadaveon Clowney to start (and I will demand that they call him a different name). Are we sure this team can handle that sort of thing? Hell, when can you recall the last time the Gamecocks won a tight game? I think that this is a recipe for disaster. But hey, what do I know?

3. The mentality hasn’t changed.
Now, I haven’t really watched any of the HBC’s interviews from the offseason, so maybe he’s changed his tune. But even when the Gamecocks were in the mix for the division last year, the HBC’s message was to try and win the conference championship, then see if you’re in the mix for the national title. Hey, why not try to win every game? You only play 12 each year! Contrast the HBC’s view with that of Auburn’s head coach Gene Chizik. He was on College Football Live yesterday stating that the goal for the program (even though they have about 6000 freshmen this year) was to win championships. Who knows if this is something that will actually happen? But that’s not the point. If Chizik is telling ESPN that the goal is to win championships, you better believe that he’s telling his players the same thing. Are we sure that the same thing is happening in the South Carolina locker room? Are we sure that the focus is solely on being better, and winning every game (not just a “let’s see what happens” approach)? We already know how G.A. Mangus is preparing. Let’s hope the rest of the time isn’t following suit.

4. Have you SEEN the schedule?
I really was prepared to rant on and on about my concerns for this season even before checking out the schedule. Let me lay out this October slate:
Oct 1st: vs. Auburn
Oct 8th: vs. Kentucky
Oct 15th: at Mississippi State
Oct 29th: at Arkansas
Wait, what??? I know that those last two games are sandwiched around a bye week, but that’s still tough. College teams usually struggle on the road, and the last visit to Arkansas, Tennessee, and Georgia all resulted in losses. Combine that with the first three points, and, well, I hope you’re not betting the mortgage on the over for wins this year…

5. Great hype falls hard!
It’s really the only trump card I have left. It happens all the time. The Washington Redskins seemingly won every offseason just a few years ago. They may have made the playoffs once. The Lakers added loads of experience in Gary Payton and Karl Malone to the 2003-4 team. That…ended badly. Just about everybody and everything that’s been heavily hyped usually fizzles under the pressure (that’s probably a dumb statement—no one important is applying that pressure—just idiots like me). Given that this is a team that has never really handled pressure situations well, am I supposed to be excited about an entire season of pressure? Mind you, I didn’t even bring up Stephen Garcia. Do you really know how he might respond? Have I asked too may questions? (Probably, whatever.) Let’s put it this way: I just don’t have a good feeling about this season at all.

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