Coach Ray Tanner gets a well-deserved bath after he and his team secure South Carolina's first ever NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP in baseball! (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Today Gamecocks everywhere - of all ages, and all backgrounds, and in all corners of the globe - celebrate. For today we are all National Champions! While it is certainly true that the Gamecocks have already laid claim to a women's indoor track and a smattering of equestrian titles, this one feels different. This one is different.
You see, baseball has always held a special place in the hearts of USC fans. When the football season might let us down, baseball was there to bring us back up. When basketball season saw the iron all too unkind, the aluminum of the bat was all the sweeter. And when our athletes seemed to be in the paper for all the wrong reasons, our baseball players were there for all the right ones. Carolina baseball is special. Over the years it has been the one sport into which we could invest our unbridled passion and receive that same enthusiasm right back ten-fold.
In this College World Series I saw an affirmation of everything I have always believed essential for the Gamecocks to win a championship. There were the clutch performances by Jackie Bradley, Jr., Blake Cooper, Michael Roth and all the rest. Then there were the personal sacrifices by many players for the betterment of the team. Did you realize that the hero of last season, Nick Ebert, did not have a single at-bat during the CWS? Yet, you never once saw him being anything but a positive influence on the rest of the team. It takes a lot of character for a kid who turned down MLB dollars to play for a national championship to sit out the entire CWS and act the way he did. Then there was the leadership displayed by the captains. Kyle Enders was a gamer behind the plate, and had a hand in each of those spectacular pitching performances we witnessed. And of course all of this was under the tutelage of Ray Tanner - perhaps the most respected man in college baseball. We saw in this team all of the traits which we hope to see in ourselves. Isn't that the reason we watch sports in the first place - to experience a better version of ourselves through others?
In one miraculous moment Ray Tanner and his baseball team have redefined what it means to wear the Garnet and Black. This win drives straight to the heart of what it means to be a Gamecock fan. This thing he gave us -this one little national championship- has suddenly opened up avenues of fandom that had previously been mere abstract idea. Where did our hope, hard work, and support get us before? Just short, always just a little bit short.
But now we can see the tangible dividends of our investment. How did we define ourselves as Gamecock fans before? Perhaps as the lovable losers? Maybe as the unlucky true believers? Every time one of our teams would get close to winning the big one there was that little part of us that expected a proverbial "push off," right? Well we can't say that any more. We are the undisputed National Champions now. This is such a 180 degree departure from our traditional identity that many of us have described not knowing how to feel. We are blazing new territory here, and I am so happy to be a part of it.
So long have the Gamecock hoped for a reason to rejoice. So long have the Gamecocks cheered without reward. So long have the Gamecocks suffered through defeat. Today, my friends, we say "so long" to those times.
P.S. Enjoy the radio call of Whit's single, courtesy of Liz McMillan.
Please enjoy Andy’s call of our big win last night. National Champions!
Enjoy and celebrate! Liz
What should be the design for the statue commemorating the Gamecocks' National Championship in baseball?
Ray Tanner being hoisted on his player's shoulders (don't think this actually happened). (6 votes)
Baylor Teal, holding aloft a #1. (19 votes)
Whit Merrifield running to first base, arms in air. (15 votes)
Scott Wingo being mobbed by teammates at home. (11 votes)
Something else. Elaborate in comments. (1 vote)
52 total votes