Tomorrow, GABA will begin its series of previews for the season-opening game against East Carolina. The beginning of a new football season is always an intense time. Personally, I get so worked up that I'm almost literally shaking before the opening kickoff. It's an odd feeling, a difficult one to describe. Very physical. A mixture of anticipation, fear, and, of course, joy.
This year, that's more true than ever before. Coming off its first division title and with perhaps its most talented team ever, expectations have never been higher at South Carolina. We have our highest-ever preseason rankings. Spencer Hall is telling everyone to put behind superstitions and to accept the new -and-improved Gamecocks for what they are--undisputed favorites in the Eastern Division. The media agrees. Some are even calling the Gamecocks a dark-horse national title contender.
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Which is all to say that if most seasons involve a profound emotional buildup leading into the first game, this one does, trebly so. Being a Gamecocks fan, in sum, is a lot like being incontrollably in love with a pretty, intriguing girl who you only get to see every so often. Only very rarely does she reciprocate to your entreaties, but lately, she's looking even better and is more interesting than ever before, and it seems like she's beginning to give you a bit of hope. But is she just leading you on? How will you feel if this is just the ultimate tease?
It's impossible for fans to hear the hype and not be excited. It's also impossible, due to our history, for us not to feel more than a little trepidation right now. With increased expectations come increased stakes. If we don't live up to the new expectations, the letdown will be even harder to deal with. The cracks from our rivals will sting even more than they usually do. We'll doubt our chances of ever breaking through even more than we have in the past.
Which brings me to why I'm writing this post. If Carolina doesn't show out this year, it will sting. We'll be depressed, and Lee Corso will tell us that we should just shut down the football program and give up. As much as I'll hate to see us lose, though, I'll be back for more every year. And I'll know that we have a chance. Everything isn't riding on this year, as much as it will inevitably seem like that's the case. We've proven over the past couple of years that we can compete for big-time players, win big-time games, and win the SEC East. Our baseball program has proven that Carolina can win national titles in major sports. If we fall short of expectations this fall, it will hurt. But we'll be back for more. Believe it. This athletics program has changed for long haul.
And for the record, I predict that Carolina will win big this year. 12-2, SEC East, Sugar Bowl. Just so you know I'm true, baby.