Welcome to GABA Q&A, a new weekly feature that asks us to share our experiences as Gamecock fans. We'll give our answers, and we encourage all commenters to share theirs in the comment section. The weekly question won't focus so much on the state of athletics or analysis, but instead allow us to reminisce and tell personal stories about the highs and lows of our fandom.
We're basing our first question-and indeed, this entire series-on a comment from user Fog horn Leghorn, when he described his "perfect day" that included bearing live witness to last Saturday's comeback win over Clemson, followed by watching the upset of Kentucky. While the wins were big, it was the fashion in which he experienced them that made it so memorable.
This begs the question: what was your best day as a Gamecock fan?
JORGE DE LOS GALLOS:
While I'm not sure I've experienced a more euphoric moment than when Whit Merrifield slapped the CWS-winning single in 2010, I still remember the 2009 Clemson game as the most perfect day that my fanhood bought me. While that team isn't particularly memorable compared to recent squads, nor did we have an inkling that it'd be the first of an historic rivalry win streak, that game produced a pure and memorable high that didn't ebb for days. As a reminder, Clemson had won two of the previous three meetings and six of the previous seven, and was ranked 15th at the time. South Carolina was 6-5 and fresh off a disheartening loss to #1 Florida. Losing this game, sadly, seemed reasonable.
Regardless, I gathered with some close friends at a backyard party to watch the game. A Clemson fan had tagged along with someone, and while he mostly laid low and behaved, he did mention several times that South Carolina was a "graveyard for coaches, no offense." Unfortunately, he departed at halftime to attend another viewing party, so I was unable to bask in firsthand schadenfreude. No matter. The celebration stretched through that crisp and sunny fall day and lasted well into the night. We whipped frisbess and threw footballs and grilled various meats. I drank so many beers, yet dodged any trace of a hangover. I ate so much, yet never felt full. I smoked the best cigar I've ever had. The night ended around a firepit with a dozen friends, strumming guitars and singing til our voices were shot. It was a day that would have been memorable under any circumstance, but it was the then-unfamiliar buzz brought on by securing a year's worth of bragging rights that made it an all-timer.
In the same vein as Jorge, there have been better moments from a pure fandom perspective - the two CWS wins, the 2010 Florida game - but I'll choose the 2005 Florida game as the best ever. It's for almost entirely personal reasons - my senior year at Carolina, a great tailgate before and after, and the first time you really started to think that Spurrier could get it done here, especially after three straight years with not so much as a bowl appearance. It'd take a while longer for everything to get right, but it was the first sign of life.
It was also a great night, again, mostly because I was a senior in college. I do remember falling asleep on a friend's couch around 8pm or so and taking a pretty decent nap to try to rally for the end of the night. I don't think I rallied, but I woke up and remember asking someone if Auburn had won, which would mean the Gamecocks still had a chance to win the East over Georgia (who flattened Kentucky the next week, rendering the point moot). His "yes" capped the night off grandly.
I have a really good story about the 2009 Clemson game that centers around watching it in a hotel room in Albany, N.Y. the day after seeing a really great concert the night before, and I agree with Jorge that the euphoria of that win was amazing, perhaps better for me than any of the wins in the streak other than 2012, which takes the cake because Carolina did it with a backup QB.
However, I'm going with the 2010 Florida game. Part of what made that game so magical for me was that my family and I were experiencing some difficulties that I won't go into here. Seeing Carolina win the SEC East brought several sad people a brief reprise from the real world that night. What was so astounding about that game was how we won. Carolina came in an underdog, and I felt sure we would lose big. After all, isn't that what we always did when the biggest prizes were on the line? When Andre Debose ran back the opening kickoff for a TD, you can't tell me you didn't think history was repeating itself. However, Carolina utterly dominated after that return, completely shutting down the Gators defensively and riding Marcus Lattimore on offense. The win was secured by my favorite Stephen Garcia play, when Garcia ran over Will Hill for a TD on a QB keeper and had a few choice words for Hill after Hill targeted Garcia's helmet on the tackle. Just a really, really fun game to watch and one of the best moments in Carolina history.
THE MEAT LOCKER:
It's fairly obvious, almost too obvious, because on October 9, 2010 in Williams Brice Stadium was the place. We smacked then No. 1 ranked Alabama in the mouth 35-21 by the arm of Stephen Garcia and the legs of Marcus Lattimore. I was finally convinced that a new era was underway.
Like Chicken Hoops, this is totally personal for me and probably for a lot of you.
My wife is a Tennessee grad and at that point had never been to Billy Brice. She'd only see the Gamecocks in that stadium covered in that ugly shade of orange that bellows out the tunes of John Denver. She was a good sport. We went to Columbia without tickets and without any prospect of tickets. We just headed up to tailgate and basque in the atmosphere of what potentially could've been a monumental night in Columbia.
Fate showed her face first thing when we got there. We came across tickets from a friend of a friend, at face value. The only kink was we were sitting in front of two frat-to-the-max Bama guys with pom-poms in hand, hair purposefully swooshed across their foreheads and mouths loaded with completely predictable banter.
We don't need a play-by-play because after four years we know what happened. SG5 carved up the Tide with 17-20, 200 yard performance, Latty as a true freshman went off for three touchdowns and we came out on top 35-21. The game was flawlessly executed in pretty much every phase. It was a team I'd never seen before and every fan in attendance and watching on tv got to see that team officially turn the corner. Although I can't completely convert her, that game at least made my wife a believer. I turned around when the clock hit the 0:00 mark and those Bama frat-to-the-max boys were nowhere in site. That made my heart feel good seeing those two empty seats. I might be wrong, but I feel like 2010 is when ‘Sandstorm' truly came alive. When we got back to the tailgate spot, it was on full blast and on repeat while an excessive amount of adult beverages were shot-gunned/consumed in celebration.
This is a really tough question, but I think I have to go with October 6, 2012. I've had several perfect moments and even perfect games that I've experienced as a fan, but the entire day of the 2012 Georgia game was just amazing. It started with College GameDay on the Horseshoe, which was incredibly fun. I tailgated for the next five hours with some older friends and we had a really nice set-up: RVs, lots of good food, and TVs to watch other games. I spent that whole afternoon bouncing between lazy contentment as I ate and watched football, and hyped-up anticipation as I waited for our game.
A couple of hours before kickoff I met up with the friends I was watching the game with; four of us were students and we snuck two other friends that managed to score last-minute tickets into the student section with us. This happened. Williams-Brice had its biggest crowd ever for that game, and it sounded and felt like it. The atmosphere was just amazing. And then of course there was that wonderfully perfect first quarter, the highlight of which was the Ace Sanders punt return. I pretty much lost my mind on that play, screaming and jumping around like a complete maniac. My voice was nearly gone by the end of the first quarter. Our team showed up for a top ten showdown against a hated SEC rival and left no doubt in my mind that we belonged at the top. When it was all over, I had several hours of euphoric certainty that this was finally our year. The team I watched play that night had no limit to what they could accomplish. While we know now that the next 3 weekends would turn out to be brutal and depressing, I can still remember the wonderful, boundless optimism I felt the night after this game.
I've been debating which day was my favorite for a while, and I was this close to going with either the 2013 Clemson game or the unbelievable win over Mizzou, but I'm going to go with the night the Gamecocks won the College World Series in 2011 (and not just because everyone else has picked a football memory). Watching South Carolina tear through the postseason, pulling off improbable wins repeatedly, was thrilling, if not also extremely stress-inducing. The final game of the 2011 CWS was June 28th, which was a week before I was going to move out of Columbia for good, so I was already starting to get emotional before the game even started. I had also just started writing about USC baseball, so the prospect of covering a championship team right off the bat (no pun intended) was exciting.
On that night, I remember sitting in my apartment with my roommate, glued to our couch as we watched Michael Roth do Michael Roth things, Christian Walker play like a champ despite his insanely swollen wrist, and Scott Wingo come through in the clutch. I remember us jumping up and down and screaming a lot, and then I know I cried.
After a great deal of celebrating, It took me forever to fall asleep, and I couldn't stop thinking about how proud I was of the team. I mean, I'd obviously been proud of the 2010 team for winning USC's first national championship in a major men's sport, but I was even more proud of the 2011 team for repeating as champions. I've never won a title in any sport, but I imagine that as hard as it must be to do it once, it's even harder to do it again the next year. Maybe it was pure luck, maybe it was the magic powers of #battle and #winanyway, maybe it was just that they were the best team in Omaha that year. Whatever it was, the team unknowingly gave me a wonderful going away present, and there have been few times since that I've been as proud to be a Gamecock as I was that night.
Your turn! Leave a comment sharing the circumstances your best day as a Gamecock.