It's opening day of baseball season, and that gives us a great excuse to talk about one of the best moments in USC's athletic history. Where were you the night we won the CWS for the first time and how did you react/celebrate?
In Foggy Bottom, DC, in a bar that desperately wanted to close.
At my old job, I was in charge of scheduling the annual summer softball game. Not looking far enough ahead, I put it on the night of Game 2 of the CWS.
Fortunately, we play during daylight hours so I made it to the post-bar drinking event by the second inning. I put in my time with the higher ups until maybe the 4th or 5th, and then, not wanting to miss a second, took a cab six blocks during a half-inning to get to a bar that I knew would show the game and stay open.
Fast forward, and the stay open part is becoming important, given the game has now ticked into extra innings. The bar is down to just four patrons - two Belgians interning at the World Bank for the summer, a friend of mine from California who lived in the neighborhood and wanted to see just how drunk the person behind the texts was, and me. One of the Belgians wisely asked when I was trying to explain the sport why the batter got a helmet but the pitcher didn't. To this day, I don't have a good answer for him.
And then, of course, there's a single to right field and the winning run is coming home and five people - me, three people with no affiliation to USC but who have been wrapped up in this game, and the bartender, who just wanted to go home - start screaming. We do a round of shots and before you know it I'm an hour-and-a-half late to work the next morning.
I'd have rather been in Omaha or in a bar in Columbia that was going crazy, but anywhere you were, if you were watching, it was a pretty damn great night.
I love answering this question, because I was in one of my favorite places on earth: my local tavern. It's my version of Cheers, where the bartenders know my name and it's not uncommon for a beer to land in front to me without my having to order it. That night, the crowd was a tad thin, at least for a state team's potential national championship clincher. But it was busy enough to feel alive, with every barstool claimed and plenty of garnet throughout, sporadic "Game-cocks" cheers welling up. My then-girlfriend and I claimed a couple of barstools before first pitch, not that I used mine since the act of sitting simply wasn't conducive to my anxiety level that night. We'll fast-forward to that final pitch. When Whit slapped the single that scored Scott Wingo, the bar exploded. I planted one on my girl, then quickly abandoned her to go hug a bunch of dudes I'd never met. We yelled and hooted and jumped around, hugged whoever was free, and if no one was free screamed at the rafters. The bartender that night was a Gamecocks fan, and poured shots for every fan in the house. Then another guy bought a round of shots for everyone. The furor would die down, then someone would scream and ignite it all over again. There was even one Clemson fan in there and he couldn't have been more pleasant about it all. Didn't even bring up his allegiance until someone asked if he wanted a shot, and he said he wasn't entitled. Unfortunately, a drunk USC fan saw fit to hurl an insult at the guy, but he actually laughed it off. We eventually left, and I may have slept that night although I can't exactly remember. God that CWS was the best. And to think we'd get to do all over again the next season!
I have to admit that I hadn't paid much attention to South Carolina baseball until the 2010 season, but for whatever reason, I started paying attention that year, and it turned out pretty well. By the time the postseason rolled around, I was a full-fledged fan, and part of me had considered maybe trying to go to Omaha to watch the team. I didn't end up going, so I watched the game at home in Illinois, torn between believing this team really could go all the way and win the championship and reminding myself that I'd spent my entire life watching the Cubs break my heart, so it was best not to get my hopes up when it came to baseball in general. Fortunately for us all, the 2010 Gamecocks were not the Cubs.
I don't really remember any of the game before those final few at-bats, other than one of the UCLA players getting mad and slamming his fist into the bench, which I think caused enough of an injury that he had to leave the game. I remember hearing more than even seeing Whit Merrifield single to bring in Scott Wingo, I remember seeing the dogpiling, and then I just remember crying and shouting and going #ALLCAPSLOCKEVERYTHING on Twitter.
As a bit of an aside, 2010 was also the first year I started watching hockey. The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup for the first time in 49 years at the beginning of June, and the Gamecocks won the school's first national title in a major men's sport at the end of June. It was probably the best sports month I'll ever have, although I certainly wouldn't be opposed to a repeat this year.
From 2007-2012, I lived in Rochester, NY while working on my graduate studies. One of the first things my girlfriend (now wife) and I did when we arrived was scout out a good place to watch Carolina games. We quickly decided upon a place called the Sports Page. The Sports Page was an epic dump, but they had plenty of TVs, and the prices were in line with our meager graduate student wages. We have some both amazing and horribly depressing memories of watching Carolina games in that place. One of the good ones, of course, was watching this CWS victory. Needless to say, we were the only Carolina fans in the place, but all the staff and regulars knew we were Carolina fans because we came to the place so regularly to watch games, so we got some high fives and a drink from the bartender. Fun night.
Like Katie, 2010 was the first season that I really followed Gamecock baseball. It was my freshman year and I watched sporadically throughout the regular season, but by the time the postseason rolled around I was pretty excited about the team. I moved back home with my parents in Hartsville at the end of the school year and watching Gamecocks sports together is what we do on my dad's side of the family, so we all gathered at my grandparents' house for nearly every game of the 2010 CWS.
We were all there for the final game, but at some point in the later innings (7th or 8th probably) everyone left to finish the game at home because it was a work night and the younger kids were tired. My brother and I were the only ones that stayed with my grandparents, so it was just the four of us there when the winning run scored.
The next few minutes are mostly a blur of hysterical joy in my memory. We all jumped up and hugged each other and my brother and I ran around the room screaming. Then my grandpa just sat there and laughed with pure happiness and my grandma picked up the phone to call my aunt. It was really cool to watch my grandparents finally see us win a national championship after decades of watching the Gamecocks.
My brother and I finally had to head back to our house. Right after we got in my car "All I Do Is Win" came on the radio so of course we turned it up way too loud and sang it at the top of our lungs as we drove through town. For some reason my brother had fireworks in his room and when we got home we tried to sneak out with them. My dad stopped us, so instead we just sat around watching the highlights and talking about the game and getting excited all over again. Such a great night.