Earlier this week John Whittle posted a feature about Gamecock football traditions and that's the subject of our question today. What is your favorite tradition associated with Gamecock football? Least favorite? Any tradition is fair game, so you can talk about the larger traditions shared by the whole stadium or family or personal traditions.
I thought a good while about this question and I really couldn't come up with anything I'm attached to. This is likely a function of my rarely attending games. So I'll use this space to rant about something that's bugs me with regards to tradition in general: you ever notice how everyone thinks their school's traditions are not only unique, but uniquely unique. "Sure, every program has its traditions, but there's just something [clenches fist] special about ours!" Stop right there. You are wrong.
I'll never forget finding myself in a conversation with two Clemson grads, a UVA fan who somehow despised Clemson worse than most USC fans I know, and a northern transplant with no college football affiliation. Of course the Clemson grads were selling this transplant on the supreme majesty of CLESSIN FOOBAW, assuring her that there's "nothing else like it". The UVA fan interjected that dozens of fanbase would allege the same, to which the Clemson pair snapped, "No but it's just different [re: better] at Clemson." Oh, how we both laughed! You think right this second there aren't Alabama, Michigan, Oregon, and yes, South Carolina fans claiming that their school's gameday experience and traditions are, gosh, just a lil' bit more awe-inspiring than the rest of the college football community? Rule of thumb, folks: no one cares about your team's traditions except your fanbase. Remember last year when TAMU fans got riled when our fans publicly objected after they posted up at our statehouse and did the yell? We were told by certain Aggie fans how disrespectful that was and that we should have just sat back and enjoyed the pageantry. No-ho-ho, sorry, doesn't work like that. Texas A&M loves their yell leaders, as they should. To the rest of us, they're a fancy-twirly milkman gang doing pirouettes on our capitol steps. And hey, we're both right!
I'm being needlessly sour right now since this here's a discussion among Gamecock fans, so we should feel welcome to celebrate our traditions among peers. But remember, there's no more futile an endeavor than trying to sell non-fans on your traditions. It'd be like trying to convince a Mongolian goatherder of the joys of a Memorial Day cookout. They can't relate, don't care, and they probably think you're annoying and are wish you'd leave them to their goat-related responsibilities, which I'd assume are time-consuming and drudgerous.
That said! The worst tradition is cheerleading. It's a vestige of another era that should be shuttered. We've got a huge-ass band, the mic guy, music pumping through the stadium PA. And 99% of the stadium doesn't pay attention to cheerleaders because they can't possibly register what they're doing. I mean how many cheers to they actually lead, anyway? "Game, Cocks"? I assure you they're unnecessary to that process. If cheerleaders didn't show up to a football game, there would be like six people who'd notice and it would be an afterthought. "Huh, no cheerleaders this week? That's kinda w--oh shit, a fumble!"
Since my first live game in 1987 (allegedly), I've been able to experience nearly all of the things that we'd term as ‘traditions' of Gamecock Football. In fact, these individual happenings have grown and morphed into a collective experience, and the individual aspects of the day tend to get lost in the afternoon sunlight and the smell of stale bourbon and coke on the concrete steps.
I agree with Jorge in that each collective fanbase is going to tell you that their Gameday experience is cooler than your Gameday experience, and vehemently insist to you that, "the way that OUR fans line up outside the stadium to watch the team walk inside is TOTALLY different than the way that Y'ALL stand outside the stadium to watch your team walk inside, and that OUR tailgates in parking lots are way different than YOUR tailgates in parking lots." There is a degree of absurdity to this, but, I am also a believer in that our homerism is right and good, and I am (for the most part) of the camp that wants to believe that we've got the best Gameday atmosphere and that we're so much cooler than all of those other mouth-breathers chomping their hands together or spelling their mascot's name YMCA style or taking instruction from some dudes dressed like the Maytag repairman. However, thinking through our Gameday experience line-by-line brought forward some new perspective and may even help me better appreciate trips to other stadia in the future.
2001 - (To achieve maximum effect, this must be vs. UGA at night) It is one of the most unique entrances in college football, and, the fact that its origin was fairly random makes it even better that it's stuck the way that it has.
The melodies of Also Sprach Zarathrustra may get the Lion's share of the praise, but it's the whole ten minutes prior to kickoff that makes the experience special. From the Carolina Band's pregame ritual to the Gamecocks cheer, it's one of the few entrances in college football that actually builds excitement all the way to kickoff. We did go through a phase where the intro included a really awkward ‘Pirates of the Caribbean' montage, but the quality of the whole production has continued to improve throughout the years.
Cockaboose Railroad - I enjoy it. I know people that own a couple of them. They like to party. They're air-conditioned. I approve of this tradition.
The Lucky Bat - I know we're talking about Football traditions, but this deserves merit. The baseball team's ‘Lucky Bat' covered in Garnet/Black/White tape that followed the team throughout its historic run through the College World Series is something that is so quintessentially ‘baseball' and also attached to the University.
Techno from former Soviet-Bloc countries - Don't get me wrong, I love hearing ‘Sandstorm' on repeat as much as the next guy, but this has to be a phase that we're going through, right? Darude's venerable club trance music thingy from 1999 is great and all, but we need to tone down the whole thing or it's gonna turn out like ‘Zombie Nation' at basically every other college program in the country, or worse, ‘Seven Nation Army'.
The ‘Another Carolina (pause) FIRST DOWN!' thing - I don't mind celebrating big first downs, and making note of such on the stadium loudspeaker, but do we need to hear about each of them in a twelve-minute drive in the second quarter? Call me salty because it harkens back to the preacher at my hometown church that would announce, "All God's people say (pause) A-Men!" after nearly everything that occurred during the service, but you catch my drift. This practice is annoying.
Not to sound like a complete cynic here, but I have to agree with DC3 about the whole Sandstorm thing. While you'll probably come across a good many fans who are complete backers of the techno and believe Sandstorm to be a staple in South Carolina football tradition - one that has somehow trickled it's way throughout our athletics department all the way down to softball games, part of me hopes it's just a phase that will become after thought by 2025.
I was present that September Thursday night in 2009 when Sandstorm made its mark at Willy-B, and ushered with it a 5-year era of unforeseen home dominance. And aside from my hazy remembrances against Georgia in 2012 after Ace Sanders' punt return for a TD, or any home Clemson night game, I've never experienced energy quite like what was on display that night against Ole Miss. (That said I've only been around for 23 years and didn't experience Black Magic or the swayin' upper decks.)
This is what Sandstorm is meant to be: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbkRWSlRj64
Not some underwhelming celebration after our fourth first quarter touchdown against Coastal Carolina where you have zero desire to jump up and down for 45 seconds. Over the course of Sandstorm's existence in Columbia, we've all been spoiled by it. I want back the days when the crowd has to plead for it. There's a reason you don't hear ‘We Want Sandstorm' cheered in patches around the stadium anymore. It's not as fun when it's drilled into our consciousness on repeat like some horrific Rob Lowe DirecTV commercial.
If you disagree, fine. All I ask is for you to attend a weekday non-conference basketball game and then tell me how you really feel about it.
To answer the question, my favorite Gamecock football tradition has to be opening the college football season on the last Thursday in August. (Well, except for last year...) Not only because it's fun to watch us play before any other team. There's just something that feels right watching our offense struggle against a lesser foe for three quarters only to eek out a victory in the fourth thanks to a timely defensive stop. It's just so, well, us.
The entrance to 2001 is clearly the best tradition we have, right? It's awesome. I remember how awestruck I was by it at my first game when I was a kid and it still gives me chills before big games. Honorable mention as well to the "Game! Cocks!" cheer, which can also be chill-inducing when 80,000 people are screaming it after an exciting touchdown.
I am also perfectly willing to be the one here that goes all in on loving Sandstorm. The criticism that we've overdone it by incorporating into every athletic thing we do is a valid one, but I don't care. I was in the student section for the 2009 Ole Miss game when we started this tradition. I was in the student section when we whipped Georgia in 2012 and it got so loud that I couldn't hear myself screaming. Those moments-when you're jumping up and down to Sandstorm on shaky bleachers, not caring that you're constantly on the verge of falling, surrounded by thousands of other people yelling at the top of their lungs after your team just did something amazing-those moments are exhilarating and they're worth the dozens of times you roll your eyes and lazily clap along to Sandstorm after scoring yet another touchdown against an overmatched opponent.
As for my least favorite tradition, and I know this will probably be an unpopular stance, but I'm going with wearing a black dress to the game. I have no idea why I dislike it so much. I like wearing dresses/skirts and I like that there's such ridiculous pageantry associated with college football, but I've never had the slightest desire to dress up for a football game. I've worn a dress to a game only once, to last year's season opener, because I needed something I could wear to work and to the game. I felt weird the whole time and we lost horribly so I don't intend to ever do it again.