South Carolina blew a fourth quarter lead Saturday night to lose a close game and I went home in a perfectly fine mood.
I'll readily admit it felt strange typing that sentence. For most of my life no matter what -- whether it be as an Auburn fan or South Carolina fan -- a loss would send me into a spiraling, stinky mood. Perhaps it's because I knew those teams I cheered for were supposed to win and anything less was going to disappoint me.
Whether we the fans keep their own personal expectations tempered or not — everyone has them. It's a subject I've beaten into the ground over the past couple months at both my jobs — keep your expectations low and you won't be disappointed.
Not only did I not used to think like that, but many people share those feelings I used to have. For those of you not in the know, I used to write for a local paper who covered Georgia Southern's football team. My first column of the football season was a referendum on the fan base lowering their expectations for 2017 because of how much talent the 2016 team lost.
Quick history lesson: Georgia Southern football has a great winning tradition on the FCS level. The program has six national championships and experienced one of the most successful FCS to FBS transitions in 2014 and 2015. However once their current head coach Tyson Summers took over in 2016, things took a mighty downturn in Statesboro.
A team armed with two senior quarterbacks, an NFL running back, an NFL receiver, all-conference center, two NFL linebackers, four seniors on the defensive line and an NFL kicker would win five games in 2016. I won't go into the details of to how all of that is possible — there's plenty of literature out there about Georgia Southern's 2016 debacle.
So in 2017 — without all that talent -- I pleaded fans to lower expectations in order to avoid disappointment later in the season. I didn't think it was a radical statement to make considering everything GS lost in 2016, but their fans weren't having any of it. I stopped writing for the Herald Wednesday and I'm still getting tweets like this from disgruntled Eagle fans:
The Troy-LSU game is why GS fans got mad at you about the expectations article @theTEXAStanley . You always have to expect to win— Ga Power Company (@GSOffense) October 1, 2017
For a fan base like Georgia Southern's, I can understand being hesitant about lowering their expectations for even one season. But Georgia Southern is 0-3 and might have the worst offense in the country, so I'm sure there are plenty of miserable Georgia Southern fans out there who refused to temper their ridiculously high expectations for one season.
Still, there will be fans out there who say "But Chris! If you keep low expectations that's a one-way ticket to loserdom!" That's an extreme way to look at things because you then treat the idea of expectations as something fixed, as in it can't change from game-to-game or season to season.
I'm sure many Georgia Southern fans -- including myself -- expected the Eagles to beat New Hampshire, They didn't and I was rightfully surprised just as I'm sure many fans were too. On the other hand, I didn't in any universe expect Georgia Southern to beat Auburn and they didn't -- so the game went exactly as I expected.
You can change expectations from game-to-game and season-to-season. You can have low expectations for a season and have high expectations for a game within that season. That's a perfect example of how I feel about South Carolina 's 2017 season.
In our preseason staff predictions, I said South Carolina would finish with five or six wins. That's not a lofty goal by any means, but I'm not stupid and unrealistic when I see the talent on this team. But, I can have high expectations when we play Western Carolina because I know South Carolina is a far better team than the Catamounts.
This isn't to say I'm incapable of having high expectations for South Carolina. When I was attending the University during the golden years (2010-2013) I expected the team to win every game they were in because they had the talent to do so. It's not hard to evaluate the team you root for and know what kind of talent you're stocked with. Those teams were great, but this South Carolina team is not -- especially with the injuries the Gamecocks are ravaged with.
I went into the Texas A&M game knowing it would be an ugly game South Carolina would lose by a touchdown. It's not being a bad fan, it's being a realistic one.
I spent most of the game overjoyed South Carolina was winning -- I never thought they would be ahead at any point in the game. Even when Texas A&M came back to take the win, I disappointed but not upset. I didn't think SC was going to win in the first place, but the fact the Gamecocks were in that game with an A&M team far superior to them was good enough for me.
Is this mentality a referendum on the state of the football program? Probably. I wish I wasn't rooting for a team where I had to temper my expectations, but that's where we stand. I would suggest the rest of you do the same, unless you want to be miserable for the next eight weeks of the regular season.