It's been a week and change since South Carolina beat UCLA 2-1 in 11 innings for the NCAA baseball title, and I know my Uncle Frank, a life-long and frequently suffering Florida Gator football fan, would appreciate how humbly the SC people have accepted their first (with a nod to the 2002 Women's Outdoor Track squad) national championship. Heck, he even would have understood Dean Espy of UCLA busting his hand on the bench in Omaha after making an error that allowed the Gamecocks to tie the game in the 8th. He seldom expected anything would go right for his Gators, but he lived long enough to see them hold both the football and basketball titles, and somehow that might have been enough to balance things. 80,000 USC fans would *still* like to see greatness in their stadium though.
It's a fact you can't just say 'Carolina' here in Charlotte and expect people to know you meant USC any more than assuming USC football and talk of winning wasn't about that bunch on the other coast. I wasn't totally surprised that I couldn't find their overall record anywhere I looked on the school web site--formed in 1892, they have rarely covered themselves in glory there. Even Spurrier's accomplishments are couched in terms of "being bowl eligible five years in a row."
Winning has never come easily to the Garnet and Black crowd, so while I've seen a few more shirts with the SC logo and heard plenty of pride in the voices of those who *definitely* watched their boys win, there hasn't been (pardon the pun) an awful lot of the crowing you might expect. A couple smiles that NORTH Carolina hasn't won bubkis despite years of effort, but no #1 fingers held adamantly aloft.
You really couldn't ask for a better World Series run though. Playing poker was tough when we kept watching the drama that came from USC ripping the guts out of Oklahoma with a ninth inning rally the previous Friday, and while taking out their arch-rival Clemson in the next round doesn't make up for any football losses, hey, it was better than the usual stick in the eye South Carolina teams wind up taking. Series MVP Jackie Bradley Jr. kept their season going the night before by delivering an RBI single after going 0-5 on the night, but mostly it was gut-check pitching performances every game that took USC to the pinnacle. UCLA got two runs in 20 innings, and the Gamecocks, with six wins from six different pitchers, registered a 2.15 ERA in seven games, holding opposing hitters to a .191 batting average. As Coach Ray Tanner noted, "I'm not sure we're as talented as some of the teams here, but I know our guys will just play like they can and hope we find a way."
As the gentlemen of ESPN's 'Pardon the Interruption' noted the next day during a fill-in-the-blank exercise, "South Carolina's championship makes Steve Spurrier (the highly paid football coach) apprehensive or jealous." If I was a thrower or pass catcher, I know I'd want to play where Spurrier was operating whatever version of the Gun 'n Fun offense he used while dominating the SEC at Florida. Now, if he could somehow get those baseball arms to come around and throw strikes to a bunch of fleet-footed receivers, the joy in South Carolina might come around more than every 100 years.