Birds, Beasts and Bragging

June 29th, 2011 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

Rip ’em up. Tear ’em up. Cocks give ’em hell.

That was by far the most popular cheer when I attended the University of South Carolina. My high school in New Jersey also had a bird (bird?!) as mascot, but not with razor spurs and killer reputation. Instead it was a cardinal.

I confess that I am not a true sports fan. I like the team sports I participated in — wrestling, swimming and water polo. When the Olympics coverage shows those, I may watch.

Gamecocks tee shirtIt should surprise no one that I’m not a big USC Gamecock’s fan. Yet I did become aware last year and this, as the team had a shot at back-to-back college baseball national championships. Last night, they did win the College World Series and did it right. It was an all-SEC final, against Florida. The red Carolina swept the three-game playoff after winning all of its CWS games. Or as Yahoo Sports put it, “South Carolina became the first team to ever go 10-0 in an NCAA tournament and the first since Oregon State in 2007 to go unbeaten in a CWS. The Gamecocks’ streaks of 16 NCAA tournament wins and 11 straight in the CWS are both the longest all-time.”

So, self, I ask you, why when friends were were also jocks or even just alumni go on and on when their alma maters do anything remarkable, are you blasé? I still do athletic things, am a hulking guy, and of course, once a jock, you keep that mindset at some level.

I’m understandably indifferent to a second college, Lesley in Cambridge, where many years after journalism school, I got a management degree. That likely has to do with no longer being a teen, as well as taking the courses at what was then a hotel on Route 1 in Norwood, where the business school shipped its professors one night a week for a long, long session. In fact, we called it Ramada U. As it turns out, I was the only one who had bothered to find out that the few, almost entirely women’s teams had a lynx as their mascot. None of us in our study group or the program ever attended any games.RU

In Columbia, I did attend football games, but to sell programs, which was a money maker for the underfunded swim team. I also wrote news, but mostly opinion pieces for the student newspaper. There I ran afoul of the fowl-loving real fans.

Our football coach/athletic director was the allegedly brilliant Paul Dietzel. He built a shakily assembled (really pissy) record there. Then when he had the double slam of thinking the ACC rules kept him from recruiting enough big dummies for football and the very good basketball team got skunked in the conference tournament, he took Carolina independent. It subsequently ended up in the SEC, which is much, much tougher in football. It took them nearly 20 years to morph into truly competitive teams there.

I found his crybaby exit from the ACC pretty stupid and puerile. One of my paper columns that got the most hateful responses was a satire about it. I suggested that we forgo such pretenses as athletic conferences and instead go directly professional, so we could simply funnel the huge alumni contributions into paying jocks directly. We could buy championships and be done with it. Lo and woe, many students and alumni were mightily offended. In a state where nearly everyone in power had at least one degree from Carolina, many threats and curses came to the board and president. In fact another journalism major told me that when he was crossing the horseshoe in the old campus and hailed President Tom Jones, he told him on being asked that I was gone. He said Jones grinned and said, “Good!”

I surely have robbed myself of frequent simple pleasures in vicarious participation in an alma mater’s successes. That’s odd in that I have many cheap thrills. I revel in our own flowers, herbs and other plants, as I do in those I see as I walk or cycle. When I create a new or I think improved dish, as I do several times weekly, I can be smug. I can even delight in a small square of 72% chocolate or snifter of Lagavulin like it was a sacrament.

Those though are all personal and direct.

I admit it’s great for the young Gamecocks that they won it all in their sport, and two consecutive years. I was never on a team that did anything like that. They’ll have bragging rights for the rest of their lives. I just don’t see how it has much to do with me.

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