We as fans of the South Carolina Gamecocks, make the claim that we are the best and most loyal fans in the country. Everyone always points to our attendance numbers during our 1-22 stretch as proof of this claim. Here is where things get a little "fuzzy". It is great that we have fans who come out for every home game, (so many schools in the country don't even have that), but in order to live up to that "best fans" claim, we can't abandon our team when they need us most. This past Saturday was a prime example of what the best fans of anything would NOT do! There were over 81,000 rabid fans at the start of the game. There was no doubt they were pumped up! And, as long as things were going well, it stayed that way. However, when Tennessee took a 29-8 lead with still over thirteen minutes left on the clock in the third quarter, the mass exodus began. In looking out at the half filled stadium, I asked myself and Russ, how would it feel to be one of our players and see that? Have all of these fans have given up on us? Here they were, they had prepared hard, and played harder. They bleed and hurt and go through injuries to play football for us. We in turn walk out on them at a time when they need us most. If you don't think they notice or care, then make sure you read Jeremy's piece in which he talks to several of them after the game.
What makes it frustrating, is that in 2001 Alabama was leading us by 16 points in the fourth quarter, but on that day, no one left. The fans decided to really get behind the team, and made noise never before heard in Williams-Brice. The noise disrupted the Tide's offense and our guys fed off of that energy, and they came back to win the game. How can we be sure, that after scoring and getting within fourteen points on Saturday; that if this crowd had that same dedication and enthusiasm, that the defense couldn't have gotten a big stop, to really swing the momentum? Maybe that type of support would have helped, but we will never know.
My wife has all but stopped coming to the games with me, because of all the negativity. Her first taste of Gamecock football was our 1-10 season, but she loved it because of the unbridled enthusiasm that the fans had. Back then, we were pretty sure, we couldn't win the games, but we were loud and enthusiastic. Everyone, at the different tailgating spots we attended, was excited and yelling! Now that we are competitive, it seems like all anyone wants to do is talk about why we won't win, or what we could do to "screw" this one up.
I guess the saddest thing of all is that, many of these season ticket holders are big money donors to the school. Sometimes it seems they just want that praise and social standing, but really couldn't care less about those kids wearing the uniform. If games are a social event for you, great, we all like to party. But let someone who will cheer and support the team go inside! The athletic department has to turn down some 10,000 or more ticket requests every year. I think maybe some of them should be allowed in, because those are probably grass roots fans who live and breathe Gamecock football. I've heard the excuse of, "we pay our money, we can come and go as we please", if that is your attitude then why don't you save that money and let someone else have the ticket? Preferably someone who loves the Gamecoks and will fight for and with them until the end. We have way too many people who love the Gamecocks as long as things are going well, and way too many who only come out after the boys win three or four in a row. We have far too few who stick beside this team no matter what the circumstances and THAT is the type of fan we need.
At the end of the 2003 season, the football team was accused of quitting. Well this time, the fans quit on the players. The team's culture seems to have changed, (at least as far as effort and attitude). The question is, can we as fans make the same change? The Boston Red Sox overcame the "Curse of the Bambino". While the fans never fully expected to ever win it all again, they supported the team fully for 86 years. They were finally rewarded. It can happen here, too! However, we as fans cannot expect to lose. We have to believe we can win. We have to show the team that we believe in them. We definitely have the numbers when the games start, let's hang around and give our support until it is over!
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