This is a two part article about the attitudes of our Carolina faithful, and why changing them could be Steve Spurrier's toughest test.
To begin, I want you to understand that I do not intend to offend anyone, so please do not take it in that manner, as this blog is intended to give you more reason to be optimistic and positive about the program. I do not direct this at any one person, but at the whole of the gamecock faithful, and hope that its anticipated meaning is well received.
I am writing this from the other end of the globe, and my reason for telling you this, is so that you understand that the entire scope of my current connection to USC's program, is from the internet. I do not commonly receive American television here, although there is the occasional exception. So one hundred percent of my current news of this program comes from the net, and as you can imagine that makes me a sports board fanatic. However, I am finding a common thread (pun intended) in and on most of the USC sports boards that I frequent, and that is negativity towards our football program. Now, with the long hard history of this program, that is hardly a revolutionary thing, but with the somewhat recent events of this program, it does seem to be a little misplaced in my opinion.
So I will start out with the smaller things and work my way to the more recently earth shattering. If you go back and look at the historical records of our program, you will find it very difficult to find three six win seasons in succession. We have had some very good season’s here and there, but rarely can you find them back to back to back. Piecing together winning seasons has just been something that has eluded this program. I attribute it to the university’s lack of patience with their football coaches(no stability), political interference and the Board of Trustees historically not making it a priority. However, right or wrong, and for whatever reasons, it just hasn’t happened. Well, that is until recently, as right now we are in a four year span of six wins or more. This may not seem like very much of an accomplishment to you (I did say that I was starting with the smaller things), but in fact it shows progress, and with our history, can we really turn our noses up at progress? Steve Spurrier has been building this program the right way, which is for the long term success and not for the short term fixes. Coach Spurrier has shown the patience to do it right, instead of being lured into that quick fix deal, that sinks so many coaching careers. One great year doesn’t make a program a winning program, which we found out with a 10-1 regular season finish and number two national ranking(1984). That is why our current streak of not having a losing season is so important. You might ask how 6-6 in 07' is progress from 8-5 in 06'? And while I do have an answer, I will temper my response over the next few paragraphs.
To begin addressing the questions that surrounded the 6-6 season, I will say that I expected great things from that team last year, and in my opinion they delivered. What? Did I just say that they delivered great things, with a 6-6 seasonal record? YES!!! That is exactly what I said. So many fans were so down on this team after last year’s late season slide, but as with anything else in life, when things happen there are reasons why. Show me any team in D1 college football, or even a team in the professional ranks, who can win without their All American candidate middle linebacker(Brinkley), their best defensive end(Pepper), their All SEC cornerback(Munnerlyn), their other starting cornerback and the first backup cornerback, both starting safeties (E Cook/Isaac) and a Defensive Coordinator who reaches way out into the twighlight zone to come up with a two down lineman defensive scheme against the best runners in the nation (Macfadden/Tebow). Ok, ok, so while we didn’t lose all of those guys at the same time, we did lose all of those guys at one time or another throughout the season, and played several key games without several of them. We lost Brinkley and Pepper early in the season, for the entire season. We lost Isaac early in the season, and although he came back to play, he couldn’t tackle without his shoulder coming out of place, so how much good was he really doing? He was a shadow of his former self, so that is like losing him for the season. We lost E. Cook for games early in the season, and late in the season, and he played hurt for many other games during the season. Captain Munnerlyn played hurt in a couple of games, before succumbing to his injuries and missing the rest of the season, late. In that same period, we lost Carlos Thomas, who started opposite Munnerlyn, with only a true freshman to back him up. We also lost Stoney Woodson for a game and a half, who was our only experienced backup at corner. Lost in the shuffle of all of these injuries, is how many players had to play out of position to cover. Although Casper played de the year before, he had not practiced there in quite some time, as he had been moved to outside lb, but with the injuries, he was forced back to de. True freshman Cliff Mathews, who was playing with a broken bone in his hand, was forced to play out of position at outside lb. so not only is he a true freshman, playing injured, but he was playing out of position as well. There were other injuries as well, but I digress.
Now, back to my statement about this team delivering on the expectations of last year. I want to ask a simple question, and I want you to think about it before you answer it, or have any other knee jerk reaction. When was the last time this football team was ranked inside of the top ten, nationally? When was the last time this team was ranked in the BCS, period? After the midway point of last season, this team was 6-1, on top in the SEC Eastern division, ranked number six nationally and was the sixth highest ranked team in the BCS standings. When have we ever accomplished that, in our history? And remember, coach Spurrier didn’t promise us a SEC championship last season, or even an Eastern Divisional Title. What he did say, is that we were ready to COMPETE for the SEC Eastern Divisional Title. And isn’t being on top in the east, ranked number six in the nation and in the BCS polls and losing only to the eventual national champions, competing? So yes, I am proud of last year’s team. Yes, I feel good about what they accomplished. And no, I was not happy with the five game losing streak to end the year. But I do understand why.
Now, I want to get to the most important part of this blog. How do we become winners, ourselves? Well, it isn’t by running around screaming that the sky is falling, I can tell you that. But that is exactly what I have been reading all over the place on several USC sports boards. I am reading things like, “our qb’s are terrible and suspect at best. I just don’t see them being able to lead this team to more than six wins. With boyd gone, we don’t have any rb’s that we can depend on. We only have one rb with any game experience, and he has been aweful lately. Kmac is our only proven wr, and no one else has stepped up and proven they can play in this conference. Our ol is terrible. The will not give the qb’s any time to throw, or the rb’s any holes to run through. We don’t have any SEC quality ol. Our defense has holes in it everywhere, and is SUSPECT at best…”
Yes, I have more questions for you. Does that sound like the comments of winners? Does that sound like the attitudes of winners? Do those comments sound like something that would make the player feel good about the efforts that they are putting into the upcoming season? Does that sound like a change in culture, or the same ole loser mentality that the fans have had for decades? Would those poster’s make those same comments in front of Steve Spurrier, or to the faces of the players themselves? The answer to all of those questions should have been a resounding, “NO”!
Don’t we expect the players to buy into the mentality that coach Spurrier is pushing for? The “winner” mentality. Don’t the players need to believe that they can win, to be able to win? Hasn’t coach Spurrier told us time and again that attitudes must change in order for us to win? Then why are we, as fans, unwilling to do that that we expect from our players? How can we expect the players to buy into the whole “winner mentality”, if we aren’t willing to do it? Isn’t that a little bit hypocritical? And considering that the players get up at five am to workout, go to classes, go to meetings, go to practice, go to study halls, learn their playbooks, balance a social life and do all of their other daily task’s as student athletes, and are still expected to change their mentality, isn’t it a lot easier for us fans? All we have to do is stay positive, keep our hopes up and support this team. Why is that so hard for some? What is the actual risk of hoping for the best, and not getting it? I have heard fan after fan say that they are not getting their hopes up. Why not? They say, “because I have had my heart broken too many times!” And…? Did you die? Did your house and everything you own get washed away? Did you sustain some physical ailment that keeps you from living a normal life? What? What actually happened to any of you, when you got your hopes up, and it didn’t happen? If you want the true answer, I’ll tell you what happened. Nothing! Nothing different than what happened when you didn’t get your hopes up. Rather you got your hopes up, or didn’t get your hopes up, when our team lost games, you still felt like crap. Right? So my question still stands, why not get your hopes up? It feels so much better to be really hopeful about something, than to be down on it, or depressed about it. When you expect something bad to happen, the feeling is awful. So why do it? Winners never think about losing. They believe wholeheartedly that they are going to win every time. That is a winning mentality. Years ago, our gamecocks were playing at Florida, against Steve Spurrier, and we somehow took a 21-3 lead late in the second quarter. I think Derek Watson had just blocked a punt, and we recovered in the endzone, for our third touchdown of the half. I remember we were jumping all over the house, we were so excited. Then the television camera cut to coach Spurrier, and he didn’t even flinch! He looked calm, cool, collected and CONFIDENT! At that second I started to worry. Why wasn’t he throwing his clipboard? We did he have this smirk on his face? Well, Florida came back to beat the stuffings out of us, and I have never forgotten it. Winners breed winners. Positive thinking begets positive situations. Winners don’t sit around talking about how they might lose, they always think they are going to win! Winning is contagious if everybody believes!!!!
SOME OF OUR OTHER COACHES, OUR PLAYERS AND OUR FANS NEED THIS ATTITUDE!!!!!!!!