Whenever I’m asked about why I decided to become a Gamecocks fan when I moved to South Carolina back in high school, it never takes me long to give an answer.
Not the johnny-come-lately bandwagon fools that have probably already found their orange paw hats buried in their closet. The real fans. The loyal fans. The diehards.
The fans that showed up in force to not just tailgate and go home, but cheer and celebrate every single gameday even after watching their beloved team go 1-10 and 0-11 in consecutive years to end the ’90s. The fans that sat through the atrocious 63-17 dismantling at the hands of the hated Tigers in 2003 (my first USC vs Clemson game at Williams-Brice by the way…).
The fans that had to be constantly reminded by folks in Orange that we only get one in every six games and still showed up in their garnet and black, cheering for 2001 and singing “Forever to thee” after every single home game.
Those are the fans that I am talking to when I write this blog every week…and those are the fans that I am going to give this next message to.
It’s time for some optimism…cautious optimism, but optimism none-the-less.
I’ve written in recent weeks about my thoughts regarding Will Muschamp, my picks for the Gamecocks upcoming season and my request for us to accept where we are and tip our caps to Clemson (for now).
What I’m referring to now is the amount of negativity I continue to see and hear from Gamecock fans. I’ve never experienced this sort of negativity from this fan base. Even when we expected mediocre to bad seasons the optimism and positivity was everywhere.
Now I write a column about how I think our boys will go 6-6 this season and I’m riddled with comments, from Carolina fans, about how it’s not going to happen. I’m not sure I even had a Clemson fan disagree with me on my picks last week, but some of my fellow Gamecocks did.
Look, I get it, the expectations that were set over the course of the Spurrier era changed the complexion of the program itself. That I’m fine with and completely in agreement with. My issue is with the inability to see things in any color other than black and white.
We all bought into the hype a couple of years ago and got a rude awakening on a Thursday night in Columbia when the Aggies laid the wood to our boys on national television. That was the pride before the fall. Then came the embarrassing attacking of players on social media during the very long and trying 2015 season.
It’s either “we’re the best” or “we’re the worst” it seems.
I’m not a fan of that way of thinking. I’m less of a fan of attacking 18-22 year old kids because you aren’t pleased with how they are playing. They’re going through practice, they’re taking those lumps on the field and they’re busting their backsides for you and I and every other Gamecock fan watching.
But I digress.
It’s time to be cautiously optimistic. Even though our rival fans will remind us that there are worse records than 3-9, I highly doubt we will see them. There is a lot to think positively about as we head into the 2016 campaign.
For starters you just have to look at the new head coach Will Muschamp.
He’s always been a recruiting stud. You take that and couple it with the incredibly talented and recruiting stud filled coaching staff he’s put together and you can have faith that talent will be coming to Columbia in the near future. We saw this over this past weekend with Jamyest Williams committing on ESPN.
Another thing to be positive about is the quarterback position.
We have three guys jockeying for the starting spot and two of them are freshmen. The other is a senior who has paid his dues, played through the toughest stretch any player of the last decade of Gamecock football could have imagined and came out as a much more mature and seasoned player.
I also see this defense improving by leaps and bounds.
I’ve said it a thousand times already, but it has to be repeated. Will Muschamp is a defensive guru and will ensure that this defense remembers how to tackle. I see guys like Bryson Allen-Williams realizing their full potential under Coach Boom and I fully expect this defense to keep the Gamecocks in football games all season long, even being responsible for winning a few.
My friends at the Orlando Sentinel have even told me that they expect better than the 6-6 that I have predicted for our Gamecocks…but even if my outlook is wrong, who cares?
What makes Gamecock Nation great isn’t the result, it’s the experience. When it goes hand in hand with a winning season, it’s just that much better. So climb aboard the positivity wagon with me…let’s be cautiously optimistic together.
I look forward to seeing you all at Willy B this fall and enjoying some Gamecocks football no matter the outcome.
Forever to thee.
Find me on Twitter (@Ditti33), Facebook (/ditti33) and Instagram (dittius33).