Tuesday, June 26, 2012

They did it Daddy Ride!

My family’s relationship with USC goes back a generation or two as is the case for many Gamecock fans.  If you’re in that category, and have enjoyed the incredible Ray Tanner era, you probably also have a family member or two who didn’t live to see the national titles and really would have enjoyed them. 

I was born blessed with many Gamecocks in my lineage.  My Great Uncle Tatum Gressette dropkicked a FG to beat Clemson in 1920 or 1921.  My Great Uncle Bobby Gressette (Tatum’s brother) was the captain of the USC football team in the mid-1920s.  My late grandmother Helen Gressette Felder (their sister) walked the live Gamecock around Carolina Stadium during a homecoming in that era.  I have that picture at my home today.  

But one particular family member stands out today as I think about the Michael Roth-Matt Price era.  My late grandfather, T. M. “Babe” Nelson, aka “Daddy Ride,” was a Gamecock to the core.  He sat with me at so many games in the various sports it’s incredible to think about.  He would have really loved watching these baseball teams.  

I think this is the emotion that will eventually be the one most prominent for Carolina fans once the disappointment over last night washes away.  We were alive and witnessed the transformation of USC athletics from a river of bitter negativity into an ocean of excitement. 
I know some younger Gamecocks want us all to be all sour and “demanding more” from ourselves today following these losses to Arizona.  I get where they are coming from, but they just don’t understand how bad it really was.  For a mental snapshot, think about where we were in 1999 in all three major men’s sports and you will get the idea.  In football, we went 0-11 and had Clemson fans mailing us zero bars and dancing on our field.  In hoops, we were just dreadful.  And in baseball, Ray Tanner was heading into his third season and still cleaning up a huge mess he had inherited.  It was to me the low point as a USC alum.  

So no, I won’t sit here today and be all faux-angry and “demanding” anything from a program that has given this University its greatest athletic achievement in history to this point.  Instead, I am going to kick back, “lean” on our back-to-back national championships, and just think about how much fun this has been and get excited about what is next to come.  So on behalf of “Daddy Ride” and about a million like him, thank you Coach Tanner!  I will always treasure this era in Gamecock Athletics.  And for next year and beyond…”Put me in Coach!  I’m ready to play!” 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Gamecocks must stay loose against Wildcats

During this fantastic three year run USC has enjoyed in baseball, I can’t remember a time in Omaha where we were viewed as the “favored team” by the national media.  Okay, okay, there were individual games where we were the favorite like the opening game against A&M last year, Kent State this year, etc.  But generally speaking we are viewed as the underdog and that seems to be the case again as we head into the finals against Arizona.  

Now I am not one of these fruit loops that go around obsessing over ESPN’s every comment as being an attack on the Gamecocks.  Outside of Orel Hershiser, who apparently had his favorite dog killed by a Gamecock fan, I don’t see any “anti-Carolina” bias.  What I DO see is a team that baffles the experts due to intangibles.  More than ever, we will need those intangibles to write one more chapter in our Omaha Annals and land a three-peat.  Whether you call it staying loose, having fun or just acting like Michael Roth, this unique personality is at the core of why the Gamecocks defy the odds and just win.  

Lou Holtz once said something about winning that is appropriate about this USC baseball era.  The quote was about a bumblebee:  “Everybody says that a bumblebee cannot fly, and the science and aeronautic data agree.  The bumblebee cannot fly because its body is too big and its wingspan too short.  Fortunately for the bumblebee, it cannot read so it flies anyway.”  

That’s Carolina’s baseball team defined.  When we were exhausted in 2010 and about to play the well-rested and heavily-favored UCLA juggernaut, all the experts guaranteed a Bruin sweep.  Fortunately, we didn’t get that memo.  In 2011, Virginia and Florida were both on a roll and on paper were much more talented than us.  Fortunately, we didn’t get that memo.  Now, here we are in 2012 and Arizona is well-rested, viewed as the best hitting team in the nation and well-rested.  And once again, the media experts say the Wildcats will roll.  

I can promise you that I know very little about baseball and maybe this is the year that these experts finally get one right.  I mean eventually if they put their heads down and keep picking against Tanner and crew we will eventually lose and they can say, “See we told you so.”  They may have been wrong 20 times before that but I digress. 
The memo has gone out to the world declaring Arizona to win easily and that’s okay.  Here’s to hoping that my favorite group of bumblebees from the Midlands ignores all the data and science once again.  Just keep on flying, Omaha style!  


Top Ten signs the Gamecocks are back in Omaha

10.    Sweet Tea sales have tripled overnight
9.      Michael Haney and Cocky trading tequila shots at DJ’s Dugout
8.      Even the taxis now have car flags
7.      Tommy Moody running out of ways to predict USC to lose
6.      The Drover is battering and deep-frying filet mignons
5.      Mark Sanford has been hiking the Keystone Trail
4.      Mike Patrick asking Jenn Brown if he can “steal third”
3.      Oot Oot guy asking Orel Hershiser to step outside
2.      Jack Leggett throwing out the first ball in the finals so he can say he’s been to the Championship Round. 
1.      Four words:  Phil Kornblut Conga Line!!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Which is it Naysayers?

Whether or not South Carolina beats Arkansas tonight in Omaha, the Gamecocks have already gone much further than the naysayers were predicting (or hoping) we would.  Even if USC doesn’t score another run and comes home Thursday morning, this young team has defended its titles with gusto, has made the University proud and has continued scripting a golden legacy for Ray Tanner in the Carolina Annals. 
Meanwhile, the same naysayers that practically guaranteed getting to a Super Regional was the absolute best we could hope for are now saying we should be demanding another national title.  (Yes, yes, some have instead fallen back on the “College Baseball is not important” nonsense even though ESPN is all over it but I digress…)  

Get over it naysayers.  You were wrong about the Gamecock baseball team one way or the other.  If we should be demanding a title now as the only acceptable end to the season, you were dead wrong about how good we were all year.  If you were right about that, then we have overachieved getting this far.  Actually, strke that.  Go ahead and keep on contradicting yourselves and being miserable if you like.  It makes for good fodder for my blog so go for it.  I can assure you that those of us who are just enjoying the success of the program and not “enduring” it will keep on rolling.  

Who knows what will happen tonight and later this week?  Could we win another title?  Of course we could.  Could we lose the next 2 and go home?  Of course we could.  The Hogs of Arkansas are quite confident heading into this evening and they have a big-talking, talented and cocky team.  Their head Coach is all but promising a win and says they intend to knock the Gamecocks off their perch.  

Regardless, Coach Tanner and crew have given us another 45 win season, another trip to Omaha and will finish in the top 5 in the nation.  The nation continues its torrid love affair with Michael Roth and if Saturday was his last gem it was a good one:  knocking off #1 Florida on ESPN!  The spirit stick, fear the fish, and the rituals in the dugout are images that will last for years.  

So go ahead naysayers.  Continue the never-ending quest to prove this baseball program is (gasp) not perfect.  The good news for you is that at some point we aren’t going to be national champions anymore.  What a day that will be for you.  Meanwhile, we’ll have to find some way to live with our two national titles (and maybe a third!)  Something tells me we’ll manage. 


Friday, June 15, 2012

MOO U News: Moral Victory Streak continues for Red-Hot Tigers!



UPDATED - JUNE 24, 2012

It has been an exciting year for Tiger Athletics.  It started with Moo U winning the world’s tallest midget contest in Charlotte and “barely” losing to Carolina and West Virginia.  Then the Orange Kitten Hoops Club almost defeated a Gamecock team having its worst year ever and firing its coach.  Then recently, Clemson came very close to winning a game against Carolina at the NCAA Regionals in baseball.  (In fact, they almost won twice!)  With that kind of near-success under their belts in the three major sports, Tiger fans can now declare themselves as “Moral Victory U” for the near future.    

And the baseball “near-winning” couldn’t have come at a better time.  There was some concern in the upstate that only men’s hoops and football had come to terms with losing to the Gamecocks while still being able to fool the fan base.  And baseball still has some work to do.  After all, in football, the ACC finally is bad enough that the Tiggers (despite getting “pantsed” in Columbia) earned the right to embarrass the rest of the ACC in the BCS.  So Dabo and crew get to pretend that’s what they really want anyway.  Meanwhile, on the court, where the Tigers have never won the ACC tournament, they point to the overall strength of the ACC as a reason to not worry about beating USC.  

So now you can add Jack Leggett’s baseball team to the “on the right path” list.  After all, his team gave Carolina a tough, close weekend.  And “almost winning” is the new standard in Tigertown.  Perhaps that’s why Terry Don Dangle Dat Dingle Dunlop Phillips extended “Dabo The Crazy’s” contract recently, sending Gamecock fans into a near euphoric celebration.  After all, West Virginia’s favorite coach has led the way in showing how you avoid “actual wins” but still get credit for winning when your recruiting looks good on paper.  It won’t be long before Brownell and Leggett receive similar extensions.   

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Thank you Michael Roth

I wanted to make sure and write this article before Michael Roth’s last home start tonight against Oklahoma.  Gamecock fans are all hoping beyond hope of course that this last start will be a gem that gives USC a 1-0 lead in the Supers and ultimately gets the Gamecocks back to Omaha.  For a personality like Roth’s, that would seem to be the way to leave the mound in Columbia for the final time.  

And I get the fact that it may be a touch inappropriate to single out 1 individual from such a team of hard-working stars.  (I could just as easily be writing this column today to Christian Walker, Matt Price or Evan Marzilli as examples.  I get that.)  But for old-school Gamecock fans like me, Roth will just always hold a special place in our hearts for the night that changed his career...and saved the 2010 season.  

On Friday, June 25, 2010, Roth woke up a situational reliever who had only twice gone more than three innings as a Gamecock.  His prior start to this night was 14 months back!  Oh, and yes, there was that minor detail that we were playing Clemson who was hungry to pay us back for Omaha 2002.  Maybe we should have guessed something was coming, because in that 2002 CWS, Steven “Bondo” Bondurant stepped up and pinned a complete game on the Tigers.  

But no we didn’t see it coming.  Roth was expected to make it into the 5th inning at best.  Instead, he went all the way tossing 109 pitches, turning his arm into jelly, taming the upstaters and establishing a legacy that will make him a legendary name in Gamecock athletics forever. 
I know the better storyline this weekend is how Oklahoma and USC met in that same CWS in 2010.  I remember vividly the big hit from Jackie in extras that tied things up and kept us alive.  The Sooners are a confident and big-talking team and have the “revenge” card on their side too.  Either team that wins this super regional will be a tough out in Omaha for the Gators.  

But win or lose tonight, Michael Roth has done so much for this university’s athletic history!  AND he’s one of the most likeable people you’ll ever meet.  So while he is part of a unit that has built a well-earned reputation as being “team” centered with different stars every night, I am singling him out just this once for praise.  

As the father of a 6-year old, I will be telling my son the stories of Roth’s career for a long time.  And he’ll get sick of hearing about the night he took those Orange Tigers down in Omaha and saved that magical run at our first national championship.  So Michael, here’s a toast to your brilliant career on the day of your final start.  Thank you so much for everything and good luck in the future!  You will always be a Gamecock Legend! 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

MOO U News: Top Ten Excuses from Tiger fans at the Columbia Regional



10.    “They kept selling us them fancy ice cream pellets”
9.      “We were distracted by that delicious live rooster on that perch.” 
8.      “None of our football players were there to sell us wacky tobacky.”
7.      “The outhouses all had these goofy looking buckets of water.” 
6.      “Jack Leggett was too nice to the Gamecock fans.  Such a sweetheart.”
5.      “They wouldn’t let us bring pigs into the game, and I ain’t leaving a blue-ribbon oinker in the truck.”
4.      “Benji Norton wanted to be the only Clemson fan there other than Teddy Heffner.” 
3.      “I was too busy staring at that dreamboat OOT OOT guy to focus on the games.”  
2.      “Trying to pronounce ‘Chanticleer’ was wearing us out.” 
1.      “Not a drop of shine in the house!”  

MOO U News: Clemson ready for some softball!



Having just lost to their in-state rivals yet again in a men’s major sport, Clemson fans have decided to move on to greener pastures.  Pendleton resident and long-time Slim Jim consumer Bart Bumblestick, purchasing an air-freshener at an upstate convenience store, overheard a way out.  “I was checking out a wild cherry and a blueberry when I hear this fella saying the SEC hasn’t never won a title in softball.  That there is a sport we need to be addressin.” 

Bumblestick immediately alerted the cashier who is an Associate Athletic Director and part-time Honors College Professor for the Tigers on the side.  As a result, Clemson may finally institute the sport in Pickens County.  Head Man in Orange, A. D. Terry Don Cooter Bob Smooth and Mild Low Tar Phillips says the time is now for girl ball to come to Clemson.  “Ain’t nobody in the SEC winning there so why not?  I don’t want to have to fire Jack Leggett and this would be a good distraction.  So yeah, we’ll let the gals have this one.  It is what it is.”

Clemson would not be allowed to cut any existing women’s scholarships due to Title IX, so an alternative idea was crafted by Phillips.  “Yeah, we will no longer have our young broads studying math or geography.  Maybe English neither.  We’ll come up with something good.”

Monday, June 4, 2012

There aren’t many demons left for Tanner to slay!

I am sure no one currently involved with Gamecock baseball spent time worrying about past regional performances against Clemson headed into this weekend.  At least I hope not.  That type of hand-wringing and nervous negativity should be in the fans’ minds alone.  Having said that, thinking about it or not, one of the few remaining “never dones” for Ray Tanner and crew has been eliminated. 

Until Saturday, USC had never won a regional game against Clemson.  Significant?  Not really, but some Clemson fans I talked to last week were genuinely excited headed into the weekend due to this statistic.  I won’t embarrass him, but one in particular in the State House Lobby told me, “Ted you got our number in Omaha but this is where we get in your heads.”  I would describe his mood and most of my other Tiger friends’ moods as “giddy” with anticipation that finally they had the forum they needed to stop the recent Carolina run.  (Granted, there were some notable exceptions to that such as my friends over at
www.thetigerswag.com  Willie and crew predicted the outcome of the regional and frankly “underrated” Clemson a bit if anything but I digress…)
So USC still was being portrayed as the team with everything to prove and battling history.  If you listened to ESPN, you honestly would believe that Clemson was the team with the 2 national titles going into the weekend.  Even after Carolina won the winners bracket game on Saturday, they were saying that Clemson “was in great shape” going into Sunday’s rematch.  You had to chuckle but it was what it was. 
Predictably, the Gamecocks jumped on Clemson early and beat their upstate rivals once again to capture the regional.  Clemson played a great game as they almost always do against us and it was not easy.  But the better team won and is advancing, much to ESPN’s chagrin. 
Will we win a third national title?  I hope so of course but before the year started I knew that as young as we are that would be tough.  Frankly, if we make it back to Omaha and get a shot to defend our title that’s remarkable for this year’s team.  Having said that, I wouldn’t bet any money against the Gamecocks either.  We may be so loose at that point we catch fire and get on a roll. 
None of that has a chance to happen if we don’t win the Super Regionals in Columbia next week.  The Ray needs to be loud and rocking all weekend.  Just get to Omaha baby!  Anything can happen then.