Let me be clear from the start of this letter, I am a Gamecock fan through and through. No other school will ever hold my allegiance like the University of South Carolina. The very bricks of The Horseshoe are paved with my blood, sweat, tears, and tuition money. My years spent at USC are some of the most formative and best parts of my life. Forever to thee.
This makes this letter all the more interesting.
I want to dislike this adventure you are on. I want to dislike everything about Monday night. I want to be envious. I want to squint my eyes, purse my lips, and cross my arms and stubbornly scorn you for your perfect-thus-far season.
But I can’t do that.
Here’s proof the Lord has a sense of humor: I live almost exactly ten miles from your campus, a Gamecock swept up out of Columbia and dropped in the middle of Tiger-town. Stores are plastered with the color orange. The streets around my house are traffic-y and dense on game days. A favorite little coffee shop has to, of course, be on your campus. I nearly hugged a woman in Target the other day wearing a Carolina hoodie simply because there are so few of us and it seemed like the appropriate thing to do. Solidarity.
I spent the first couple of years living here bickering, staking ground, standing up for MY school, making a point. Then over the years, the point became less clear or important and I would rather live in peace than prove anything. So we’ve coexisted, you and I. You, the big, bad, enemy, and me in my garnet and black.
As always, there are good and bad years for every team. This year, the wins have racked up for you, and the Gamecocks bottomed out. There wasn’t much to say.
Then Dabo BYOG’ed us in the pouring rain. He threw a pizza party. He danced. If there is a way to not love a coach that dances, please let me know.
On Monday, I hope you do well. I still think Alabama, with all the might of the SEC, will put up a fight, but I hope you do well. This state needs something to celebrate. This past year was brutal. Our hearts still hurt from the careless bullets in Charleston. Our lives are still wrecked from October flood waters. Football is not the answer. In fact, the Championship game is small in comparison to the real hurt people in the state – in the nation – have experienced this year. But we need a chance to cheer again. Off you go into Monday night as carriers of that chance.
I hope we do cheer. I hope more than just half of the state – the half that openly claim orange and white – cheer you on. I hope that those of us who wear the USC college ring and our hearts on our sleeves can set aside the rivalry for just one night. I hope you bring the guts of all the South Carolinians with you. I hope you give Dabo a reason to dance.
And if you throw another pizza party, I’ll come. I’ll be wearing my garnet and black, but I’ll be there, celebrating all the way. Until next year.