Admittedly, the Garnet & Black section of this blog will be of interest only to those hardy souls who share a life-long passion for the University of South Carolina and all things Gamecock. Those of you who share that passion with me know well the trials and tribulations, the pride and passion, the frenzied euphoria and at times, the depths of despair that come with following our beloved Gamecocks. You know what it was like when you walked through the doors of the old Carolina Coliseum – that great old building that Frank built at Blossom and Assembly – and were greeted by the familiar, wafting aroma of fresh popcorn and the squeaking of high tops on the tartan (and later, wood) playing floor. If, like me, you’re a total geek and as a young boy you studied media guides, you can still recall that the Coliseum sat 12,401 for basketball. (and, if you’re from Columbia, you likely walked across the stage at your high school graduation there). If you grew up in the 80’s, as I did, you might have named pets after Jimmy Foster and Zam Fredrick. You probably practiced your baseline jump shot like Kenny Holmes and you felt somehow cheated because you missed the McGuire era. You felt that there was no better place to be on a cold January night than with your Dad in the cozy confines of the Frank McGuire Arena. You remember how loud the place could be and how hostile for opposing teams – a truly perfect basketball venue, and no matter how shiny and new and modern the Colonial Center is – no matter how short the wait for bathrooms and how elaborate the concession stands, you genuinely mourn that games are no longer played at “The Frank” and feel sorry for those who never experienced it. (I realize, of course, that the previous sentence places me squarely in the “old fart” category – I’m comfortable with that.)
You remember the days when smoking was allowed at Williams-Brice and it seemed perfectly normal to breathe in the second hand smoke of the ancient and crotchety old bag that always sat directly behind you in Section 305, row 8 and who would complain every time you stood up because you blocked her view. But because you were 12 years old and could not sit down for long, you stood up anyway, hoping that some day she would just stay home. You remember Big George and the Fire Ant Defense and Black Magic and “If it ain’t swayin’, we ain’t playin”, and you remember gazing with muted horror across the stadium as the upper east stands visibly swayed up and down while the marching band played “Louie, Louie”. You remember the days when very few games were on TV and you would actually listen to the radio to catch road games – and of course there was no broadcaster as great as “The Voice”, Bob Fulton. You know the chills and goose bumps that arrive as the very first note of “2001” strains over the loudspeaker and it almost always causes a lump in your throat. You remember the shellacking Carolina put on FSU on national television in 1984, climbing to #2 in the polls, only to loose to Navy the following week and somehow, even 26 years later, you find yourself instinctively pulling for Army in the annual Army Navy game.
You remember the old Sarge Frye Field and Roost facilities when they were relatively new – and how nice they seemed and you remember taking pride in Gamecock Baseball long before Coach Tanner & Co.’s magical run to the CWS championship this summer.
These are sacred memories for me and in many ways they defined my childhood. There are so many more to write about. More to come.