FIXED Toward a ‘Conscious Uncoupling’ FIXED

This space on a game day eve is usually reserved for a TRC ‘Boning Up segment, where we throw some serious knowledge your way about the upcoming opponent’s institution, tradition, and team. If you somehow wandered here looking for that info, please avail yourself of last year’s ‘Boning Up on the Dawgs, as much of the information remains the same. Just substitute ‘Chubb’ every time you see the word ‘Gurley’ and you should be fine. Georgia, gentle reader, never changes.

Instead, I’d like to address another topic: this, the (probable) final season of our Head Ball Coach. With a lackluster year behind us, and the promise of a difficult season ahead, many pundits are beginning to embrace the idea that this may be Steve Spurrier’s final year at the helm of our football program.

I have reluctantly reached this same conclusion.

/Sad Clown Noise
/Sad Clown Noise

Don’t get me wrong. I think the HBC has earned the right to coach the Gamecocks for as long as he wants. In fact, I’d be fine if we named him “Head Ball Coach for Life.” But the reality is that Spurrier is certainly near the end of his coaching days. His desire to go out on top notwithstanding, and given his complete disdain for mediocrity, he is more than likely going to be hanging up his visor at season’s end. He’s said as much on more than one occasion: if the program starts “going bad” (his phrase) then it would be time for him to step down.

Consensus reports have it that he almost stepped down at the end of last season, but a valiant effort by the Gamecocks in the Indy Bowl, plus Spurrier’s never-ending wellspring of tenacity, led him to sign on for another season.

Now, the prospects for a great – even a good season seem dim, and with his age becoming more and more of an issue in recruiting, its safe to say there will not be a sudden influx of young Stephon Gilmores or Marcus Lattimores to energize our chances. The talent is not there, folks. Not like it was in 2011, 2012, or 2013. And it doesn’t look like it’s returning soon.

As we mentioned on TRC Unleashed this week, celebrities sometimes contort the English language in ways to mask the grim realities of their own divorces. What you and I may call a marriage breakup is called a “thoughtful, tender, undoing” by singer Jewel Kilcher. What we would call infidelity by a husband is called a “conscious uncoupling” by actor Gwyneth Paltrow.

I’m not suggesting that our head coaching situation is headed for a divorce, because I certainly don’t sense any acrimony between Spurrier and the Gamecock fan base. But an end, undoubtedly, is nigh. And I’d like for us (and Ray, and the HBC) to think about an alternative way to wrap things up.

Instead of waiting until the year is out, tough year that it will probably be, and then calling a depressing press conference during the holiday season, I’ve got an alternative.

Let’s have a  thoughtful, tender undoing. A conscious uncoupling.

Here’s how: Announce it tomorrow. Before the game. All the HBC has to do is saunter up to the nearest sideline reporter with a camera and say “You know, this is gonna be my last time coaching in Sanford Stadium or against the Georgia Bulldogs. It’s been a great honor and a heck of a lot of fun. But anyway . . . “

All the pressure of the season would instantly evaporate. The questions surrounding our recruiting and the program’s future would take a back seat to excitement. We could all sit back and enjoy his victory lap season. Ray could get a head start on the coaching search. The media would go wild. And win or lose, our Gamecocks would be the lead on every sports page in America on Sunday morning. The media focus would continue all season long: the HBC’s last trip to Neyland. His last game against Florida, etc., etc. And the last game of his legendary coaching career could be in Williams Brice Stadium against the Clemson Tigers.

Imagine the HBC being carried off the field (whether after a win OR a loss) in that scenario. It would be something special, something we (him included) would feel was fitting for a coach who has done so much for our school and our athletics program.

Heck, we could even announce pregame that the field was gonna be named after him. After all, “Spurrier Field at Williams Brice Stadium” has a nice ring to it.

I’m not suggesting that we pull the plug on arguably the greatest playcaller in college football history. I’m not looking forward to being without the best ball coach we’ve ever had. But its going to happen, probably sooner than later. And I think we have an alternative to a wait-and-see approach.

Let’s have a conscious uncoupling.

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Toward a ‘Conscious Uncoupling’

This space on a game day eve is usually reserved for a TRC ‘Boning Up segment, where we throw some serious knowledge your way about the upcoming opponent’s institution, tradition, and team.  If you somehow wandered here looking for that info, please avail yourself of last year’s ‘Boning Up on the Dawgs, as much of the information remains the same.  Just substitute ‘Chubb’ every time you see the word ‘Gurley’ and you should be fine. Georgia, gentle reader, never changes.

Instead, I’d like to address another topic: this, the (probable) final season of our Head Ball Coach.     With a lackluster year behind us, and the promise of a difficult season ahead, many pundits are beginning to embrace the idea that this may be Steve Spurrier’s final year at the helm of our football program.

I have reluctantly reached this same conclusion.

Here's a Health, HBC
Forever to Thee, HBC

Don’t get me wrong.  I think the HBC has earned the right to coach the Gamecocks for as long as he wants.  In fact, I’d be fine if we named him “Head Ball Coach for Life.”  But the reality is that Spurrier is certainly near the end of his coaching days.  His desire to go out on top notwithstanding, and given his complete disdain for mediocrity, he is more than likely going to be hanging up his visor at season’s end.  He’s said as much on more than one occasion: if the program starts “going bad” (his phrase) then it would be time for him to step down.

Consensus reports have it that he almost stepped down at the end of last season, but a valiant effort by the Gamecocks in the Indy Bowl, plus Spurrier’s never-ending wellspring of tenacity, led him to sign on for another season.

Now, the prospects for a great – even a good – season seem dim, and with his age becoming more and more of an issue in recruiting, its safe to say there will not be a sudden influx of young Stephon Gilmores or Marcus Lattimores to energize our chances.  The talent is not there, folks.  Not like it was in 2011, 2012, or 2013.  And it doesn’t look like it’s returning soon.

As we mentioned on TRC Unleashed this week,  celebrities sometimes contort the English language in ways to mask the grim realities of their own divorces.  What you and I may call a marriage breakup is called a “thoughtful, tender, undoing” by singer Jewel Kilcher.  What we would call infidelity by a husband is called a “conscious uncoupling” by actor Gwyneth Paltrow.

I’m not suggesting that our head coaching situation is headed for a divorce, because I certainly don’t sense any acrimony between Spurrier and the Gamecock fan base.  But an end, undoubtedly, is nigh.  And I’d like for us (and Ray, and the HBC) to think about an alternative way to wrap things up.

Instead of waiting until the year is out, tough year that it will probably be, and then calling a depressing press conference during the holiday season, I’ve got an alternative.

Let’s have a thoughtful, tender undoing.  A conscious uncoupling.

Here’s how:  Announce it tomorrow. Before the game.  All the HBC has to do is saunter up to the nearest sideline reporter with a camera and say “You know, this is gonna be my last time coaching in Sanford Stadium or against the Georgia Bulldogs.  It’s been a great honor and a heck of a lot of fun.  But anyway . . . “

All the pressure of the season would instantly evaporate.  The questions surrounding our recruiting and the program’s future would take a back seat to excitement.   We could all sit back and enjoy his victory lap season.  Ray could get a head start on the coaching search.  The media would go wild.  And win or lose, our Gamecocks would be the lead on every sports page in America on Sunday morning.  The media focus would continue all season long:  the HBC’s last trip to Neyland.  His last game against Florida, etc., etc.  And the last game of his legendary coaching career could be in Williams Brice Stadium against the Clemson Tigers.

Imagine the HBC being carried off the field (whether after a win OR a loss) in that scenario.  It would be something special, something we (him included) would feel was fitting for a coach who has done so much for our school and our athletics program.

Heck, we could even announce pregame that the field was gonna be named after him.  After all, “Spurrier Field at Williams Brice Stadium” has a nice ring to it.

I’m not suggesting that we pull the plug on arguably the greatest playcaller in college football history.  I’m not looking forward to being without the best ball coach we’ve ever had.  But its going to happen, probably sooner than later.   And I think we have an alternative to a wait-and-see approach.

Let’s have a conscious uncoupling.

‘Boning Up on the ‘Cats

Its Week Two already, and what with your full life and all, you’re woefully unprepared to hate on our upcoming opponents, the Kentucky Wildcats.

Well fret not, loyal reader, ’cause we’re about to get you all ‘boned up:

Remember, these are actual colleges with actual students:

The University of Kentucky is a coeducational, public university located in Lexington, Kentucky.  Depending on what source you are using, the University was originally called Transylvania University, or Kentucky Agriculture and Mechanical College, or just plain old Kentucky University.  Whatever the name, the University was founded in 1865, and was funded almost completely via an allocation from the U.S. Congress.  This federal funding mechanism is entirely appropriate, as most Kentuckians today continue to be supported via brown checks issued monthly by Uncle Sam.

Their Latin motto is Universitas Kentuckiensis which I need not translate as it is mindblowingly straightforward.  Interestingly, they also officially trademarked an English language motto which is (and this is real) See Blue. See this video for more on how to see blue or whatever, and wonder how our own Andy Demetra was not somehow involved in this cracker jack marketing scheme.

UK, as they call themselves, has an enrollment of about 29,000 students, which makes it slightly smaller than our own beloved Universitas Caroliniansis (name not a real thing).  Along with every other public university in the United States, they are committed to becoming a Top Twenty Public University within the next X years.

Yeah, good luck with that, UK.

 The weirdest thing about them:

There’s a wealth of possibilities here, and that’s not even considering a certain clerk who refuses to perform a certain constitutionally-required duty and whom I’ve promised myself I would not mention during this post.  So I won’t.  Mention her, that is.

Native American, or Lady of the Evening?
Native American, or Lady of the Evening?

Instead, I’ll flee from current events and point out the banality of their stick figure university seal.  No seated greek god, no divine nude in thought, no bundle of sticks surrounded by flames and flecks of gold.  No, the University of Kentucky’s official seal is just the words “University of Kentucky” surrounding a roughly drawn colonist who is handing something to a native American.  There are also several dates strewn about, all with no apparent significance.

But this is where it gets weird.  The guy on the left is clearly meant to be some sort of colonist, maybe the founder of the state or something.  But the figure on the right barely looks like a native American and is, instead, a striking representation of a sophisticated modern woman with long hair, a fancy purse, knee-high boots, and a short skirt.  Its stunning really, once you notice it..  The lady looks classy.  As in “the world’s oldest profession” classy.  Maybe the George Washington guy is handing her a brown check.  Ah, now I get it!

Moving on:

The game this year is all about revenge, as our late game collapse in last year’s contest still rankles most gamecock fans.  The image of Wildcat wildcat Jo Jo Kemp gashing us for run after run all-the-while begging to be taken out of the game from exhaustion might be THE defining image of our 2014 team.

Our team needs to exorcise that particular demon from its psyche, and return to playing the sound, fundamental defense that we all expect.

One wrinkle to watch for this year:

Our all time record against the Wildcats is 16-7-1.  They haven’t beaten Carolina in Williams Brice Stadium since our winless season in 1999.  Our average margin of victory in a home game with Kentucky is over twenty points – that’s right – we usually beat Kentucky in our place by three scores.

Can we do it this year?  Is that even in our DNA?

But anyway. . . .

That player you are going to hate:

I would say Jo Jo Kemp, based entirely on the end of last year’s game.  But the truth of the matter is that I didn’t even hate him then.  I hated our defense for letting an exhausted freshman blast through them with ease.

My money this year is that we are going to despise one of the wideouts, probably Garrett Johnson.  He wears number 9, is of average height, weight, and speed, but he always seems to make a play when the Wildcats need him.  He’s just a sophomore, but then again, the entire Kentucky receiving corps is made up of youngsters.

The Enigma:

Patrick Towles, quarterback.  Like many a quarterback in this league, he can go from hero to goat and back again quicker than you can say “late throw over the middle.”   He was forced into action in his freshman year due to a rash of injuries on the UK QB depth chart.  He then lost a three man race for the job in 2013 and settled for a redshirt year.  Last year he put up respectable numbers, but then he struggled to win the starting job this spring over redshirt freshman/headcase Drew Barker.

The Ingenue:

Freshman Right Tackle, George Asafo-Adjei. This Ohio native has gone from three star recruit to starting tackle on an SEC offensive line in just a handful of months.  He’s a mountain of a young man, 6’5″ tall and weighing 325 pounds.  I think it will be a small game-within-the-game to see how our DEs match up with young Asafo-Adjei.

The thing that will tell the tale:

Can we pressure their QB and force him into bad decisions.  Towles is not the fastest of guys, but he can sling it all over the ballpark.  If he has time to throw, we are in trouble, particularly in light of our inadequacies at corner.  Last week’s starter at one spot, Chris Lammons, is out this week with bruised ribs, and he was subbing for presumptive starter Chaz Elder, who mysteriously failed to play at all.  This leaves us with Sophomore Al Harris, Jr. to man the position, and while he is long in “want to”, he is mighty short in stature.

William Carlos Williams explains further:

so much depends
upon

Chaz Cornelius

Elder

where are you,

young man?

do you haz a

sad?

I forgot to mention:

Basketball.  I think this might be the first time in the history of Kentucky Football that someone hasn’t mentioned their basketball program during a football discussion.  Except I just did.  Dang it.

‘Boning Up on the Heels

Today’s the day, folks!

We’ve waited for months, scoured every source, and strained for every tidbit for the better part of 2015.  And all of that anticipation culminates with tonight’s kickoff against our powder blue neighbors to the north, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels.

Don’t feel prepared?  Don’t know what to expect from the 2015 Edition of the Heels?

Well, its time to get ‘Boned Up.

Remember, these are actual colleges with actual students:

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a coeducational public university located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  “Carolina” (so-called) claims to be a “Public Ivy” as it purports to provide an Ivy League experience for public school prices admission standards eh, they get some public tax dollars.  The university was founded in 1795, which makes it one of the few in the United States older than our own.   The school’s endowment is north of $2.7 billion (that’s with a “B”) which compares to our own endowment of [redacted to save embarrassment – let’s just say we have a certain percentage of theirs and leave it at that].   The two schools have a similar enrollment, hovering in each case around 30,000 students.

Thought this was a furious sailor conch shell until I was ten years old
Thought this was a furious sailor sea shell until I was ten years old

The school’s official motto is Lux libertas, which roughly translated means something about light and liberty but doesn’t really qualify as a complete thought or establish causation or anything.  It also reminds me of the underappreciated 2010 movie Electra Luxx starring Carla Gugino and I’m sorry I just lost interest in latin phrases, universities, or even football for that matter.

Traditions

The university sports a tree that the founder, William Richardson Davie, planted that’s appropriately called the “Davie Poplar.”   He’s long dead, and the tree is apparently near death, so the Tarheels are cloning them.  Well, the tree anyway.   They also have a gazebo that they call the “Old Well” which is based on a copy of a structure at Versailles that is itself a loose copy of an ancient Temple to Aphrodite, who didn’t exist.  They have a statue of a soldier they call Silent Sam (since he’s a statue, he doesn’t talk – get it?)  Silent Sam doesn’t have any ammunition on his belt for the rifle he is carrying.  Because he’s a pacifist.  Seriously, that’s what they claim.

The weirdest thing about them:

They cheat.  A ton.  I mean they take cheating to a level that almost has to be admired.  For a school that purports to hold the highest academic standards, and loves to tout its own intellectual superiority, this pattern is particularly galling and ironic.   Their own internal investigation found that UNC systematically kept student athletes eligible for over twenty year by enrolling them in classes that lacked textbooks, assignments, exams, and in some cases, even teachers.   The NCAA has an open investigation into the matter, and serious penalties appear imminent.  They better be serious anyway, given that these violations go to the very heart of the definition of student-athlete.

For comparison, we’ve been placed on probation by the NCAA during the recent past for such abominable crimes as tutoring a student too early, and having a private landlord work with some students who were behind on rent.

Moving on:

There’s no whitewashing the truth about UNC football – it plays second fiddle to the basketball program.  And we take advantage of this lack of emphasis by recruiting the heck out of the state – the Charlotte area particularly.  Occasionally we engage in heated recruiting battles with the Tar Heels, and once in a while we actually lose a common football recruit to them.   Their starting left tackle, sophomore Bentley Spain, is one example as he spurned the Gamecocks (and others) to sign with North Carolina in 2013.   Wide receiver Quinshad Davis is another example, and a South Carolina native at that, but I don’t think we pushed hard for his services for some reason.

The talent  on the North Carolina roster appears to balance on the offensive side of the ball, and they return a ton of experience.  Only their tight end, Kendrick Singleton, is new from last year’s starting eleven, and he’s a senior.  Being a Larry Fedora coached group, their offense likes to stress opposing defenses with up-tempo, pass-happy attacks.  When they’re clicking, the Tar Heels can score a ton of points.

Defensively, UNC was statistically even worse than our Gamecocks last year, and that’s no mean feat.  Gene Chizik, late of the Finest Football Players and Championships That Money Can Buy University (also known as Auburn) took over the defense in the offseason, and his addition was a instant upgrade over former coordinator Vic Keonning.

In the end, we both have suspect defenses, with the ‘Heels having the more established offense.

One wrinkle to watch for this year:

Our new defensive approach, the much-ballyhooed ‘Tampa 2’ defense, usually asks the cornerbacks to jam wide receivers at the line, and then sink into zone coverage aimed at the short throws.   The intermediate to long routes are then left to the linebackers and safeties.  The Fedora Offense, on the other hand, emphasizes quick, high-percentage passes over longer patterns.

In other words, our cornerbacks are gonna be sore on Friday morning.  The soundness of their tackling, both of the aforementioned quick passes and the UNC perimeter run game, will go a long way toward establishing the outcome of the contest.

But anyway. . . .

That player you are going to hate:

Junior Wide Receiver Ryan Switzer.  He’s short, quick, and tough as nails.  Last year he torched opposing defenses for 61 receptions and almost 700 yards.   He is also an accomplished punt return man, and can lay the wood on a downfield block.  He almost single-handedly beat Georgia Tech into submission last year.  You’re gonna hate him.

The Enigma:

Cornerback Malik Simmons.  After two off-season arrests, and one summer-long suspension, the senior defensive back lost a ton of credibility among the Tarheel fanbase.  The coaching staff still loves the guy, however, as they were more than willing to reinstate him to the team just in time to start preseason practice.  Whether his off-season troubles impact his on-the-field performance remains to be seen.

The Ingenue:

Freshman running back Ty’son Williams.  If the ‘Heels have an offensive weakness, its their pedestrian running back corps.  The former four-star recruit from SUMTER, SOUTH CAROLINA HOW THE HELL DID THAT HAPPEN looks to move up the depth chart quickly.    Let’s hope his emergence is still a couple of weeks away.

The thing that will tell the tale:

It’s an old saw, of course, but first games usually come down to turnovers and penalties.   While that may favor the Tarheels (given their offensive experience), I’m going to take the advice of the HBC, and adopt a wait-and-see approach.  After all, he says our guys are gonna “play their asses off.”

William Carlos Williams explains further:

so much depends
upon

our fresh new

players

starting for the first

time

leading the game

roosters

Oh, I forgot to mention:

Marquise Williams, their 6’2″ dual threat senior quarterback.  Last year he led the ‘Heels in passing AND rushing.  How on earth did I forget this guy?

OK, consider yourself all ‘bonzed up on North Carolina!

Hey, Tarheels, the Phone’s Ringing . . . 

TRC 8/13 Practice Report: Update on Chyler’s Birthday Balloon

Balloon imageNot much in the way of news from today’s Gamecock preseason football practice.  No big surprise, right? But there was big news from Chyler Leonard’s seventh birthday party  over in Ladson, South Carolina, where attendees were amazed at the apparent indestructabilty of the “Happy Birthday” balloon his grandma/legal guardian’s boyfriend bought for him at the Family Dollar.

“Chyler’s been beating on that thing for an hour with a plastic golf club, and it just keeps squirting away” said neighbor Dale Kay.  “I figured he’d pop it even before his uncle blew out his birthday candles for him.  Or wait, is Chyler HIS uncle.”

Family tree drama notwithstanding, the balloon at issue is still inflated as of the publication of this article, albeit now floating mere inches above the indoor/outdoor carpet on the back porch of the Quincy (née Leopard) singlewide home place.

Check back tomorrow for more Gamecock practice updates.

TRC Quicktake: The Howard’s Rock Vandalism Verdict

Moments ago a verdict was announced at the Circuit Court in Pickens, South Carolina.  The trial, which took almost a full week of court to bring to conclusion, was the State of South Carolina vs. Micah Rogers.  The charges were Malicious Damage to Property and Grand Larceny.

But you probably know it as the Howard’s Rock Trial.

The trial centered on whether or not the state could prove that Mr. Rogers (a professed Clemson fan) damaged the venerated monolith and remove a significant chunk of the South’s Most Famous Doorstop.  Expert testimony was offered during the trial that the rock in question was actually an orange quartz, not a sandstone or limestone deposit as would be expected if its claimed desert origin were genuine.  While not explicitly stated, the fair conclusion from the expert was that Howard’s Rock is, and always has been, a fraud, and was probably just a throwaway field stone that a friend of Frank Howard (or Howard himself) built a cute lie around.

Regardless, it appears from the verdict (Guilty on Malicious Damage to Property, but Not Guilty on Grand Larceny) that the jury believed Mr. Rogers committed the dastardly act, but that the property he carried away was not worth anything.

Put another way, today’s verdict stands for the proposition that it’s wrong to damage another’s property, even when that property is worthless.

Foto Friday: Things Dabo Cares About More Than Deshaun Watson’s Knees Edition

A list of twenty four things Dabo Swinney apparently cares about more than the long term health of his star football player, Deshaun Watson.

1. Primal Scream Therapy

COM_110917_DaboSwinney_PostGameIntvw

2.  Pleated Front No Iron Cotton Dockers (TM):

Dabo Swinney

3.  Pointing at things:

11854579dabo-1capture157vXgo.Em.138

4.  Funny hats:

Dabo+Swinney+Auburn+v+Clemson+SHrHFNQTWl8l

5.  The start of fall practice:

6_599202

6. Eavesdropping on other guys coaching football:

Dabo-Swinney-Joshua-S.-Kelly

7. Simultaneously drinking a Coke Zero and holding a helmet while getting a belly rub:

photo 1_thumb[2]

8. The Front Piggyback:

dabo-swinney1

9.  That girl named Vicki in 10th grade science class.  She was really cool.  I think she moved or something:

DaboSwinney

10.  The Bros always being there for you:

dabo-swinney-ncaa-football-clemson-georgia-850x560

11.  The Double Fist Pump:

hi-res-182221188-dabo-swinney-head-coach-of-the-clemson-tigers-reacts_crop_exact

swinney

12.  Reminiscing about college days during a sleepover at Mom’s:

DSC_0536_edited

13. Speed limit immunity:

0

14. Golden showers:

459717746

14.  Fruit:

dabo-swinney-orange-bowl

15.  The little front pocket you can improvise right behind your belt and above your junk:

Dabo+Swinney+Clemson+v+Auburn+ImZfqIJlI0Rl

16.  Close talking:

Paul+Johnson+Dabo+Swinney+Clemson+v+Georgia+mGzoZ1PA4cAl

17.  The Big Three:  Gum, Whistle, and Important-looking-card-that-is-actually-a-grocery-list:

dabo-swinney

18.  Stuffed animals:

dabotiger

19.  The Original Fatz Triple Threat Sampler Platter (TM):

Swinney-press-stock1

22.  Carefully choreographed vignettes that suggest a faithful loyalty that gullible fans will fervently believe:

 

usatsi_7553260_153192880_lowresimages

21.  What this guy thinks about the job you are doing:

fan

22.  Finally getting a win against South Carolina:

ncf_u_spurrierswinney_ms_576x324

23. Job Security:

suit

24.  William Christopher Swinney:

Dabo Swinney

The Book of Job, St. Augustine, C.S. Lewis, and Marcus Lattimore

After a week of hints, leaks, and even agent denials, official word came yesterday that Marcus Lattimore will end his quest to play in the NFL and retire, effective immediately.

The outpouring of support for Lattimore, from both inside and outside the South Carolina football community, was certainly impressive. Many wished him well in his future endeavors, others expressed optimism for his career transition, and some even suggested that Divine Providence had intervened, predestining Marcus for some other avenue of service.

Hail to Thee, Marcus

But something about our response troubles me. I would like to humbly suggest that we are doing Marcus a disservice by shuffling him off the stage so quickly with these well-meaning platitudes. Aren’t we skipping several of the five stages of grief? Aren’t we all the way to an ACCEPTANCE of Lattimore’s plight without making the other necessary stops on the grieving road? And are we way ahead of him in this process?

I, for one, am still in Stage Two of the grief paradigm: ANGER.

How is it possible that someone as honest, genuine, and hardworking as Marcus Lattimore could have his livelihood and passion stolen away from him? How could his last two years of painful rehabilitation be for naught? Or the grueling year of rehab before that? What did all that accomplish? How could a nice guy not finish on top?

And how could other players, generally recognized as lacking in honesty, class, and/or generosity of spirit, be seemingly invincible? I’m not going to name names here, but you all know the players I am referencing: those that lack many of Marcus’s good attributes, and usually embody a smug self-centeredness instead. And yet, we are bombarded with images of those players, their seemingly unworthy arms raised in triumph. And now or very soon, most all will be collected hefty NFL salaries. No way is this situation fair.

How could those bad apples end up with all the sauce?

As we’ve previously argued in this space, the world of sports is most compelling when it exposes something true about our nature or situation in the world. In this case, I think we are too quick to explain away Lattimore’s incredible bad luck because it tells us something profound about life that we are uncomfortable accepting: that sometimes bad things happen to good people. Our fear of facing this universal truth leads us to dismiss this sad news as quickly as possible and jump back into blissfully reassuring each other.

Let me illustrate: When my oldest son was still a toddler, he suffered the normal cuts and scrapes appropriate for his age. New parents still, we sought to reassure our hurting child with calls of “It’s OK,” or “What’s the matter? It will be alright!” We did this so much, that soon our child internalized it, and began using those phrases back at us as soon as he was banged up. Scrape a knee? Run to daddy and tell him “What’s the matter? It’s OK, nothing’s wrong!” All while still crying from the pain he felt.

We ultimately realized that instead of reassuring our son so quickly, we needed to sympathize with him for at least a few seconds. “Ouch, buddy, I bet that hurts! Let’s see if I can help.”

So in this space, for just a few seconds, let’s admit that Lattimore’s retirement bothers us. I’m sure its bothering him. And let’s wrestle with the big question his plight reveals:

Why do bad things happen to good people?

The investigation of this question is called theodicy, and it’s a question that bedeviled theologians from the writer of Job to Augustine to C.S. Lewis. None of them came up with a satisfactory solution. Job never got his answer; the Almighty pulled rank on him and told him to be quiet. Augustine copped out in his quest; choosing instead to play games with language in order to explain away the problem. And C.S Lewis was classically circular in his argument: God is good and God made the rules, and therefore the rules are good (evidence notwithstanding).

Theodicy is probably beyond the scope of a lowly Gamecock sports blog, but here’s my take on the age-old question:

Bad things happen to good people because the real truth of our existence is that it really, really sucks now and then, and for long stretches of time at that.

Bad things happen to good people.

And the reason is this: just because.

We should look at each other with clear eyes and admit this truth. Things are bad sometimes, and apparently there is no logic to those who suffer and those who thrive. Fate rains both good and bad on the just and the unjust, and no matter how hard we try, we can’t earn our way to blessings.

I’m angry about that. Specifically, right now I’m angry about how that relates to Marcus. And, public comments notwithstanding, I bet he is as well.

Marcus did everything right. And it didn’t matter. His college career, for all its success, was cut ridiculously short by injuries. And he never got a chance to realize his dream. And that is awful. Wrong. Stupid. Wasteful. I’m going to shake my fist at heaven a few more times before I’m ready to move on to step three: Bargaining.

But maybe the Bargain is the answer.

Maybe once we admit that bad things can happen to anyone, we will appreciate the random good things all the more. The next time we see a Gamecock like Pharoh Cooper make an incredible catch and run, let’s all collectively live in that moment and relish it. No what-ifs, no regrets, no second guessing, just enjoy watching a top-shelf athlete play the game with complete dedication to the team we all love.

And as for Marcus?

All I can say is ouch, buddy. I bet this is really hurting you. Is there anything we Gamecocks can do to make it better?

‘Boning Up on the Wildcats

The TRC crew is busy preparing for our semiannual corporate retreat on the beautiful South Carolina coast. As such, there isn’t sufficient time for a full ‘boning up on the Kentucky Wildcats (particularly if we’re gonna stop off in Cola and play some pitch and catch with Busta Anderson).

With this time limitations in mind, let’s focus on one aspect of our SEC East foe this week: The Billy Reed Curse.

For those of you who don’t remember, Billy Reed is a longtime and much-acclaimed Kentucky sportswriter. Way back in 1999,  Reed published an editorial hit-piece on the South Carolina athletic program in the Lexington Herald Leader. While the article is no longer available online, our memory is sunspot-seared with many of its details.

Mssr. Reed was of the opinion that the South Carolina Gamecocks did not belong in the Southeastern Conference. He was particularly adamant that our culture, our history, and our athletic prowess were an embarrassment to the SEC. We didn’t belong with the elites, he opined, and we contributed nothing to the betterment of the conference cause.

The only thing to do with us, Reed held, was to unceremoniously dump us out of the conference.

Since that article was published, our athletic programs have won multiple division, conference, regional, and even national titles.  And in football specifically, the South Carolina Don’t Belongs have beaten the Kentucky Bluebloods in 13 out of last 14 contests.  In some of those games, we’ve blown them out.  In others, we’ve had rough outings, but the Wildcats would always find a unique way to lose.  They almost seem cursed against us.

Cursed by the hubris of Billy Reed?  You decide.