In football, politics and beyond: No substitute for victory
BY FRANK WOOTEN
“Are you ready for some football?”
— Hank Williams Jr.
“Watermelon, watermelon, watermelon rind, look at the scoreboard and see who’s behind”
— author unknown
Ah, the thrill of rubbing the agony of defeat into your archrival fans’ faces.
That joy of taunting endures for Gamecock loyalists. After going 33 years with only eight football victories over Clemson, they’re still crowing over three straight South Carolina thumpings of the Tigers.
USC, ranked No. 9 by The Associated Press going into Thursday night’s opener at Vanderbilt, underscores its lofty football aspirations with a new $6.5 million Williams-Brice Stadium video board. The 124-by-36-foot modern marvel reflects USC’s status as the reigning football power in this state — and as an up-and-comer in the mighty Southeastern Conference.
USC coach Steve Spurrier recently cited this need for the video board, which makes its debut at the Sept. 8 home opener against East Carolina: “We’re all on TV almost every game. So we’re trying to enhance the game for the fans who come to the ballpark. So when they come, they’ll see every replay.”
They’ll see commercials, too — just as Death Valley spectators will on Clemson’s not-nearly-as-big (61 by 25 feet) board.
As the costs of those screens, coaches and relentless “facilities” upgrades rise, so do the stakes of final scores.
So does inordinate power of some coaches (e.g., the late Joe Paterno at Penn State) — and the bad blood between schools.
Intensifying animus taints U.S. politics, too. For instance, ESPN kicked Hank Williams Jr. and his opening song off of “Monday Night Football” in the middle of last season after he likened President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler.
Back to the increasingly bitter game: Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, five days after last season’s 34-13 debacle at Williams-Brice, reacted rashly to a quote wrongly attributed to Spurrier.
Following his post-Clemson game interview with Spurrier, USC play-by-play man Todd Ellis had told the radio audience: “As Coach Spurrier says, we might not be LSU or Alabama, but we ain’t Clemson, folks.”
The USC football office’s Twitter account mistakenly reported that Spurrier had fired that parting shot.
Even if he had, it wouldn’t have warranted a lengthy Swinney outburst that included: “He is right. They are not Clemson and they’re never going to be Clemson, to be honest with you. ... There is a lot of rivalries out there, but this is more of a domination and that’s a fact.”
Shouldn’t that have been there are a lot of rivalries out there? And over the last three seasons, who’s dominated whom?
Clemson, two days after Swinney’s silly snit, routed Virginia Tech, 38-10, for the ACC title. Then USC fans enjoyed some more laughs at Swinney’s expense a month later when his Tigers suffered a 70-33 Orange Bowl humiliation against West Virginia.
But Spurrier also occasionally commits a verbal fumble. USC reserve quarterback Tanner McEvoy, age 19, was charged with underage alcohol consumption (but not DUI) last month in North Carolina after police said they caught him driving while drinking.
Spurrier, asked if he would suspend McEvoy, responded: “You want to suspend him for having a beer when he’s underage? How many football players would be playing if they had a beer and they were underage?”
That’s a curious question from a man who did a public-service announcement warning against the hazards of drunk driving — and underage drinking.
A more pertinent question: How many professors could USC hire for the $6.5 million spent on that new video board?
Oh well, that’s chicken change next to the $142 million price tag for Charleston’s new Gaillard Center. Then again, as Mayor Joe Riley proclaimed Tuesday during a ceremony marking the start of that ambitious renovation: “What will be created here is something that will pass the 100- and 200-year test.”
Gee, will voters hold the man Bill Murray dubbed “mayor for life” to that prediction if he seeks re-election in 2112?
Will that new Williams-Brice video board “pass the 100- and 200-year test”?
Will Spurrier make it four in a row over Swinney?
Regardless, sports, politics, business and life itself repeatedly verify the validity of this closing advice:
“Just win, baby.”
— Al Davis, the former Citadel assistant coach who went on to become the owner of the Oakland, Los Angeles, then Oakland (again) Raiders.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.