Sports competition teaches teamwork, perseverance, discipline — and humility.
That final lesson still leaves a bitter aftertaste for many South Carolinians today thanks to a heaping helping of humble pie over the weekend.
But while athletes must take the physical and psychic lumps that come with scoreboard shortfalls, many fans reverse their fields when their favorite teams flop.
If your team wins, you can say, “We won.” If your team loses, you can blame coaches, players, referees, the weather, schedule makers, etc.
Hey, it’s human nature to embrace success as your own and failure as somebody else’s.
And it’s fan nature to revel in archrivals’ defeats.
Thus, plenty of Tiger loyalists got plenty of laughs watching the then-No. 11 Gamecocks lose Saturday at Tennessee, 23-21, on a last-play field goal.
Then that night, plenty of Gamecock loyalists got the last laughs as then-No. 5 Florida State blew out No. 3 Clemson in a 51-14 smackdown that ended the Tigers’ conference and national-title hopes.
Both Clemson and USC folks foolishly invest considerable mood stakes on their schools’ football outcomes — especially the annual bragging-rights showdown.
For USC fans, who suffered through four decades without back-to-back victories over Clemson, the current four-year winning streak against the Tigers is especially sweet.
So regardless of where the two teams are ranked (the AP poll dropped Clemson to No. 9, USC to No. 20 after last weekend’s defeats), if at all, many South Carolinians will be intensely interested in what happens at Williams-Brice Stadium on Nov. 30.
The path to triumph
Of course, our state has much more serious problems than Tajh Boyd’s inconsistent passing and Steve Spurrier’s dubious clock management.
Indeed, our major-college football teams have become so consistently good that Saturday was the first date on which they both lost since Dec. 31, 2010 (South Florida 31, Clemson 26 in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte; Florida State 26, South Carolina 17 in the Chick fil-A Bowl in Atlanta).
The challenge now is for those of us not blinded by these petty passions — those of us who dwell not on football depth charts but the deeper meanings of fiscal policy, international relations and the arts — to channel the great unwashed Clemson and USC zealots toward positive causes, such as:
Upgrading I-26: This infrastructure project isn’t just needed for the extra trucks that will come and go from the new port facility on the old Navy base. It’s needed to get Clemson and USC fans from the Charleston area back and forth to Tiger and Gamecock home games.
Upgrading public schools: Many talented high school players in our state still fall short of meeting NCAA academic requirements — a severe disadvantage for Clemson and USC coaches counting on home-state talent.
As for the two strangely squandered timeouts late in Saturday’s game, don’t count those too harshly against Spurrier. Remember that at 68, the Ol’ Ball Coach isn’t as young as he used to be.
Likewise, before being too hard on Clemson’s Dabo Swinney for being a 37-point loser on national TV for the second time in the last 21 games (the other high-profile debacle was West Virginia 70, Clemson 33, Orange Bowl, Jan. 4, 2012) and for losing four straight to Spurrier by double digits, remember, he’s only 43. Remember that Florida State is really good.
Plus, a really unsettling sight with nine seconds left in Saturday night’s mismatch raised suspicions that the Seminoles had an unfair — and inhuman? — edge.
Halloween comes early
That scene, hit hard on YouTube over the past two days, opens innocently enough with FSU players on the sideline grinning for the camera. Then linebacker Reggie Northrup suddenly glides in front of them across the screen, his body moving robotically, his eyes glaring vacantly, seemingly in a zombie-like trance.
Northrup shouts, aptly enough in Death Valley, “Ooh, kill ’em! Ooh, kill ’em!”
Not exactly “Win one for the Gipper,” is it?
So keep rooting for your home teams if you must.
Just keep sports — and that new Clemson Architecture Center on George and Meeting — in proper perspective.
Also keep in mind that regardless of football polls, we still rank highly in obesity.
And neither orange nor garnet flatters the far too many portly South Carolinians wearing those garish hues.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.