Super motive: Pull for the home team

  • Posted: Saturday, January 25, 2014 6:00 a.m.

Clemson fans have pulled for their Tigers to win Orange, Chick-fil-A, Meineke Car Care, Music City, Gator, Champs Sports, Peach, Tangerine, Humanitarian, Citrus, Hall of Fame, Independence, Bluebonnet, Sugar and Cotton bowls.

South Carolina fans have pulled for their Gamecocks to win Capital One, Outback, Chick-fil-A, Papa Johns, Liberty, Independence, Carquest, Gator, Hall of Fame, Tangerine and Peach bowls.

Even Citadel fans, including this then-rookie fool for football, pulled for their Bulldogs to win the 1960 Tangerine Bowl - which Coach Eddie Teague's team did, 27-0 over Tennessee Tech.

But South Carolinians have never had a team of our own in the Super Bowl - unless you count the Carolina Panthers, which you shouldn't.

So which NFL team should we consider ours?

In my distant youth, when fascination for football stretched into Sunday's pro games on black-and-white TVs, we suffered a steady programming diet of the Washington Redskins in these parts. As the southernmost NFL team, it was logically regarded as the South's NFL team.

It also was the last NFL team to employ black players.

Back then, the Redskins weren't catching any grief about calling themselves Redskins. But they were losers, going without a winning season from 1956 through '68. They even lost to the Chicago Bears, 29-13, in a 1961 exhibition at Johnson Hagood Stadium.

The Baltimore Colts also were popular here. Only a bit farther away than Washington, the Colts - led by the iconic Johnny U. (as in Unitas) - were way better than the hapless Redskins. But the Colts lost to the then-St. Louis Cardinals, 31-21, in a 1960 exhibition at Johnson Hagood.

The view from on high

The Atlanta Falcons, who entered the NFL fray as a typically overmatched expansion team in 1966, predictably drew a following here. They gained additional support from Citadel fans by making All-American Bulldog linebacker John Small the 12th overall pick in the 1970 NFL draft.

And in 1975, this then-Clemson student, mindful of the mere-two-hour drive to Atlanta, became a Falcon season-ticket holder - at $7 per seat per game. Then they went a dismal 8-20 in my two years on the seventh row of Fulton County Stadium's upper deck.

The first word in "Carolina Panthers" was chosen to create the illusion that the team belonged to two states. And the Panthers did play home games in their first season (1995) at Clemson's Death Valley.

For the last 18 seasons, though, the Panthers have played home games in their real hometown - Charlotte.

So what is - or at least should be - our NFL team?

Yes, we're South Carolinians - and Southerners. Yes, many Northerners have moved into our midst in recent decades, bringing NFL allegiances with them - including widespread local loyalty to the dreaded Pittsburgh Steelers.

Yet we're all Americans - though few of us are All-Americans.

Thus, lacking a team within our state's borders, we should rally behind America's Team - the Dallas Cowboys.

Sure, the Cowboys, due to a variety of unjust misfortunes, haven't won a Super Bowl in 18 years. Still, they're tied with the lucky Steelers for the most Super Bowl appearances at eight. And the mighty Cowboys would have won all eight if inept officiating hadn't robbed them of three titles.

As for Super Bowl XLVIII, pitting Seattle against Denver, it's scheduled for a week from tomorrow. In New Jersey.

Outside.

Seriously.

Let's go, Seahawks

The Seattle roster includes cornerback Byron Maxwell, who once intercepted passes for Fort Dorchester High and Clemson, and guard Lemuel Jeanpierre, who once blocked - and tackled - for USC.

However, this is the first-string reason why we should pull for the Seahawks:

Check out the backdrop at the team's news conferences. Sharing the visual space with numerous Seahawks logos are numerous "Boeing" logos.

The company expanded its "partnership" with the team last June, hailing "the exclusive sponsorship" as an increase in "its branding footprint in connection with the Seahawks."

That doesn't mean the Seahawks are considering moving to North Charleston to take advantage of a non-NFL Players Association (i.e., union) workforce in our state.

But hey, the teammate of our teammate is also sort of our teammate.

At least until they play "America's Team."

Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is wooten@postandcourier.com.

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