SAPAKOFF COLUMN: Generation gap among USC fans

Playing in front of the home crowd at Williams-Brice Stadium, the Gamecocks went 6-1 in 2009 and 2010. They open a four-game homestand Saturday night against Navy.

Mary Ann Chastain

COLUMBIA -- Gamecocks fans over a certain age still don't seem convinced.

Last week, it was fear of Georgia past.

This week, it's 1984. More frightening than George Orwell: Navy steaming in to Williams-Brice Stadium, and memories of a No. 2-ranked South Carolina and national championship hopes that disappeared in Annapolis, Md.

"It's all over the place," sophomore tailback Marcus Lattimore said Tuesday.

Tired of hearing about it?

"Kind of," Lattimore said.

By the way, no current USC players were alive in 1984. Most of what these guys and their classmates have experienced about Gamecocks football is upward mobility.

"Our students are used to us winning, pretty much at the home games," head coach Steve Spurrier said Tuesday during his weekly news conference. "So they're fired up. They'll be ready to scream and yell."

Clearly, No. 10 and 2-0 is more fun for the kids than the adults.

It doesn't have to be that way.

Tired of those Chicken Curse blues?

Relax. Check out this colorful "Enjoy The Ride" brochure:

Give me 20 sit-ups

Remember, South Carolina doesn't have to face the entire Navy. Just the football team. And not only did the Gamecocks defeat Navy in 1985, they did so again (for good measure) in 1988 -- the late Joe Morrison's final home game and final victory as head coach.

But, as you hear in the old Buffalo Springfield song, "Paranoia strikes deep." Particularly and strangely in college football.

No American sport is so tied to tradition, which is goofy considering the quick roster turnover and lack of multi-year deals with player option.

So here's an exercise for you.

Start doing sit-ups. Get to the number that matches your career high. Then do 20 more.

At No. 19, you probably aren't thinking about much more than No. 20, certainly not reflecting on historical perspective. That's about how college football players say they feel about tradition once they break a sweat in a game.

College-aged young men, mind you, with minds of their own. Often during the wee hours of the weekend, that's a problem. But in this case, ignoring the past will help South Carolina avoid getting passed in the rankings.

Georgia fans

The Gamecocks went 6-1 at home in 2009 and 2010 (losses to Florida and Arkansas, respectively). The student section was rocking in 2009, and consistently louder last season than during any of the previous 25.

The best indication of South Carolina's probable success over the upcoming stretch of home games is the way the core group of Gamecocks has handled the pressure of road games. USC has four straight wins, including Vanderbilt, Florida and Clemson last season, and 45-42 at Georgia last week.

For young and old, Spurrier on Tuesday in his own unique way nailed the state of South Carolina football:

"Here at South Carolina, we haven't beaten anybody enough times in the conference to have a big rivalry," Spurrier said. "Hopefully, Georgia and Florida and Tennessee will become big rivals, if we can beat them consistently. Then they'll start getting mad at us.

"But Georgia, they're not real mad at us, I don't think. Their fans were very nice (Saturday). My daughter was at the game and she's probably been to 20 Florida-Georgia games and she said, 'That's the nicest Georgia fan I've ever seen.' Some guy who was sitting in her section. … They get a little nastier, I think, when they play Florida and Auburn and some of those schools."

Of course. It's tradition.