When I woke up this morning, I planned to write this blog. I was excited about it because others have spent the weekend twisting my words to incite a proverbial riot while accusing me of being a hypocrite or worse.
I was excited to have the floor. Then I realized someone else had already beaten me to the punch.
On Thursday, The State’s Ron Morris—a respected journalist everywhere but Columbia—penned this column about South Carolina’s priorities as a program under Steve Spurrier. He noted what the rest of us already realized: While Spurrier went to South Carolina with the expressed purpose of bringing conference titles to the Gamecock program and minimizing singular games like the Clemson matchup, he has effectively turned the program into a better version of the one he inherited.
Rather than elevating South Carolina to the point where conference titles and BCS berths are common, Spurrier has increased the win total and lowered his own bar for success. In doing so, he has become as obsessed with Clemson as the fans he scolded when he took the job.
The validity of Morris’ claim is obvious to anyone paying attention. The lengths to which Spurrier will go to jab at Swinney suggests infatuation, and he does it at the most awkward, inopportune times. He ripped Swinney at a vigil for Marcus Lattimore after Swinney made glowing remarks about the tailback as a person. He spent the entire offseason trumpeting his recent dominance over Swinney to anyone who would listen.
Then, out of nowhere, Spurrier struck again last Wednesday. The legend saw fit to address Clemson on the stage at the Capital One Bowl, telling fans, “These two Capital One Bowl wins in a row are pretty nice, but that state championship ain’t bad, either.”
Immediately after his team clinched its third 11-win season in a row with a victory over a quality opponent in Wisconsin, the first thing out of Spurrier’s mouth was about Clemson. What a slap in the face to the Capital One Bowl and to Wisconsin, treating them as lesser beings by cheapening the win.
Instead of talking about the game that ended mere moments beforehand, Spurrier would rather flashback to one from six weeks prior. The way he did it was haphazard, suggesting that the Ol’ Ball Coach might not be quite as good at verbal jousting as he was in his younger days.
After Spurrier’s misplaced poke in the ribs, one had to wonder if Swinney would retaliate. He watched all season long as Spurrier continued to take pot shots at him and his program, then he seized the opportunity to respond:
“We’re the first team from the state of South Carolina to ever win a BCS game.”
This statement was the perfect way for Swinney to respond. He cited an accomplishment in the moment, not from a bygone time and place, to claim dominion in a rivalry that hasn’t exactly been kind to him for half a decade.
Many South Carolina fans were furious about this, mostly because they don’t want to examine the root cause of the back-and-forth. They claim Swinney is obsessed with Spurrier, that Spurrier is in his head, yet all he does is respond when the OBC initiates the conversation. They denigrate the achievements of Clemson’s program while propping up a one-game season for which there is no championship distinction.
The harsh reality is that Spurrier keeps bringing up “The Streak” because that’s all he has. That’s all Gamecock fans have to crow about—winning on five solitary days over a five-year stretch.
Three straight 11-win seasons are very nice, but Clemson has two now, so that’s not good enough. Beating quality bowl opponents is nice, but Clemson has a pair of victories over top ten teams in front of primetime national audiences. That’s not good enough either.
There’s the 2010 SEC East title, but that was followed by the most lopsided defeat in the 22-year history of the SEC Championship Game—one even more lopsided than the 2011 Orange Bowl massacre that is consistently thrown into the faces of Tiger fans. Clemson has a pair of division titles, an ACC crown, and two BCS bowl appearances in the past five seasons.
The only thing Gamecock Nation has is “The Streak”. It’s why Spurrier gives out rings for win totals and allows Gatorade baths for non-title tilts and now speaks of Clemson as THE most important thing after saying it didn’t really matter all that much less than a decade ago.
Spurrier’s penchant for making life all about Clemson has to frustrate Swinney, the architect of a nationally-renowned program that has much to be proud of right now. His response reflected that, and it was a welcome sight for a Clemson fan base tired of hearing it from Columbia.
When it comes to Spurrier, I’m sure Swinney has thoughts similar to those spoken by hip hop artist T.I. in one of his earlier tracks that came out during my middle school days:
“I’m a king, just respect it and keep my name out ’cha mouth.”
That goes for you Gamecock bloggers, too.