Gamecock Football On Death Watch

Gamecock Football On Death Watch

In the annals of Carolina Football, there may never have been a more inappropriate showing by the so-called "Best Fans In The Country" than there was Saturday to begin the fourth quarter of the Tennessee game. Long before the game was decided, Gamecock fans decided the outcome of that game. And with their decision they effectively relinquished their title as "The Best" in the country ...

A new study came out today touting the benefits of staying positive if you wish to live longer. They are telling us nothing new. Most of us realize that keeping a positive mental outlook on life and life's endeavors gives you an advantage over your opponent. In the case of this particular study the opponent is the Grim Reaper and it clearly implies that optimists are less likely to die from heart disease and other causes, compared to pessimists.

Nothing new.

With that understood and now accepted as clinical fact, is it time to roll in the Code Blue team on the Gamecock Football Program? Gamecock fans have become the eternal pessimists. This Gamecock Football Program should expect nothing short of an abbreviated life span.

You want 'culture change' Gamecock fans? You want a winning football program? Then unhook your oxygen masks, rip off the heart monitors, and pull yourselves out of intensive care. You are killing the program with your negativity. Your constant whispers of "what's going to go wrong today,' are having a negative effect.

The first thing that comes to mind is the signature saying of the owner and publisher of this site. We see it in all of his posts, "What You Think About You Do ... What You Do You Become."

Nothing has ever been truer that that. Gamecock fans think they are going to lose, and subsequently they do.

Thankfully the young men presently playing for the pride of the Gamecock Nation are better than that. Thankfully they are not quitters like so many who pay a few bucks to watch them play. A few bucks which lead some to believe they have the right to send negative vibes down on the fields like empty glass liquor bottles tossed from the upper stands ... vibes which have basically the same effect.

The players are not paying attention to you thankfully.

Troy Williamson knows the power of positive thinking.

"I try to stay positive and do what I've got to do," began Williamson, perhaps the number one receiver in the country at the moment. "When you think about the negatives then you get yourself down before you ever get started. And you have to keep thinking positive from start to finish. You can't start thinking negative when things don't go your way. You have to keep that mind set from start to finish and never quit."

Yet based upon the fans' embarrassing exodus from the Tennessee game early in the fourth quarter in front of a television audience, clearly the majority of the mythical Gamecock faithful do not agree. Gamecock fans quit. But did the players ... ever?

Williamson was forceful in his answer.

"No, no one quit. No way," said Williamson when asked. "I try to keep some of the younger guys from thinking negative when things don't go our way and there are other guys on the team that do the same thing. It's easy to fall into that trap. I mean I'll say it again. Negative stuff is going to creep into a weak person's mind but you can't let that happen. When negative stuff starts taking over your mind then you are beaten already. If you have someone on the team who is going to help you get through those temporary negative thoughts, like especially the younger players who have never been in that situation before ... because there are always going to be things like that that happen, but on this team we do not allow anyone to stay negative for long. This team is not a team of quitters."

George Gause answered with a look of disbelief. There was an slight look of anger on his face when asked. His answer was short and to the point. "This team never quit." ... and that was the end of it, not to be asked again or pushed for elaboration. Point taken.

Moe Thompson was more diplomatic, more philosophical.

"Umm, I wouldn't say that anybody gave up," Moe reflected. "I mean there were some times when you could look into the younger players' eyes and they were like 'ok,' sort of like they were not sure what to do about things. But we try to teach them and lead them to not give up and that will stick with them the next time they are in this situation hopefully. I mean none of the older players that I saw gave up because we have been here before and we know that in situations like these you have to fight all the way through it until the very end. "

Yet the Gamecock players could not escape the fact that the fans were sending yet another signal their way before the outcome of a contest had been decided. The fans were saying it appeared, 'we're outta here - you are going to have to come back and win this one without us. We're going to the parking lot and getting back to our negative talk and negative mental outlook on the state of the program.

Troy Williamson does not let the fans bother him. He seems to understand their motivations.

"We don't play for the fans," Troy stated rather matter-of-factly. "We learned that a long time ago, that when things go wrong or when it is not going exactly like they think it should go then they will leave you alone in front of everyone in the country. They are going to blame whoever is down on that field whether it is the coaches or the players or the refs. So we don't play for the fans because that is not going to get you where you need to be. We play for each other, for us as a team. Like Coach Holtz says, 'Play for victory. Play for pride. Doesn't matter where you play them (opposing teams). Play them in the parking lot out there in the gravel. But play to win.' And hey, if somebody wants to watch us play them in the parking lot then good for them. Call them fans. But the real fans are going to stay with you from the beginning to the end and some did. But I mean it really doesn't matter if two people come to the games or 85,000 it is still going to be the same thing. It's all about winning. Not where you play and not who is watching you. You either win or you don't and fans are only going to be happy when their team is winning."

George Gause was willing to share more of his thoughts with the second question.

"I mean I quit paying attention to the fans in situations like these. I learned to just pay attention to the game," Gause said in a businesslike manner. "I mean they are great fans and they cheer us on sometimes when things are going our way but if you depend on them to cheer you through things when things are not going our way then you may have a long wait. So during the game I have learned to just concentrate on doing the things I have to do to help us win the game or come back or whatever it takes. I usually don't even look in the stands anymore late in a game if we are trailing because I already know what I am going to see and I just prefer to avoid having it confirmed. We do not depend on them (the fans) any longer for undying support."

When asked, Moe Thompson was as usual, clearer than others about the entire premise of fans having an effect on the outcome of a game.

"... it does and it doesn't," Thompson pontificated. "I mean the fans are there and it is part of the game but when it comes to playing the game and how we feel about our fans and talk about our fans ... I mean as far as winning and losing and how in the very beginning of the fourth quarter we could look up and see them leaving like they did ... I didn't appreciate that. None of us did if you want to know the truth about it. They gave up on us with a quarter remaining in the game. They sent us a message that they did not believe in us no matter how hard we worked or no matter how hard we kept playing, they were telling us that they were giving up on us. And let me put that another way. What if they (the fans) had been there to disrupt the Tennessee offense in the fourth quarter? What if our fans had stuck around to make it more difficult for Tennessee to hear their signals? Or what if our fans had stayed behind us and sent us a signal that they were willing to fight with us to the very end? Would it had made a difference? I guess we will never know. I do know this though. This team never quit and we believed we could come back right up until the very end."

Thompson wasn't finished after gaining his thought after pausing to think about what he had just said.

"I mean even though we were down by two or three touchdowns going into the fourth quarter we were still in it. But I mean the fans started leaving and it was kind of like, 'ok, the game's over,' and we could see that from them. It was a let down for us but we could not allow it to affect us and our attitude about not quitting. The fans left us alone. But you know what? You can't give up. You can't give up. You can't give up."

Give up? Moe is trying to drive a nail into a piece of steel known as The Gamecock Fans' Losing Mind Set. Good luck Moe.

And here is the scary thing. While the negative signal sent by the fans most definitely may have effected the outcome of the game in the eyes of neutral observers not afraid to incite the mythical best fans in the country, Syvelle Newton hit us with a completely original outlook of his own.

"I talked to a lot of Tennessee players, home boys, after the game," Syvelle started by saying. "I thought to myself that all of these home grown players on Tennessee's team could have helped us out today. I think that had they been on our side they would have made a difference in that game, the could have really helped us out. We have to start keeping those kind of players at home here at South Carolina."

So how does Newton believe that mission best accomplished?

"If we are going to keep these players home we gotta start winning and when they see us winning they will stay home. We could'uv used Heffney or Tonio or Gandy. We could use Robert, you never know. All these guys are great players. Eric Young, he's a great player. I mean me and Robert we're real close. We'll see them all next year and the year after that and after that too."

"We had a couple of things at the end of the game, things we have to correct like the interception and the kickoff return, but we could have come back in this game today ... and we could have really used the fans in the fourth quarter today."

There it was again. And these players were all interviewed separate and apart from one another. None had any idea what the others were saying or if the others had even been asked the same questions. These answers were straight from their hearts.

Newton wasn't finished - he was just getting warmed up.

"We learned a long time ago that when we go out on the field these days we can not play for the fans. I mean the fans come to watch us play, but you cannot play the game for the fans," Newton continued.

"I mean like when they (the fans) leave the stands on you, they are leaving you there because they do not care about you really. You didn't meet their expectations you know what I mean? They could care less about you as a player unless you are winning and making them feel good about themselves. The only time the fans are really going to stay behind you and never leave you is if you are winning all the time."

Newton wasn't being negative about the fans. He was telling the truth because that is the only thing he knows to do when he speaks. For a young man his age he is pure business.

Newton went on.

"Sure, they will come to see you play and they will want to have fun before the game and then come into the stadium and have fun if things happen like they want it to happen. But if there is hard times and if you get way behind they will leave you standing there alone and we know that. We don't hold it against them. When we look up there and see them leaving we know what they are thinking and that's, 'ok, game's over.' That's all there is to it. If you start thinking on the field like the fans are thinking in the stands then you do not have a chance to win so we quit playing for the fans a long time ago. We have to play for ourselves and our own pride as men now if we are going to take this to the next level. The fans are not going to help us get there that's pretty obvious. Who knows why? Maybe it is because of something that has happened over the past 100 years or something who knows. Maybe they think we are just like every other team or something, like some team that disappointed them in the past. Maybe we just have to suffer because of some team that failed to live up to their expectations before most of us were born, I don't know. What we do know is that we cannot rely on them for support when it matters in a game anymore. They want what they want and they want it now and they are not willing to help us get there by staying in the stands and standing behind us when the going gets rough. They heard the words 'culture change' and they must'uv thought that was going to happen overnight by someone clicking their fingers or something."

The digital voice recorder continued to roll. Newton looked down and thought for a moment then he continued.

"I mean when the fans leave, thirteen minutes left in the game, anything can happen - anything can happen. I mean we pull within 14 and if the fans are behind us the next time Tennessee gets the ball the fans might shake them up and force them to throw an interception and we run it back for a touchdown. We've done that twice this year already. That would take what? Six seconds? Anything can happen is what I am telling you. I mean then there is twelve minutes left on the clock and we are down by one touchdown and anything can happen. We could have used them up in the stands. We never quit. We felt like we could win. But we do not depend on the fans to think like that anymore. We're the ones that are going to have to change the culture around here, not them. They are still thinking about years gone by and they are putting us in that same catagory but they are wrong. We are not quitters and we do have the talent to come back in games like this. It would have been good if they had been around to help but they are not willing to do that so we are not going to count on them anymore."

Newton had one last thing to say.

"Now let me say this," he was quick to finish. "We take responsibility for not winning the games. We have to keep playing for the whole sixty minutes regardless of what signals the fans are sending us. We cannot let them affect how we play. I want to make that clear. It doesn't matter whether we are playing a D-two team or Tennessee. Every game we play we have to play it for sixty minutes. If we do that and if the fans do that too then I think that will be the day we become what we all want us to become. That may be the day everything changes once and for all for all of us and we reach that level we all want to reach. And I'll say this too. There were players visiting today. Winning would have solved our problems but there would have been players today that might have said, 'hey, they were losing but their fans stayed and the team never quit. I can help this team win with support like that.' Course we'll never know about that either. The fans sent a message to the players who were visiting too if you ask me and that sort of thing does make a difference to be honest with you."

Skip Holtz was next to be put on the spot.

"Our fans are good fans," Holtz stated without hesitation and with much affection. You could tell, he meant what he was saying - this was no coach speak.

"I will never say one word about our fans because I really believe they are the best fans any coach could hope for. Sure, they are going to get frustrated in games like this and sure, it would be nice to have them all stay but that is more than you can ask of fans. Fans really only care about winning and that's the bottom line ... that's the nature of the beast. If we win, then the fans-leaving problem takes care of itself. I will never fault our fans for deciding to leave before the game has been decided. That is completely up to them - that is their choice and their right as fans."

But did the fans leaving have a negative effect on the outcome of the game?

"I grabbed Dondrial early in the fourth quarter and told him to not pay attention to the fans leaving, that was out of our control right at that minute - they (the fans) had already made up their minds. I told him this game was a long ways from over and all of us, right down to the last man, believed that in our hearts. Sure, I saw a couple of disappointed faces when the fans started heading for the doors early in the fourth quarter but it didn't last long. Our players understand why fans leave games and we know that winning will take care of that problem. I'll never fault our fans, they are good people."

Good people yes. But are they quitters? Are Gamecock fans negative thinkers without the capacity to undergo a culture change of their own, on their own - through sheer will? As of now the answer to those questions appear to be yes. Gamecock fans are coaching-change junkies. Many of the new crowd are bandwagoneers of the worst kind. Bitchers and moaners who drink too much and then scream,"Off with the head of the head coach!" If they do not realize quick and long term success based upon their timeline and expectations, regardless of the nature of the task as hand, then the immediate need of many fans, the addiction if you will, is to demand a coaching change. That is suicide pure and simple. And with that mind set, Gamecock fans will always suffer the curse of losers because they do not recognize a good thing when it is right their before them, working for their benefit, sacrificing for their pleasure. It is the coaches and players of which I write. This is historical fact. Long time fans need only think back a couple of decades to know these words to be true. And perhaps that is what Syvelle Newton was talking about? Maybe Gamecock fans expect bad things to happen so in doing so they are living in a continuous and self-fulfilled prophecy? History continues to repeat itself. Maybe Gamecock fans are punishing this current team and staff for past disappointments instilled long ago and inbred into the Gamecock psyche? If so, then bring Jack Kevorkian to Columbia because there is a football program in need of euthanasia here. This program is on a death watch and it is the fault of the fans at this juncture more than anything.

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