It’s good to be a Gamecock

Aïda Rogers

Posted 4/15/24

By Aïda Rogers

I’m a graduate of the University of South Carolina, and it may be that the greatest lesson it taught me was how to lose. Gamecocks know what I mean. It doesn’t matter where I am, whenever I meet another graduate or fan, we nod, smile and concur: “losing – we can do that.”

Of course this means football, generally, the most conspicuous and moneyed of college sports in our region. We have trotted our boys out on fields for decades, and more likely than not we are the ones singing our alma mater as the other team roars off in victory.

This has been our reality for most of my sixty-er-uh years.

That reality doesn’t stop us from going to games, watching them on TV, tailgating with friends, jousting in good fun with those who pull for other teams (Clemson). We still supported those boys, no matter how banged up they got, how disappointed they were, we all were, in the final score. We were all a team together. And there was always the next game, the next weekend, next season, next coach. We could be hopeful. But usually, truthfully, not too hopeful.

So when we win, by God we can do that too. When Dawn Staley takes her team of plucky athletes to the NCAA women’s national basketball championship and that team comes back in the second half to show everybody what a real team can do, she does it like a Gamecock. With humility. Graciousness. Praise for others. As decorated as she is, she nevertheless knows what it’s like to lose. She’d lost her five starters after last year. But that wasn’t the end, as we all saw on Sunday. And as her team proved.

Living with disappointment can become something of an art, a refined skill about which to take a sort of indirect pride. We lost? Oh well. It really is just a game. Can Alabama say that? UConn?

Carolina – that’s South Carolina – has a heritage of gracious losing, and those lessons haven’t been for nothing. And when we win? You never saw such joy.

Aïda Rogers writes from an old house in Columbia and a new porch in McClellanville. Her three-volume anthology series, State of the Heart: South Carolina Writers on the Places They Love, includes stories by 108 Palmetto State writers.

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