'Cocks, Football and Grilling Dogs in the SEC

'Cocks, Football and Grilling Dogs in the SEC
Uncle Henry's tailgate mustard comes in handy when eating Razorbacks, Tarheels and Bullgdogs.

The University of South Carolina and its football team have always been stuck with a naming dilemma.

Anyone living outside of The Palmetto State would rarely be inclined to call South Carolina “USC”, as most people think of the University of Southern California, the 11 time National Champions. Southern Cal’s football teams have spawned such NFL greats as Mike Garrett and Keyshawn Johnson, as well as Marcus Allen, Lynn Swan, the late Junior Seau, Ronnie Lott, all of whom have Super Bowl rings; and even a statistics monster in the now reviled OJ Simpson.

So historically, it’s no wonder that Gamecocks Football is played at the "other" USC. Then again, The Cockpit is on fire as we speak with Carolina ranked #6 as they face #5 Georgia tonight.

Two years ago, the Gamecocks were on fire too, as we saw an anomaly in college football. In fall 2010, Oregon topped all three polls, and the rest of the Top 25 was rounded out not with the usual stalwarts, but instead by Utah, Mississippi State, Stanford, and Big 12 whipping boy Baylor. Texas, Florida, Colorado, Michigan and Southern California (that other USC) were nowhere to be found.

That summer, in August, just before the start of college throwball, I took my first trip down to South Carolina right after the Gamecocks dominated UCLA in the College World Series. They torched rival Clemson and knocked out #1 seed Arizona State, 11-4, before completing the first of two consecutive NCAA World Series wins.

Trash talk was rife while smells of barbeque filled the air as Uncle PJ grilled a large, whole pig on the hot irons. For me, the combination of these two things was absolutely wonderful.

I’ve said before that SEC sports fans, particularly football fans, have a tendency to light it up when talking about their beloved sports. And they do it with such refined poise –-maybe it is hospitality and Southern manners—- that heighten the stakes of the upcoming came without being rude or obnoxious. Maybe more to the point, SEC Football fans have a fervor unmatched in any sport, at least on this side of the Atlantic.

No disrespect to Ohio State fans at the Horseshoe, but you don’t know crazy at a football game until you’ve sat next to 60,000 screaming yahoos dressed in bright orange at a Tennessee game. The fans are actually what make Tennessee football the “Big Orange”.

But maybe things are changing in the SEC. It has only been since 1992 that the Gamecocks have moved into the conference. Before that, Carolina Football seemed to be, at best, a fringe oufit. It had been long buried in the nestles of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) under the dominance of Clemson, Maryland, and the dirt kicked over them by that other Carolina, the North Carolina Tar Heels.

My late great Uncle TJ grilling a whole pig, soaked in his secret South Carolina spicy marinade.

More notable, Gamecocks Football had lost all 8 of their sparse bowl game appearances from 1946 to 1988, against the likes of Indiana (a basketball school) and Miami University (that is, the other Miami, in Ohio). But after the 5-year mishmash of the Lou Holtz era at USC, it appears that current coach Steve Spurrier has really strengthened the program into a respectable and formidable one. As such, Carolina fans have a lot of reason to wear their Garnet and Black with pride.

If the momentum and Carolina football fans’ confidence can carry over to the boys on the field, then maybe a major bowl triumph is in the works. And perhaps (as a long longshot) a 2012-13 National Championship too.

Some might say the Gamecocks are just an exciting phenomenon at the moment, but they just might grill a bulldog, #5 Georgia, tonight.


Andy Frye writes about sports and life at here and tweets throughout the day on Twitter at @MySportsComplex. Grill him a bulldog and he'll eat it.

Filed under: Football, Grilling, Outdoors, Sports

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