June 24, 2012
"Can't wait for tomorrow,
I might not have that long."
------------ SMASHING PUMPKINS
Here it is.
South Carolina thought it had a good team in the preseason, potentially a great team. It thought it had the talent to get back to the College World Series, depending on if the freshmen developed, the pitching stood up, etc., etc.
It was one of those expectations that come from a winning program. You can raise the bar to a certain level — after two straight CWS trips, the level was to a third straight — but everybody has to draw the line at winning national championships every year. The only team that can really do that is Arkansas track and field, which might as well have the trophy delivered to it at the start of every year and it only returns it if somebody trips in the home stretch of the 4x100.
Nobody wins championship after championship. It just doesn't happen. So when talking to South Carolina's players and coaches before the season, the consensus was, "Well, we think we can get back."
Sure, but can you win it all again?
Nobody said no, but nobody said yes.
Five months later, USC prepares for its last series of the year in that same familiar "perch" (see what I did there?) The Gamecocks weren't the prettiest, the best or the team brimming with the most pro prospects, but they're here once more, playing for a national championship.
I never thought it would come to this point. Again, teams just don't win back-to-back-to-back national championships. There's a reason nobody in this sport has done it since Moses (also known as Rod Dedeaux) wore short pants.
There's too much parity. While schools that are located below the midpoint line that divides the country stand a much better chance of winning the championship every year due to weather, the notion of one team continuing to win it all every year is absurd.
And still, the Gamecocks are turning the absurdity on its ear.
Two wins away. One more time.
Incredible, ain't it?
* On the last night of "freedom" before the series — kind of a weird term, considering the job, but with the late nights that have accompanied those wretched 9 p.m. starts, a fitting one — I gathered with a group of friends and colleagues. Two of the national boys, Kendall Rogers and Aaron Fitt, proposed that the CWS find a way to automatically include the Gamecocks every year. That's so the media group that accompanies the team will be out there every year.
A good time was had by all. Hazy memories of towels and wolves, but a good time.