National champs, at long last

I didn't know how to respond.

As I watched South Carolina score the winning run Tuesday night to beat UCLA and claim the College World Series title -- and the school's first national championship in a major sport -- I was just kind of numb.

Maybe it was the sleep that was trying to overtake me.

Maybe it was the shock of the Gamecocks -- finally -- grabbing the brass ring.

My wife (she's a Carolina girl) asked for my response, and I had a hard time speaking. Maybe I was a little emotional, and maybe a tear (or two) formed in my eyes.

When you cover sports for a living, you get to see a lot of neat events. As most sports folks will tell you, you come to root for good stories and interesting people. These Gamecocks certainly fit that description.

When I saw the UCLA fan wearing a T-shirt that said "Win one for Wooden," I laughed. No disrespect to the late, great basketball coach, but the Bruins have 106 national championships (and none in baseball). Can't South Carolina have one to go with women's track and field?

It's been a long time coming. I remember the disappointments of yesteryear vividly, but I know that I haven't been alone.

I couldn't help but think about all the good folks who have cheered on the Gamecocks through all these years with little to show for it.

I thought about Tom Price, the school's longtime sports information director and sports historian. He passed away a couple of years ago, but the Augusta native loved baseball and was a walking encyclopedia of Gamecock history. I know he is smiling today.

I thought about Bob Fulton, the longtime voice of the Gamecocks. I could imagine him calling the games over the last week -- CHRIS-tian WAL-ker, a FRESH-man from LIM-e-RICK, Pa. -- and I smiled.

I thought about friends like Chris and Kathy Fulmer, diehard fans who travel insane distances (and spend lord knows how much money) on their pursuit of all things Gamecocks. I'm glad they were there to see it, and I hope Kathy's battle against breast cancer is successful.

My sister called right after the winning run scored, and then Dad got on the phone. It was nice to share the moment with my family. (I guess Mom was in her study, cheering as usual.)

My best friend, a Clemson grad, called this morning. He acknowledged the Gamecocks' success and how well the pitching staff performed. He lamented his trip later in the morning to the chiropractor, a South Carolina fan who was sure to razz him.

All day long, folks have been coming up to me and congratulating me and shaking my hand. Like I had anything to do with the wins. But I'll take them.

I fought off the urge to wear some Gamecock gear to work today. I didn't want to be one of "those" people.

Instead, I just smiled. I don't think this grin is going to leave me anytime soon.

 

 

 

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