Originally created 10/07/01

Fans can leave goal posts intact



COLUMBIA - A funny thing happened after South Carolina routinely dispatched Kentucky 42-6 on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium.

Nobody rushed onto the field to tear down the goal posts.

This winning thing seems to be catching on in the capital city. The Gamecocks are 5-0 for the first time since 1988.

Neeext!

"I think we need to get a handle on reality in this state," said Carolina coach Lou Holtz. "We need to be able to handle how to win. Our fans need to be able to handle it as well as our players."

So closely removed from the 1-10 and 0-11 campaigns, Gamecocks fans have gone cuckoo over the program's nouveau success. Sometimes they get a little carried away.

Kalimba Edwards understands where the fans are coming from.

"Lately we only tear down the goal posts on special occasions," the star linebacker said. "I mean, these fans remember 1-10 and 0-11. Coach Holtz doesn't understand that phenomenon. Wherever he's been, they've won."

It's hard for anyone to understand why athletic fanaticism often requires and act of vandalism in the guise of celebration. If your team wins the Super Bowl, pillage a shopping district. Win the NBA title, burn a car.

Beat Alabama, tear down the goal posts.

It's enough to embarrass an old coach like Holtz, who has been a part of enough big games to know that you shouldn't overreact when you rally to defeat a team you were favored to beat - even if you'd never beaten the team before.

"You're not supposed to tear down the goal posts every time you win," said Holtz, who already had witnessed the zeal of Gamecocks fans when the posts were uprooted in consecutive weeks last year after victories over New Mexico State and Georgia. "I hope that's the last time, because I'm going to defend the goal posts the next time."

The phenomenon of storming the field is hardly an American custom. Defending against pitch invasions has become a worldwide obsession in places where soccer and cricket thrive.

After Pakistani cricket fans invaded the pitch and injured an umpire during a victory over England this year, drastic measures were taken to secure the playing fields from overzealous patrons.

Some countries protect fields with chain-link and barbed-wire fencing. Others use armed soldiers. Well-trained attack dogs are a popular new option for keeping rowdy hooligans at bay.

It's hard to know what Holtz had in mind for defending two $7,000 pillars of day-glow metal from 80,250 fans hell-bent on seizing a trophy. Perhaps the offensive and defensive lines can deter the alcohol-emboldened masses. Perhaps the South Carolina state troopers will draw arms.

Or perhaps this new continuous-winning program will do the trick. Nothing diffuses passion like monotony.

Coaches tell their players all the time that when they score a touchdown to act as though they've been there before.

Fans should take heed. The Gamecocks are 5-0. Get used to it. Act like you've won before. Stay off the grass.

And if you absolutely must destroy something, wait until you beat Florida.

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219.