I’ve followed South Carolina football closely since moving to the state in 2009.
In that time, the Gamecocks have certainly had their share of ups and downs, but I can’t recall any game as embarrassing for the Gamecocks program as Saturday’s rivalry-game loss to Clemson.
I’m not talking about the score. Sure, the 34-10 score wasn’t the result what the Gamecocks and their fans were looking for, but we all knew going into the game that Clemson was the better team, and Gamecock fans were hoping their team would play a strong game and have a chance to shock the world. That didn’t happen, and the Tigers dominated, so the Gamecocks will move on to the next one.
But in the process of watching their team lose a fourth straight game in the Palmetto Bowl series, some of the Gamecock fans showed a complete lack of class and respect.
After a bad call against the Gamecocks in the middle stages of the second quarter, some fans threw trash on the field in protest. They continued throwing trash — some of it aimed at Clemson players — after additional penalties, or any time Clemson did something good for the duration of the half. Furthermore, it was reported that things had been thrown at Clemson personnel before the game even started, during pregame warmups.
“That’s an embarrassment,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney told ESPN at halftime. “These people are better than that. And it’s just a few people here — that’s not a majority of these South Carolina people. That’s an embarrassing situation right there. That’s how somebody gets hurt.”
I agree with Swinney — the lack of character shown by this faction of Gamecock fans is appalling. There is no excuse for this behavior, plain and simple. It is classless, disrespectful, and most importantly, it’s dangerous.
I have been to my share of live sporting events as a fan. I’ve seen my team of choice be dominated, and occasionally disagreed with calls by the officials. I’m don’t always react perfectly calmly — but the thought of showing my displeasure by throwing something on the field has never even remotely crossed my mind.
Yet the Gamecock fans not only did this, but did it multiple times, even after being asked not to by the stadium’s public address announcer — an announcement which was reportedly booed.
The result is an embarrassment for the rest of the fan base, on top of the disappointment for the team playing their worst game of the season in its biggest.
This was more embarrassing for the Gamecock program than losing 56-10 in the program’s only SEC Championship Game appearance. It was more embarrassing than consistently being unable to beat Kentucky.
This was even more embarrassing than losing to The Citadel during the 3-9 debacle of 2015.
In each of those circumstances, the on-field result was objectively bad for the Gamecocks. But Saturday night, it was the unacceptable behavior of a few fans that was objectively bad, and put a blemish on the reputation of a loyal, enthusiastic fan base.
As a result, this embarrassment is worse than it would be for any on-field result, and will last longer than the disappointment of the blowout loss, too.