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Scott Davis: Grab Your Swords

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Scott Davis has followed Gamecock sports for more than 30 years and provides commentary from a fan perspective.

He writes a weekly newsletter that’s emailed each Friday. To sign up for the newsletter, click here. Following is the newsletter for Friday, July 30, 2021.

Scott also writes a weekly column that appears on Gamecock Central during football season.

I’m already hearing it.

You’re hearing it, too: The gnashing of teeth, the curses towards the heavens, the loud lamentations.

Lord above, how we will compete?

That’s what a small but noisy subset of Gamecock fans seem to be asking now that Texas and Oklahoma appear to be walking down the aisle into eternal wedded bliss with the Southeastern Conference (Oklahoma, Texas notify SEC of membership request). I mean, Texas is Darrell Royal and “Hook ‘Em, Horns!” and Bevo and Austin. Oklahoma is Barry Switzer and Bob Stoops and Boomer Sooner.

The Red River Rivalry is coming to the SEC and what am I supposed to do with that?

What are you supposed to do? Relax, for starters. Tap into Headspace on your iPhone. Get into a downward dog pose or go surfing or eat a plate of ribs or do whatever it is you need to do to find some Zen.

There’s no doubt about it – Texas and Oklahoma are college football titans, part of the sport’s eternal firmament, mythological programs whose histories are intertwined with each other and with the game itself. The Longhorns and Sooners are indeed more important entities in college football than is South Carolina. They’re also better at college football today, right this minute, than South Carolina.

So why am I not particularly terrified about them joining this league?

Because those descriptions happen to also describe the vast majority of the programs South Carolina already plays on an annual basis. It describes Alabama. And Georgia. And Florida. And LSU, Auburn, Texas A&M, even Tennessee. I mean, #statusquo.

At the end of the day, my school’s schedule is already hard and has been hard and will be hard whether it includes trips to Austin and Norman or not. Rotating these guys into the mix every couple of years is not going to be some sort of all-encompassing tsunami, is it? When I’m already making regular trips to Tuscaloosa and Gainesville and Athens and Baton Rouge?

Listen, whether there are 16 teams in the league or 14, at the end of the day, the Gamecocks can only play eight or nine of them a year. You can’t get to everybody. So let’s just admit this and call it a day: Whoever is on the South Carolina football schedule in any given year will be either extremely good or pretty good or horrifyingly good. Does it really matter if it’s Texas or Auburn? LSU, Oklahoma, whatever – it’ll be a struggle. But that’s just it: It’s already been a struggle.

If I had to play all 15 league opponents a year, maybe I’d listen to this panicky handwringing. Maybe I’d already be hiking the Appalachian Trail or backpacking across Europe in an effort to find myself.

But I won’t be playing everybody. I just know whoever I am playing will be one of the best programs in America with access to vast resources and a bloodthirsty horde of fans, and they’ll have a solid chance of beating South Carolina regardless of how many good athletes and good coaches we’ve stockpiled.

Which is already the case right this second in the Southeastern Conference.

Texas? Oklahoma? Just another day in this everlasting gladiator bloodbath.

Same as it ever was.

Grand Canyon Gets Grander

My brother-in-law and I were chatting on text the other day about the SEC’s looming expansion. As always with us, the true subject of the exchange was the meaning of human existence itself (disguised as a casual conversation about Gamecock sports).

When he asked me what I thought about the addition of Texas and Oklahoma, I told him the teams already felt like SEC programs culturally. They have SEC energy, SEC vibes. Besides, I said: This is like excavating an extra mile of dirt next to the Grand Canyon, adding it to the existing landmark and saying, “I just made the Grand Canyon bigger!”

It may be true, but still…it was already the Grand Canyon.

And that’s why I’m at peace about this thing. At a certain point, you’re already so big, so difficult, so loaded, so larger than life that it’s impossible to really change your essence. Putting another star in the sky doesn’t do a whole lot to alter what is already an infinite universe.

You’re talking about putting me in some sort of pod with Georgia and Florida and Tennessee? Oh my goodness. Wait, I’m already in the SEC East with…Georgia and Florida and Tennessee. Getting to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game was already next to impossible. What’s the difference if Texas or Oklahoma happen to be waiting there? Whoever else might have been waiting there in this Pretend Universe where South Carolina makes the SEC Championship Game on a regular basis would have been soul-killingly frightening, as well.

And thus, let’s all come together, hold hands and agree that it will be exceedingly difficult for South Carolina to win the Southeastern Conference in football going forward, just like it was in 2020, and 2015, and 2009, and 2004, and 1998, and 1995 and at the dawn of time.

We’re still hiking the Grand Canyon every day and always have been. Down here on the trail, the view looks just the same as it always has. You still have to walk forward if you want to get anywhere.

Leaning Into the Challenge

One person who doesn’t seem particularly fazed by the Texas-Oklahoma chatter is new South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer.

Beamer has a heaping helping of chow on his plate already, what with taking over a lifeless program with an antsy fan base and essentially restarting it from scratch (in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, alongside a spectacular fireworks display of roster changes, transfer portal appearances and coaching shifts).

A potential date with Oklahoma dropping on the schedule in 2026 or whenever probably isn’t the first thing he thinks about upon waking up in the morning, I wouldn’t imagine.

Here’s what he told Gamecock fans at a Welcome Home gathering in Columbia this week: “In this league, you’re in the toughest conference in America already.” What Shane Beamer said of the SEC potentially adding Texas, Oklahoma

And where there’s a challenge, there’s also an opportunity. “Certainly it makes it more challenging, but it makes it more exciting, too,” Beamer said.

Indeed it does.

SEC football is, was and will always be a gladiator bloodbath. Might as well strap on some armor, grab a sword and walk into the arena. Gladiator Movie Clip – Are you not Entertained?

Tell me what you think about SEC expansion or anything else by writing me at scottdavis@gamecockcentral.com.

To sign up for Scott’s weekly newsletter, click here.

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