I grew up about 50 miles from the South Carolina border. My first memories of the state were driving through it to Athens or to see family in Augusta or Cartersville. We’d drive South on I-95 until we hit I-20 and headed East through Columbia. My Dad used to remark on how terrible the highways were, and out of frustration for the lack of cell phone service there he once said the state is basically a foreign country.
When we crossed over the North Carolina-South Carolina border we’d hit the giant light up sombrero of ‘South of the Border’, a faux-Mexican themed motor inn surrounded by a compound that includes tons of horrible attractions like a reptile lagoon and poorly maintained amusement park rides. The whole place is a play on offensive and outdated Latino stereotypes, and probably should’ve been torn down years ago. It was the only slightly memorable thing about driving through South Carolina. We stopped and ate there once out of morbid curiosity when I was a little kid and our entire family got sick.
I tell you all this to explain that my first impressions of the state of South Carolina were terrible roads with boring scenery and vomit. Apologies to all the fine Dawgs who come from the state or reside there today, but that’s just the honest truth. These impressions would end up getting wrapped up into my image of the University of South Carolina, but I wouldn’t say I hated them any more than a person hates tetanus or chiggers- you just steer clear of dilapidated houses and the high grass and the rest is fine.
USCjr (there’s only one USC and it is in Los Angeles) always had a knack for making things ugly and turning games into an absolute slop fest. Then Lou Holtz showed up and fully embraced this ethos. The loss to USCe in 2000 was jarring, but the animosity from that game was more focused on Quincy Carter and his five interceptions. (I have heard numerous stories about that game, and what Carter may or may not been doing the night before.) Then South Carolina beat us again in 2001, and Lou Holtz and his self-righteous air officially became a nuisance. Then the Richt-era Dawgs got good and restored order to the series.
Here’s the reality of South Carolina football. They are the second fiddle program in a state with less high schools in it than the metro Atlanta area, and because of sheer numbers they should rarely, if ever, have equal amounts of talent as a team like Georgia. The “Golden Era” of Gamecock Football was three straight 11-win seasons that included zero conference titles. They are so insignificant to the SEC and national college football landscape that they consider Georgia their second biggest rival despite UGA having a 51-18-2 record against them. That isn’t a rivalry, it’s ownership. South Carolina is an insignificant gnat.
Considering the facts just covered, the Gamecocks should be more worthy of pity than hate, but their fans have a habit of making it easy. They also hired Steve Spurrier in 2005, a hate worthy offense on its own. When they finally beat us for the first time in Spurrier’s tenure during my Freshman year of 2007, I began to fully realize my hate of South Carolina by watching how their fans acted after the game...
Ever seen someone who just doesn’t know how to handle the social situation they’re in? I was at a wedding once with a guy who’d clearly never been at an event with an open bar before. He kept remarking to everyone that the booze was free, and was well past drunk before the reception really got rolling. An hour later he had drank himself to the point of puking in the bathroom. If that guy was a fanbase he’d be South Carolina’s after a win. That September night in 2007 the visiting South Carolina fans rolled into the bars of downtown Athens and picked fight after fight, too drunk and too surprised by victory to realize they were heavily outnumbered.
If you ever go to Columbia for a football game, and I’ve been to quite a few in that hellscape of heatstroke and awful late-90’s techno, you’ll catch the usual pregame trash talk of a college football game except for worse. USCjr fans have conditioned themselves over the years to talk before the game because they so rarely have anything to talk about afterwards. The chicken comes out and everyone gets all excited before the actual game starts. Then the events on the field help the locals remember that they are South Carolina and their team sucks horribly. The stadium will clear out before the end of the third quarter, and Georgia fans will be the only ones you can hear cheering during the fourth. Afterwards, the fans will cozy up to you, offering fried chicken and wanting to talk about how good of a game it was even though in most cases it was just a regular butt whipping.
However, if Georgia loses you’ll quickly be harassed. The locals will get so excited that they’ll scream in the faces of grandmothers, and call children strings of four letter words. They’ll scream and yell and wave their little towels in your face. The students will come up with creative and progressive insults like that the “G” on your shirt stands for “gay,” and you’ll be extremely glad that they didn’t get into Georgia when they applied a few years earlier before ending up at the backup school they’re now cheering so hard for. The inferiority complex will rear its ugly head in countless more ways, as they react to a win over Georgia, something very many Gamecock students haven’t seen in their four years in school. This was the case when I was there in 2010...
And that’s when I knew I hated South Carolina.