MARLBORO MUSINGS: It’s that time of year again

Football pic for musings 2016

Shhhh….hush just a second. Did you hear that? Be quiet and listen close. You hear it now? Kind of a low humming sound…seems to be coming from the west, but it’s sorta echoing all around from every direction. Strange. Oh, never mind…I know what it is. It’s the vibration coming off all those Clemson fans who have been waiting almost eight months for their beloved Tigers to tee it up again. And this year their excitement may be at an all-time high.

Yep, it’s football season again, folks. That special time of the year when team schedules are to be carefully consulted before agreeing to any other plans, and Saturday afternoons and nights are blocked off, and often other nights, as well, hopefully on forward through the holidays and into the New Year.

Yes, indeed, tis the season of almost certain ribbing, or worse, of friends—or possibly soon-to-be ex-friends—about the fumbles or follies of their team or weakness of their conference or poor caliber of opponents, when basically anything goes, especially now, in the grand age of the Internet meme. In fact, I almost fear what this fall will bring. (Be gentle, Bruce. Please.)

And there is much to be excited about in these parts these days. At least for some.

On the college level, those Tigers over in Clemson are chomping at the bit and ready to let some fur fly, figuring they have some unfinished business to tend to after coming up just five points short to Alabama in the National Championship game last season. And they have plenty of reason to feel confident, with Deshaun Watson back at quarterback and among those considered a leading candidate for this year’s Heisman Trophy, and a roster that is absolutely stacked with talent. It’s easy to see why most of the “experts” list them among the Top Five teams in the country, and many pick them as an odds-on favorite to emerge next January as the new Champs. To paraphrase Fred Flintstone, for Clemson fans, it’s Yabba, Dabo, Do time. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see dem Tigers bringing some seriously shiny hardware back to the Palmetto State next January. And the future looks mighty dang bright in Tigertown, too. Coach Swinney has built a solid program for the long-term; the only hill it’s going down any time soon is the one in Death Valley. The Tigers tee it up against Auburn, in Auburn, this Saturday night, to kick off their 2016 season.

Now, as for my Gamecocks, well, I wouldn’t say there’s exactly a vibration of excitement around Williams-Brice, instead, maybe it’d best be described as a shiver of hopeful anticipation, and the holding of breath while the Garnet and Black fans wait to see what kind of team new head coach Will Muschamp puts out on the field and whether it’s going to fly or flop. As usual, it’s been an up and down off-season for the USC faithful, with one day bringing the good news of the signing of a sought-after recruit, followed by the news of the transfer of a current player or two, then another signee or good practice display, followed by another transfer or injury. Heck, even our star alumni, NFL underdog Connor Shaw, suffered a broken leg this past weekend. I’m hopeful that wasn’t an omen of some sort. Regardless, time will tell, but I expect the roller coaster will continue pretty much throughout the season as Muschamp seeks to establish his type of football at USC and re-establish himself as a top coach in the Southeastern Conference. It will be interesting to watch this team develop, and it all starts tonight versus Vanderbilt in Nashville.

Locally, our Bulldogs took a tough 14-0 loss last week against Cheraw when they just never could get their offense on track, an especially disappointing turn of events after claiming a come-from-behind 29-12 win in their first game with a strong three-touchdown fourth quarter showing against Carvers Bay. And the road doesn’t get much easier, instead much, much rougher as next up is always tough Scotland County, who have only lost one regular season game in the last two years. This game will be played in Laurinburg and will be the third straight road game for the Dawgs. But fear not Bulldawg faithful, we’ve all seen this kinda thing before, and know there is indeed a method to Dr. Boyd’s madness, Losing in and of itself, particularly at this stage of the season, is not the end of the season; granted, nobody likes it, but as long as you learn from your mistakes—and also learn that you don’t like to lose, then it’s a building block. And Darlington, Hartsville, and Dillon are up following Scotland so we may have more opportunities to learn from a loss before region play begins with St. James on September 30. Just trust Boyd and his staff to coach these kids up and get them as prepared as they can possibly be. Then do your part and go out and support them 100 percent, win or lose, because that’s what they all deserve for wearing the Black and Gold, OUR Black and Gold.

I guess I should also mention that the Carolina Panthers are looking to avenge their loss in last season’s Super Bowl, and I understand they are considered to be one of the favorites to make it back to that illustrious event, and that, barring injury, Panther quarterback Cam Newton is again expected to be one of the league’s most exciting and dynamic players, perhaps even winning the Most Valuable Player award again. But the truth is I couldn’t care less. Professional football actually offends me, on several levels, and has for a few years, but never more so than this week. It’s shameful that the NFL is crippling people mentally and physically with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and other life-altering injuries and basically ignoring the medical facts, but when a professional organization, operating in publicly funded multi-million dollar stadiums, allows an employee, and that’s all these players are, to blatantly disrespect the anthem of this country for which so many thousands heroically gave their lives—their LIVES, people, yet wouldn’t allow a small decal on the back of a single team’s helmet to honor those who serve and protect us daily in tribute to those who had their lives tragically taken in Dallas, then I really want no part of it. I may have been right about that money-hungry crowd all along.

The only good thing that I can think of to say about the NFL right now is congratulations to former Marlboro County standout (and of my Tennessee Vols), Robert Ayers, who converted an outstanding 2015 season into a nice, fat free agent contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Way to stick it to da man, Robert! Have a great, injury-free year.

That said, grab your game gear, folks, and get ready to gang up and tailgate or whatever makes your weekends special. Safe travels to and fro—be it to The Citadel, Coastal, Presbyterian, Newberry, or wherever your allegiance lies—and good luck to all.

Now, tee it up and spot the ball, y’all.

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