I've had Gamecocks in the house all weekend, even until Tuesday morning. My uncle and his son, my first cousin, were in town to take in the Super Regional baseball playoff between their beloved Gamecocks and my Georgia Bulldogs.
They arrived from the upstate Friday evening and were up at the crack of dawn Saturday morning ready to head to Athens. ESPN dictated that the game would start at 11 a.m., so off we went. My cousin is a baseball nut so he wanted to take in batting practice, even though it was 95 degrees outside.
All I can say about Saturday's game is "whiplash." The Gamecocks hit eight homeruns, including five straight in the second inning. Besides getting sunburned, my neck got "kreeked" from watching the moon shots coming off the Gamecock's bats. After the 15-6 thrashing, I even had to admit watching the homerun barrage was quite a show, even if it was by the wrong team. After all, this ain't football I was thinking.
Sunday was a return to normalcy. The Bulldogs' bats got going and Georgia won 11-5 to even the series. We weren't nearly as hot in the grandstands as we were Saturday either. I lost one of the Gamecocks in the eighth inning. My cousin, being a self-employed surveyor, had to get back to work early Monday morning so he left for home.
"That's what you get for coming over here thinking you guys would sweep," I told him. "If I was my own boss, I'd call in sick and stay for Monday's game," I further woofed to him.
"I did that last week when I went to the mountains with my wife," he said.
"Should've been a school teacher," I said. (Didn't mean it!)
"I'd rather make imaginary lines in the woods," he said.
"Me too," I said.
I've been to a lot of Georgia vs. South Carolina games with this particular uncle over the years. He is my late mother's only brother and he treats me like his fifth son. We've been to football games, basketball games, including the SEC tournament, and baseball games. We've been with my father, his sons, other cousins and family members along, and sometimes just the two of us. We always have a good time enjoying the rivalry.
I was going to drive my uncle home Monday night after the game but ESPN threw us another curveball. They changed the starting time from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. so he had to spend a fourth night with me. I told him that he would be qualified to vote in Georgia after that long but the thought of leaving his native South Carolina was too much.
"I love to visit but I've been married for 56 years so I better get home before she misses me," he said of my aunt.
You see, my Uncle Voight Hipp is 83 years old. He loves a ballgame more than any man I've ever known. He really doesn't care who is playing, if it is convenient, he'll go. Navy reunions are the only thing that I've known that he puts before a chance to go to a ballgame. His last ever Navy reunion is later this summer in Albany, NY, and he even plans to swing by Pittsburgh or Cincinnati to catch a major league game while in route.
I've been fortunate over the years that my team has come out on top over my uncle's team more often than not. They did so again on Monday night and are headed to the College World Series. I've been even more fortunate to have an uncle to go to games with me that can enjoy the game and not get mad when his side loses. That has taught me a lot.
I even felt myself feeling a little bad for him as the Bulldogs celebrated their victory. On the times that I have been a good sport, he may be the one that has taught me to be a good sport. I'm more thankful for that than the victories that I have enjoyed.