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I was in the Heart of Dixie on Saturday visiting my Dad when No. 19 South Carolina defeated No. 1 Alabama by a score of 35-21.  I think every television in the rehabilitation center was tuned in to the game.  You could hear the broadcast reverberating up and down the halls, creating a strange sort of “surround sound” effect.  Residents and staff were cheering wildly or yelling, “Oh, no!”  It was pretty much the same later in the day during the Auburn-Kentucky game.

The Gamecocks handed the Crimson Tide their first loss since 2007, snapping a streak of 29 regular-season wins and 18 straight Southeastern Conference victories.  Staying No. 1 is tough.  You know intellectually that a loss will eventually come, but it is still a tough blow emotionally when it arrives.  The defeat was probably made a little more bitter to Bama fans by the fact that it came at the hands of a Steve Spurrier team.  Spurrier is a coach that opposing fans in the SEC seem to love to hate, probably because he wins so much.  Or maybe it’s the visor!

During the week prior to Saturday’s game, coach Spurrier had challenged his team by saying,  “If fate is going to smile on South Carolina, then we have to give it a chance.  Who knows?  If you give fate a chance, something big may happen.”  

Spurrier’s phrase “give fate a chance” appeared numerous times in the post-game reporting.  It was hailed as a brilliant motivational and inspirational message to his team.  I kept waiting for a reporter to write, “What?  Give fate a chance?  Isn’t that an oxymoron?  That makes absolutely no sense.”  You can go with fate or put your hope in chance, but you can’t have it both ways.  Fate relates to what is considered to be predetermined and inevitable; it will happen, regardless of any other circumstances.  Chance has to do with probabilities, randomness, and “luck.” 

Seriously, when I first read Steve Spurrier’s statement I thought:  Give fate a chance?  This is going to be an instant classic.  Yogi Berra is going to be beating himself up and asking, “Why didn’t I say that?”

Deep down, I think Spurrier knows that the victory had nothing to do with fate or chance.  When a player suggested during the postgame celebration that the game ball be presented to fate, the coach proudly accepted it on fate’s behalf.  As a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, NFL player, NFL coach, and a college coach who has won a national championship and six SEC championships, Spurrier knows what it takes to win a football game: talent, heart, preparation, and execution.  Neither fate nor chance appeared on his resume when he was hired at South Carolina. 

By the way, God didn’t have anything to do with the outcome of the game either.  While He may be concerned about the character and integrity of players and coaches and whether they exhibit humility in victory and resolve in defeat, He doesn’t influence the numbers on the scoreboard or in the win-loss column.  With war waging around the globe, children starving by the millions, natural disasters leaving entire cities homeless and in need, and evil running rampant in this world, I wouldn’t dare risk offense to my Father by selfishly requesting a victory for “my team” or for assistance in finding a convenient parking space.  Don’t get me started on that last one!

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October 2010