NEW YORK – “That’s a moving screen!” a husky voice in the first row bellowed from a wall of garnet-glad cheers emanating from the front row at Madison Square Garden. If you didn’t know to look, you might have missed who it was.
South Carolina superfan Darius Rucker sported his trademark baseball hat and a thick salt and pepper beard. There was no way he was going to miss the chance to see the Gamecocks punch their ticket to the first Final Four in program history. Even for him, the moment resonated as something truly special.
“We were like, ‘man, we’re in the Garden watching the Gamecocks go to the Final Four,’” Rucker said. “If you’d have told me that 10 years ago, I’d have told you that you were on crack. And here we are doing it. Being in the Garden for this made it even more special.”
As the clock wound down under a minute, the section of Gamecock fans started to feel it. The game was in hand and the tears started to well for the man famous for crying over his favorite NFL team. So of course I had to ask him if he had to change the lyrics to “I Only Want To Be With You” after Sunday.
“Yeah, the Gamecocks made me cry today,” Rucker said after the game, still visibly taken by the moment. “That was special to be a part of man, really special to be a part of.”
And it’s not as if Rucker is a front-runner. Hootie and the Blowfish started with Rucker in Columbia, South Carolina in 1986. The basketball team was a program without a direction when Frank Martin took over in 2012. This was the program’s first Elite Eight. Next week it will be their first Final Four. Rucker has seen far more Gamecocks coaches than just Martin.