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Daddy taught keep the faith in game of life

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By Robert Howey

Gamecocks’ place-kicker Ryan Succop’s 48-yard field goal looked on line to finally seal South Carolina’s hard-fought win over North Carolina that mid-October day as dusk fell on the Tar Heels’ Kenan Stadium last fall.It was good – good for nothing. The kick bounced harmlessly off the right upright to the turf. With it, the Gamecocks’ chances seemed to be slipping away like the fleeting daylight around the scenic Chapel Hill, N.C., stadium.So confident only seconds before, I let out a “good!” as the ball sailed toward the goal post only to get a bad feeling with the miss.It was enough to make a grown man cry. Well, since my father, the late Jim Howey, was a loyal USC alum, former student body president and law school graduate, you could understand my feelings. Thanks to Daddy, my blood has a trace of garnet.No, I didn’t tear up. A memorable lesson learned long ago from my father taught me better.If you know the Gamecocks, they will, like a pretty coed, play with your heart, then do just enough to keep you hanging on.So it was, years ago, long before the Gamecocks were ever able to draw TV time, my dad and I were glued to the radio with legendary Bob Fulton calling the game. The Gamecocks bit the dust, dropping a heart-breaker. My eyes filled, but nearly as soon came that familiar voice of a tough criminal defense attorney, which echoed often in the Lancaster County Courthouse, “Robert, dry up. Son, I went to school there and I’m not crying.”He made his point the way of a wise father, relaying it so a child understood. Call it a life lesson in growing up and maturity.Anyway, back to the game. The Heels, poised to pull the upset after trailing 21-3 with a quarter to play, rallied. As UNC, with only 46 seconds left, made a last-ditch drive, I could see moisture in my son Jackson’s eyes. As a graduate of The Citadel, I couldn’t use the magic words Daddy so cleverly spoke that night in our Sherwood Circle den.I told Jackson to have faith. At the same time, I’m thinking to myself, “Who are you trying to fool?”Of course, you probably know the rest of the story. UNC drove to the Gamecocks’ 31, but the Heels’ victory hopes died with a batted down pass at the USC 1. The Gamecocks escaped, 21-15.Later, I relayed the story about Daddy to Jackson. Not sure if it all registered, but if you remember that win at UNC was the Gamecocks’ last in 2007. USC dropped five straight after a No. 7 ranking the week of the UNC game. It was enough to make a grown man cry, not to mention an 11-year-old, but even with USC’s infamous slide, I don’t recall any more tears.You reflect on moments like the afternoon in “Blue Heaven.” The win was nice, though it was tough, one hard-earned on fabled “Tobacco Road.” Even when it was 21-3, I just had a feeling it was going to be a nail-biter, not a blowout.What stands out is the time spent together. Life is short and occasions like that make you appreciate them, win or lose. In seasons down the road of life, we will look on it as a quality father-son outing. In the game of life, you take the good with the bad.There’s times, some much tougher than a close football loss, that might make you want to cry. You might, but then you think about that special man, who also told you with life’s losses, to always keep the faith. Thanks Daddy, still and always my favorite Gamecock.