A reminder for fans familiar with success

Success isn’t a right, it’s a privilege.

It is something that is earned, not merely handed over on a silver platter.

Remember that, because it is too often forgotten within the confines of this campus.

It’s impossible to fault anyone for thinking so, with double-digit win seasons and BCS bowl berths — and victories — becoming the norm. After seven straight seasons of 11 or more wins and seven straight BCS appearances, anything less is a major disappointment.

We’ve begun to feel as if we’re entitled to this success, as if it is our divine right to win football games at a remarkable pace.

But we have to step back, look at the grand scheme, and realize this: Success cannot be taken for granted.

It’s tough to get that point across to the USC fan base because of the last seven years, but it’s important to be reminded of this reality before it becomes too late.

And so I offer this as a reminder.

This past summer, I was one of the play-by-play announcers for the Bourne Braves of the Cape Cod Baseball League.

I entered the summer with this knowledge: Bourne had never won a championship, and the other nine franchises had.

The Braves were formed in 1988 after a decade and a half of absence from the Cape. The last time any team from the Bourne region of the Cape had won the league title was 1965, when a squad from Sagamore captured the championship.

It was evident everywhere.

In the CCBL Hall of Fame, each of the 10 teams has a display case; Bourne’s was noticeably emptier than any of the other nine. There was barely enough memorabilia to fill one display in Heritage Hall.

A quick check of the league record books reinforced this. Cotuit had won the title 14 times, YD three times since 2004, Wareham and Orleans twice each in this decade.

Bourne was nowhere to be found — save for the column labeled “Runner Up.”

Sure, Bourne had been to the playoffs before, and in the past decade as well. But postseason success — which USC has become so accustomed to — was an elusive goal.

Yet the team set out to change that. The players seemed aware of the reality that Bourne wasn’t exactly title-town. As the season went along, it came together with one mission in mind: Delivering a championship to the title-starved Bourne faithful.

The wins began to pile up, and the fans began to pile in.

The buzz had been barely audible on June 29, when Braves center fielder Scott Woodward walked on a 3-2 pitch with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth to cap off a come-from-behind win.

The buzz was louder when the Braves scored two in the bottom of the ninth for a 4-3 walk off win over Falmouth.

It was even louder when Bourne starter Seth Maness took a perfect game into the eighth on July 26 and finished with a complete game, one-hit shutout.

It reached unseen levels when more than 2,800 people packed Doran Park, the home of the Braves, for game one of the semifinal series.

The faithful who had stuck by its team all season long saw eight-plus innings of lifeless baseball, with Orleans starter Jorge Reyes tossing 8.1 shutout inning and Bourne down 2-0.

But the desire to bring a title to Bourne was still there, and the Braves scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth for the improbable 3-2 win.

The buzz grew even more when 6,233 were on hand — a Doran Park record — to watch the Braves defeat Cotuit 15-5 in game one of the championship series.

And it peaked at an all-time high when, a day later, the Braves delivered the town its long sought-after championship with a 5-1 win at Cotuit in game two of the best-of-three.

It was a remarkable process to watch. Each victory built upon the previous one, and the wins piled up. The team and its fans were aware that each win needed to be earned.

A foundation was there from previous years, but each successive win solidified it until the final victory completed the construction — in form of the championship trophy that currently sits in the press box at Doran Park.

It’s a process that we at USC are largely unfamiliar with, because we’ve known nothing other than success.

That’s not to say you should temper your enthusiasm, or lower your expectations. Nor am I suggesting the USC faithful don’t appreciate each and every victory.

But it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that wins didn’t always pile into the Coliseum, that Heritage Hall wasn’t always full of the recently-earned hardware.

Every so often, those who follow the Cardinal and Gold need a reminder that this football empire wasn’t built in one year, and that winning is not a preordained right.

Let the story of the Bourne Braves serve as that reminder.

“Thrilla on Manilla Paper” runs every other Thursday. To comment on this article, visit dailytrojan.com or e-mail Grant at tunkel@usc.edu.