How Can I Be Rooting For the Clemson Tigers?

How Can I Root for Clemson?
Clemson University

A great many of my friends have come up to me the last few days offering a pat on the back and their (sometime) sincere condolences. The interaction almost invariably proceeds something like this:

Them: “Man, it’s too bad what happened to your Buckeyes in the playoffs.”

Me: “Oh, I am fine. I have been pulling for the Clemson Tigers all season long.”

Them: “Yeah, right. Sure you have. But you’ve got ‘Bama in the championship, right?”

Me: “Nope. I will be rooting for Clemson next Monday night as well.”

Them: “What? How can you be rooting for the Clemson Tigers?”

The Rematch

One week from tonight, the undefeated Crimson Tide of Alabama will be going for their gazillionth college football national championship against Clemson University.

The Tigers of Clemson come into the contest with a blemish on their season record. Coach Swinney’s Tigers lost this past November to a team that does not rank in the top-twenty nor was that team capable of winning one of those other bowl games.

And, oh yeah, Alabama beat Clemson last year for the 2016 title.

So, how can I be rooting for the Clemson Tigers?

‘Bama v. Clemson OR ‘How’ v. ‘Why’

According to his bio on the Clemson Tiger website, Coach Swinney has coached football at two universities.

Coach Dabo Swinney began his college coaching career in 1993 at Alabama which just so happens to be where he gained his playing experience and college degree. He then made his way to Clemson University where he has remained for the past 13 football seasons rising up to the rank of head coach for the past six of those seasons.

Two universities in twenty-six plus seasons of college coaching. My friends, that harkens back to a mostly bygone era of college coaching when integrity was the rule and not the vast exception.

I, myself, was guilty of too often looking for greener pastures as opposed to focusing on the moment and the blessing I had in being able to coach football and shape the lives of young men.

Coach Swinney has a laser sharp focus on both those things.

Consider the Following

Clemson University Football, according to a December TIME Magazine article, is #2 nationally in the annual academic rankings.

Empirically, Coach Dabo Swinney is one of the best in the country at providing the academic environment which allows for the shaping of scholars.

And if you review the clip below, then I think you would agree that there is no better example of a major college football coach leading his student-athletes into manhood.

(Background: The YouTube clip is a 4min. snippet of Coach Swinney’s response to a question regarding Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during the national anthem.)

Here is a person of Christian values. Here is a coach who is man enough to profess and share those values. And not only that, he is willing to speak the name of Jesus while representing his public university employer. There are not many universities that would back such actions from their football coach; and for that reason (among others), there are even fewer coaches today whom are willing to openly speak what they truly believe.

That is courage. That is leading from the front. That is a man you want mentoring your son.

 So, how is it that I can be rooting for the Clemson Tigers you ask.

Easy. My ‘Why’ is big enough.


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Some Un-Paine-ful Common Sense

The Ferocious Bulldog

I have sat quietly on this thought for far too long now. But, having been witness to the glorious growing of our government and having further been witness to how that government has taken an ever more active role in the well-being of its citizens, the time has come to seriously take up the matter.

For far too long now our government has left our society to its own senses of right and wrong and therefore – to no surprise of this citizen – our completely unaware citizenry has too long suffered the obvious injustice of allowing thename of the beloved Bulldog be used as a mascot for many American football clubs (and other such aggressive sports teams as well).

The Affectionate Friend

The bulldog is being maligned as a vicious and aggressive beast that will stop at nothing for a victory in any one of a number of sporting events when nothing can be further from the truth (please note the cute picture of the dog loving on the kitten – the kitten obviously is representative of a modern day member of our American society). The underlying danger cannot be overstated here. If we continue to allow such misuse of this ever loyal and loving companion’s name, then there is no doubt that it will lead to the multitudes believing such bull malarkey.

Continuing to allow such a malevolent smear campaign will no doubt lead to the ill effect of those persons, whom might consider housing such a noble animal, reconsidering and going instead for something along the lines of a maltipoo or chihuahua. I am sure that all can see how that would negatively affect the well-being of the bulldogs by leaving them facing no other future other than incarceration in the local animal shelters and denying them the safe spaces to which all beings have a right.

A Mascot Too Tough

Now, many will correctly point to the further injustice of the breed having long endured the hardship of also being named the mascot of the United States Marine Corps. This writer concedes that is a valid point. However, having to focus on one fight injustice at a time I will sadly have to leave the fight of finding the U.S. Marines a kinder gentler representative figure to another clime and place.

Safe Spaces

I awoke a few days ago to these words that I almost immediately tweeted:

“Family provides us with a safe space where we laugh at ourselves freely. Safe spaces strip us of our ability to consider one another family.”

I tweeted the thought almost as a reflex. I then commenced to my normal daily activities and began to contemplate what I had written. And while the responses to my tweet have been plentiful and positive, I still feel the need to elaborate on what may have been the impetus for this thought.

Brian’s Song

I was barely in junior high. My folks were headed out for the evening. I was standing at the top of our stairs seeing my parents off. My dad was pulling the front door shut as he looked back over his shoulder and said, “There’s a really good movie on HBO tonight.”

You need to be made aware of something at this point. Those nine words (ten if you take into account the contraction) accounted for one of the longest conversations my father and I had ever had (save for the time I told him I wanted to go out for football and he sat me down to explain how that activity was going to be immeasurably different and more demanding than pee-wee baseball). Thus, I took heed of his warning (which is how I received his words) and tuned in to the football movie that started at the beginning of primetime.

The movie was titled “Brian’s Song” and starred Billy Dee Williams along with James Caan. The storyline centered around friendships, hardships, race relations, and football (it all comes back to football).

Friendships, Hardships, and Race Relations

Billy Dee Williams and James Caan were portraying Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo. Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo were teammates for the Chicago Bears during the 1960’s. The movie tells the story of how their friendship had to endure and overcome a number of hardships. Most significant of those hardships was the issue of race.

The manner in which the movie portrayed the two heroes dealing with and overcoming bigotry provided this writer with what I perceived as the optimal way of interacting with friends of another race.

Unfortunately, yet predictably, the method I chose to emulate proved to me that the artistic world often does a horrible job at reflecting real life.

My Friendship, Race Relations, and subsequent Hardship

A friend of mine back then was named Willy (at least for our purposes here). Willy was my lab partner in science class. Willy was African-American. Willy was not, as I learned the hard way, Billy Dee Williams.

I do not remember which science fact was in dispute. I do not remember why I felt I needed to provide some levity with a joke. I do not remember why I chose to pull a quirky quote from James Caan (a.k.a. Brian Piccolo). I do not remember just how long we had been friends when I chose to call Willy a “chicken nigger.”

I do remember my friend Willy’s shocked look. I do remember the shocked look turning into one of pain. I do remember Willy not being my friend the rest of the day.

The Good Thing About Back in the Day

I despise the phrase “Back in the Day.” I find it especially bothersome when I hear my kids using the term (because it usually means something that happened well after I stopped thinking of myself as young). Nonetheless, we had some exceptionally cool things back in the day: Old phones with operators and a total void of Safe Spaces!

Willy and I were forced to endure the rest of the period sitting next to each other in science class. He was forced to listen to my pleas for understanding. I was forced to be subjected to the silent treatment.

Willy was exposed to my ignorance. I was exposed to the hurt of losing a friend. Fortunately, we were also exposed to the way in which we could truly overcome the hardship.

I dialed and redialed that old slow rotary phone. I listened again and again as the other line kept ringing and ringing. It was getting late and near the time for me to be in bed when I dialed that old rotary phone one more time, but this time the other line did not ring. I got a busy signal.

Now, folks of my generation knew exactly what could be done to combat a busy signal. We would call the operator–if it was an emergency–and request a breakthrough of the line.

This was an emergency. I called the operator. I requested an emergency breakthrough, and I got to talk to my friend to well past both our bedtimes.

A Total Turn Towards Safety

Willy and I talked it through. We worked it out. We overcame our differences and thus went on to enjoy a friendship and a bond stronger than either one of us could have contemplated on that day back in science class.

We were fortunate. Neither Willy nor I had a safe place to which we could withdraw. We had to talk. We had to endure some pain (and in my case, a good bit of humility for how wrong I had been). We had to deal with the situation. We had to find a way to overcome and move forward. We did.

So, what if we had a safe place to which we could turn? No emergency breakthrough? Would Willy and I have had any chance of being friends after that day in science class?

The trend today is to steer our young ones towards safe spaces as an attempt to keep them clear of having to feel any hurt, disappointment, or injustice.

My fear is that such a direction points us nowhere other than to an ignorant, intolerant, and segregated past.

I could be wrong, but I see stories like the one below and just feel as if we need an emergency breakthrough.

University Of Michigan Protesters Demand A Separate But Equal Safe Space For Black Students

They Do Not Care How Much You Know

“It all comes back to football.”

That was the catchphrase that I used probably too many times with a certain assistant coach. It became sort of a running joke. We could be talking about anything outside the realm of football –  a conversation on faith, marriage, teaching, child-rearing, or even the dreaded politics of the day – and invariably we would be able to identify a potential life-lesson that could be related back to a gridiron coaching point.

I thought our banter to be only witty and humorous. That is until I came to the realization of how an old coach’s saying was influencing my marriage for the better.

“They don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

I first saw that phrase posted next to the door of the coaches’ dressing room at Youngstown State University. The poignant thought was attributed to a former Ohio high school and Baldwin Wallace University head football coach – the late Lee Tressel. I have seen and heard variants of the phrase many times since, but I will always attribute that bit of advice to Coach Tressel.

From football to marriage.

My wife and I have survived that rollercoaster of a ride known as the first year of marriage. And when I say rollercoaster ride, I really mean a rickety wobbly carriage ride through a minefield (or some mental image similar to that).

Our survival has led several other couples to the false conclusion that we have some super secret method of achieving wedded bliss. Despite my many arguments to the contrary, my bride assures those other couples that being married to me is not always joyful. Yet, hand-in-hand we continue our walk together into that final sunset while at the same time so many other couples choose to take a path separate than that of their spouse (or former spouse as the case may be).

How is it that my bride and I remain so much in love? How are we able to see through the hard times that the enemy will invariably try to present? Is it true that I am just that much of a joy to be around, or is it that my wife is so much more mature (see the term COUGAR)?

When a man would ask me, I would give some coaching snippets such as “Man-up and do the right thing,” or “It’s not about you, it’s about the team,” or “Just G.I.D. (Get It Done).”

I once heard the advice my wife gives to her friends, and without a doubt she does a much better job at counseling. When asked how we are able to maintain our marriage, my wife tells those that will listen that she focuses on the only thing that really matters: “I know, at the end of the day, that my husband loves me. I know in my heart that he would never purposely do anything to belittle, degrade, or endanger me.”

My wife does not care that I know that I am always right, or that I know that I never make mistakes, or that I know how to act like a bear when I am tired, or that I know how much she spent on a mirror for our front door breezeway. She knows how much I love her, and love never fails (1 COR 13:8).

I am blessed to have such a wise wife.

So, I suppose I will be changing my advice to my guy friends and be telling them to make sure their wives know how much they care.

Which reminds me of something I heard the great coach Lou Holtz once say, “Remember men, the greatest thing you could ever do for your kids is show them how much you love their mother.”

It all comes back to football.