Threat Level Will Take a New Rival Wherever It Can Find One, Even if It's in the Form of a Whiny Tigers Coach

By Johnny Ginter on December 29, 2020 at 6:33 pm

I don't hate Dabo Swinney because he's a jerk.

Or because Clemson is good, and has skunked the hell out of the Buckeyes on multiple occasions. Or because the Tiger faithful are already coming up with dial-up era nicknames for Ryan Day (who committed the grave sin of acknowledging Clemson's rampant sign-stealing). Or that he reliably stakes out the worst position on every major newsworthy subject of note.

No, I hate Dabo Swinney because he can't commit to the schtick.

There's nothing wrong with playing the villain in sports, provided that you're not some kind of actual crime guy who hurts others. I'd even go so far as to argue that villains in sports are almost necessary; that villainy is the relatively thin barrier between us and the realization that we're emotionally overinvested in pastimes invented to keep serfs in the Middle Ages distracted while the landed gentry stole all their crops.

Jimmy Johnson's Da U in the 1980's, led by every cool NFL player you rooted for in the 90's, were the platonic ideal of the college football villain. Breaking rules, acting like dicks, winning a lot, and being completely unapologetic about all of it... that's everything fans want to see in a team that we hope will crash and burn. The pale early 2000's imitation that Ohio State dumped in the garbage bin tried to recreate that magic, but alas! They lost to an offensive gameplan made up of hamster bedding and crusty boogers.

Like Jimmy Johnson, Dabo breaks rules and is a dick and wins a lot, but unlike every cool kid sports villain he sucks because he desperately wants us to like him (or at least, agree with him) despite all of that. The coach of Team Iceland in The Mighty Ducks 2 didn't have some big whiny speech at the end about how Gordon Bombay's team of scrappy All-American kids were shown favoritism by the refs. No, he sacked up, applied fifty gallons of hair gel, and screamed at his teens for showing even a hint of sportsmanship after a loss. That's commitment to the role.

Dabo is incapable of that. He'll twist himself into knots trying to justify an exorbitant salary while also claiming he'd quit coaching if players were ever compensated. When Dabo was worried that Clemson wouldn't be able to play some arbitrary number of games to get to the playoff back in September, he was perfectly accommodating to schools in the Big Ten not playing a full slate (which, of course, he's complaining about now).

As he freaked out that his team wouldn't have enough marquee wins to get into the playoff after an early November loss to Notre Dame, he proclaimed that COVID was "just an excuse" and that Florida State canceled their game a few weeks later for some nebulous reason. Probably just to make him sad, who knows.


The point with all of this is that Dabo Swinney is like a kid in a middle school play who really, really wanted to have the lead role in Godspell, got it after months of begging, did okay, and then got mad at some tiny sixth grader for forgetting a line in the third act.


Like, you won, dude! You're worth millions and millions of dollars, have a sign-stealing operation functioning at Stuxnet levels, nabbed a couple of national championships... and yet you spend your time engaging with only the most petty of arguments and disagreements that only serve to diminish your own accomplishments. Clemson under Dabo Swinney could be writing a legacy on par with what Nick Saban has at Alabama, but instead the Clemson Being Really Good Era is mostly just about one dude, whining into infinity.

So yeah, the Threat Level is SEVERE, because this milquetoast run of luck really can't be how we define success in college football. Alabama is robotic perfection, thousands of T-800's crushing human skulls into dust. Ohio State is a gigantic unruly golden horde, a mass of humanity assimilating everything in its path, with loyalty only to The Brand.

Clemson is just whatever. Bread and rice floating in water flavored salad dressing. And they had better hope that Dabo doesn't roll down to Jacksonville to ply his trade in the league, or else the past decade-ish will just be a semi-fond story remembered, mostly by idiots like me, for how it ended.

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