Much was made last year of 20-year-old baseball phenom Bryce Harper’s characterization of a Canadian reporter’s inquiry as to whether he would crack open a beer after a great performance north of the border—the legal drinking age in Canada is 19, as opposed to 21 in the United States (but don’t tell Johnny Manziel…he’s too busy being a normal college student at the ESPYs)—as a “clown question, bro”. Some of the questions we in the media ask players can be categorized that way, but some of the answers can too.
South Carolina defensive end Jadaveon Clowney responded in like fashion yesterday when asked about Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd. Here is Clowney’s exact quote, unedited, straight from the video feed just for the context nerds who think every statement anyone ever makes is taken out of context:
“I can tell Tajh Boyd’s scared back there. He ain’t no sitting duck, but you can see it in his eyes. He’s scared of our D-line. We know that coming into the game. We’ve got him shook already. If you get a couple of hits on him, it changes the whole game every time we play them. He’s scared every time we play them. I know he’s probably listening right now, but I’m telling the truth, man.”
“I mean, you can look at a guy and tell he’s scared if he’s staring at you before the ball’s snapped. He stared at me every play before the ball was snapped, and I was just like, ‘Oh, we got him.’ I told the players, ‘Listen, he’s shook. We’ve got to get a couple of hits on him and he’s going to start turning the ball over, throwing it before he wants to, sliding.’ I was like, ‘Get some hits on him. We’ve got to get to him.’ I told them guys that and they were like, ‘Oh, we’re going to get to him.’ Then we started getting to him, and he started throwing interceptions all over the place.”
The nature of Clowney’s comments is up for debate, and his intent can be questioned. But the only thing that really matters is the way his comments are perceived by the subject, who is a Heisman Trophy candidate himself.
Boyd was not the only one Clowney said was afraid of the Gamecocks’ defensive line. Aaron Murray of Georgia was also mentioned, meaning Clowney has managed to make enemies on two separate rosters this week.
It is obvious from the footage Clowney was enjoying himself. But that’s precisely the point—he was enjoying himself at another player’s expense.
All day long, I have heard about how Clowney can say whatever he wants because of the way he has played over the past two seasons. This may be true, but a more frightening possibility exists on the worst side of this mini-controversy.
Offensive linemen have a lot of power to block defensive players in a variety of ways. If a player is hated, no matter how good he may be, the potential for serious injury due to retaliation for a stupid comment is high. It would not be shocking for a Georgia lineman or a Clemson lineman to seek revenge on Clowney for verbally punking his quarterback. I would never—repeat, NEVER—condone any act of intentionally attempting to injure another player, but we’re putting our heads in the sand if we don’t address it as a viable option.
This may be outrageous, but it is possible. This may be an overreaction, but it is not unprecedented, particularly given the frustration that has built over the past four years at Clemson.
The Tigers watched as D.J. Swearinger stood over and taunted Andre Ellington last season. They did nothing.
Clemson’s players and fans witnessed Swearinger taunt the head coach of the football team as the clock wound down. Nothing happened.
In an unprecedented era of success for the Gamecocks—which spans one full recruiting cycle but feels like an eternity to both fan bases—South Carolina has managed to develop a certain cockiness about its rivalry with Clemson. This manifests itself in talk radio, it manifests itself in Spurrier’s constant verbal sparring with Swinney, and it manifested itself yesterday in Clowney’s unprovoked challenge to Boyd’s manhood.
Jadaveon Clowney will be a first round draft choice and make millions of dollars playing football. He just put it all on the line by needlessly calling out quarterbacks on two of the most talented, proud teams on his schedule, and I honestly wish he hadn’t done it. I wish them all the success It only takes one guy who doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty for all of it to come crashing down.
The obvious way to respond to Clowney’s comments is to go win the game. Georgia and Clemson can handle it between the lines this season. If they do manage to get even, Jadaveon Clowney had better hope it comes on the scoreboard and not in a far more harmful manner.
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