It’s amazing how quick expectations can change. What exactly am I talking about?
Clemson football, of course.
Growing up in South Carolina, I saw firsthand how bad Clemson fans wanted to see their beloved Tigers get back to the biggest stage in college football and compete for another national championship. For 34 years, this fan base suffered through some good years during the rest of the Danny Ford era, to some mediocre seasons under Ken Hatfield and Tommy West.
Tommy Bowden put the program in position to compete for ACC Championships, again. However, he could never get over the hump. Finally, after 34 years, Dabo Swinney got Clemson back to the promise land and in position to win its second national championship.
In 2015, led by Deshaun Watson, the Tigers had a magical season. They won their first 14 games before the Cinderella slipper fell off under the pressure of playing on the big stage. A couple of special teams’ mishaps cost Clemson in a 45-40 loss to Alabama.
I remember after the game how excited all the Clemson people were. Though they did not win the national championship, they were happy just to be back on the big stage and playing toe-to-toe with the big boys once again.
The 2015 team, even though it did not win the ultimate prize, will always be remembered for getting the ball rolling and setting the expectation for every team that has followed. The mood was still a happy one and every fan was excited about the future of the program.
Fast forward to four years later. Clemson once again won its first 14 games, but again, failed to finish the job in the title game. However, the mood this time from the fans is not the same as it was four years ago.
Fans are not praising the Tigers as much for its magical run and 14 straight wins to start the season, a stretch that was a part of 29 straight victories by the program, tying an ACC record. Fans this time around are still excited about the future, but their passion is a little apathetic it seems.
I think Clemson fans have grown so accustomed to playing on this big stage—playing for four national championships and winning two of them in the last five season—they have lost the feeling of what it means just to be playing for such a grand prize.
I think some, I am not saying all, take playing for a national championship for granted. I hope I am wrong. It’s great as a fan base to have expectations, but let’s not forget what the 2019 team did this season was every bit as special as what the 2015 Tigers did.
They were a great team that fell one-game short of total greatness. They deserved to be remembered like the 2015 team is and not fall through the large cracks of expectations that continue to get wider each time the Tigers find themselves in the title hunt.
As Swinney often says, winning is not easy. Clemson, at times, makes it look easy, but trust me its not and playing for a national championship should never be taken for granted. There’s no guarantee Clemson will get back on this stage next year or in the next 10 years. Heck, it could be 34 years before we see it again.
The point is, we don’t truly know. So, let’s celebrate what just happened in this moment and let’s not forget to thank the 2019 team for the fun ride they allowed us to join them on. And let’s be hopeful that the Tigers will be back here again next year and stop expecting it.
A great gift for any Clemson fan. Just one of many great items available from Clemson Variety & Frame