Embrace The Hate

Photo: Kelley L Cox, USA Today Sports

Over the years, Dabo Swinney has used the underdog role to his advantage better than anyone. It seems he’s mastered the art to be quite honest. Even if at times the underdog narrative had to be somewhat manufactured, such as the “ROY Bus” comments last season. When it comes to getting his teams motivated and dialed in, Dabo Swinney knows exactly what buttons to push and exactly when to push them.

There’s also another card that Swinney has learned to play to perfection. That’s the disrespect card. During the early years of the Dabo era, there was no shortage of “uh oh” moments that fans and media could make a mockery of. This isn’t the early days of the Dabo Swinney era though. We’re now more than a decade into it, and this program has won two of the past three national titles and made the playoff the last four years.

It’s hard to believe that less than three weeks before the opening kickoff, the defending national champions will even have a disrespect card to play. Every day more bulletin board material comes out.

Just last week, one of the biggest blowhards on the airwaves claimed this program doesn’t know how to win. That’s quite an odd take to have about a team that’s won 51 of their last 55 games, won four straight conference titles, and two of the past three national titles. Oh, and let’s not forget punking Nick Saban and Alabama in that last one.

That’s just one example of the terrible takes that have been making the rounds of late. We have all seen them, read them, or heard them. There’s no need to rehash them here. Doing so just lends credence to the source, while giving them the publicity they so desperately crave.

At first, it was cute when Clemson had finally won a title after more than three decades. Now that they’ve won two of three though, it seems that Dabo Swinney and his Tigers have shaken the college football landscape to its core, and that doesn’t sit well with a majority of the media.

Let them take their shots. Let the bulletin board material keep stacking up. Over the course of the last few seasons, this program has shown time and again that they’re at their best when they play with that “us against the world” mentality. We have seen Clemson come out of the tunnel looking like a team with something to prove many times during this current run. Far more often than not, those games aren’t just wins, they’re dominant wins.

Coming into the season, one of the few concerns from the fan base has been complacency setting in at some point. That’s not unreasonable when you’re talking about a team coming off a perfect season, that is now littered with youth up and down the roster.

Playing with a chip on your shoulder is one of the best ways to combat against growing complacent. The bigger the chip, the better. At least that’s been the case for the Clemson Football program anyways.

Which brings us back to Dabo Swinney and the disrespect card. Why anyone in the media would be tripping over themselves in an effort to deliver the hottest Clemson or Dabo take is perplexing. Especially that faction of media members that are obviously SEC homers.

Doing so plays right into one of Swinney’s biggest strengths. That strength is knowing how to take each and every one of those jabs, then turn it around and frame it in a way that makes his players want to run through a wall in an effort to prove all the doubters wrong.

Fact is, Clemson is one of the two best programs in the country right now. They’re recruiting at an even higher level than the one that produced these last two national titles. They’re not going anywhere. If wanting to see the Tigers knocked off that mountaintop is what these media folks are after, this is a not the smartest way to go about it.

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