In Clemson’s current situation, national media pundits, anyone with a YouTube channel and a hefty number of Tiger fan’s social media posts seem to mock, belittle, and dig at the foundational mantra of the Clemson Football Program “Best is the Standard.” Let’s take a deeper look into what those words actually mean with regards to Clemson Football.
Any assemblage of words bring different interpretations, have different meanings to different people. “We the people,” for example. One meaning implies we are all a unified, “cut of the cloth” and all stand together as one. Another interpretation, we are all different, from diverse backgrounds and locations and we each stand separately but still as one. Both no less true, just different interpretations.
So, what is the real meaning of the term “Best is the Standard” used as the foundation Dabo Swinney has built his successful program upon?
First, I look at the multiple definitions of the word, Standard. It’s “a level of quality or attainment.” Or, it’s “an idea or thing used as a measure, norm, or model in comparative evaluations.” Or, it’s used or accepted as normal or average.” Basically, to me, standard is a level, a measuring tool to judge one’s self. No one ever wants to be just the norm, just the average, right? Who yells with pride “ The Tigers(or any team)are Average!” You’re right, no one.
There’s little disagreement in what the term “best” means. It implies the ultimate, the greatest, the pinnacle. When combined to make that definitive statement, “Best is the Standard,” we shouldn’t overlook the second word, the verb of the statement “is.”
If you watched those awesome “Schoolhouse Rock” informative cartoons in the 70’s and/or completed the fourth grade, you know verbs are the action words of any sentence. It’s here, I believe, the different interpretations of the term, “Best is the Standard” causes some confusion.
“The expectation is for us to be the best we can be. That’s still the case. That’s never changed. That’s never going to change.Dabo Swinney 9-25-2021
“Is” implies within the moment. Not the past nor the future, just the moment. The term is an expressed desire, a movement towards something. In this case, a goal. It automatically implies, “where we are, today.” I submit, regardless of any record, this team, this program, these coaches, these players are attempting to be the best they can be. No one person, no team, no entity of any persuasion can always be the best. It’s unrealistic, an almost impossibility to always be the best. It’s in striving to be the best where the standard is achieved.
The foundation of this program Swinney laid 14 years ago has one guiding principle. Simply, to be the standard bearer in college football. To strive for greatness in all things and that continues to be achieved. It’s easy to talk about greatness when the wins are rolling in, when life is a bowl of pitted cherries and the sun is always shining on our backs. It’s only when the clouds roll in and there’s a storm on the horizon, in the darkness, where real greatness is found.
It’s been speculated by some, that this anomalous, down year is going to destroy the recruiting edge with top athletes. I believe the young men that chose Clemson are, in some small way, drawn to the “Bling.” Yes, the trophies, the rings, the championships have their allure.
However, once they get there and see a real, living, ever striving program with one stated purpose, that bling becomes secondary. That real living purpose is to help mold them into the best men, best husbands, best fathers and best citizens possible. The winning, while important, is only the topping on the chocolate nut sundae.
The next time you hear “Best is the Standard” don’t smirk, scoff or sarcastically imply Swinney and his team are failing. If you do so, it would do well to remember that “Best is the Standard” applies not only to this team you hold so accountable, it should be a measuring stick for fans, too. This week, both team and fans alike must prove the mantra is as powerful as ever and still holds true.