When you hear or read the term “The Best” you most probably equate that to greatness, it’s logical. I might be alone but the term greatness is something different.
Greatness is long term, sustained achievement. The best is subjective and momentary. It takes a Herculean effort to be the best but that can be fleeting. One person can be the best at something but in an instant it’s someone else’s to claim.
When you achieve greatness, it’s long lasting, not falling victim to the seasonal ups and downs. Being the best implies flag planting on the mountaintop. Greatness implies being on the highest mountain ridges only a few yards from the top and staying there.
Clemson, in my humble opinion, has been the best, the absolute best, only three times in its storied football history. In 1981, 2016 and 2018, three glorious years the Tigers were the best in all of college football. That said, I also believe Clemson and Dabo Swinney, through their body of work on the field and off, have achieved their much deserved greatness.
No one could intellectually argue that in the last ten years, all the success, all the earned opportunities of this program, the Tigers aren’t worthy of being considered great. I’d challenge anyone to dispute that assertion.
No, painfully, The Tigers aren’t now nor will they be the best of 2021, but to deny the greatness of this program is a fool’s folly. The reputation of this program transcends the mere ups and downs of any season. It is steadfast, it is true and is absolutely undeniable. This team is among a precious few that have achieved greatness.
If you’re looking for an example of Best and Greatness, think Alabama. In 2015 and 2017, they were the best, the ones planting the flag on the mountain top but failed to reach it in all the other years since the inception of the College Football Playoff. However, no one anywhere would question their greatness.
Second example, in 2019 LSU was the best, as all know. The Tigers were just one of the teams they steamrolled getting to the top. However, their one year being the best wasn’t sustained, therefore, they’re not considered having achieved greatness. A good program but not great.
The moral of this story is simple. Greatness, the Tigers type of greatness, is about consistency and patience and about picking themselves up to fight another day. Resting, not on their laurels but rather something far more important, their reputation. A well deserved reputation that enables them to dwell on those high mountain ridges, only a few yards from being the best in any given year.
Despite this year’s struggles, they’re still there, breathing that rarified air where the few “great ones” live. Never doubt that this team will be back much sooner than later. We need to just be patient.
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