I nervously sat at home in the heart of Carolina blue country watching Clemson vs. UNC in the ACC Championship with so many friends (and now spouse) being associated with the Tar Hol..ahem Heels. The narrative has been told time and time again this 2015 season:
Clemson, despite having no losses this season faces a streaking (insert opponent here) who opens as the favorite that may ruin the Tigers chances of an undefeated run at the National Championship…
After the regular season ended, first came UNC, then Oklahoma, and now the big bad brutes of Alabama, who have been pushing around teams for what it seems like the last 10 years. They’re not a stranger to the big game. The last time Clemson won the title was in 1981. 35 years ago. Yep, even longer than I’ve been alive. In my eyes, we are the underdogs this time, inexperienced, nervous and out-manned. To play it safe, I shouldn’t expect Clemson to win. Therefore, I can dodge disappointment and grudgingly exclaim, again, “better luck next year Tigers.” I mean, we proved we can go this far already. It’s no longer a fluke after winning 4 big bowl games in the last 4 years against big name programs like LSU, Ohio State and Oklahoma. We lose to Alabama, one of the best coached, best recruited, best executing teams in the country, then it’s not that bad. Right? Our star-studded QB is only a sophomore so he’ll be back with championship game experience. Right? Our young guys will only get better. Right? Winning the CFP National Championship this year doesn’t matter. Right?
Well then I must not truly bleed orange, my friend. Bernadette stiffly informs people, the only time you’ll ever see any passion or emotion from me is for Clemson football. You can say I’ve been ‘cheering’ for them since 2003. Being part of a team with the same name on the front of all our polyester shirts probably has something to do with it also.
Every year since 1981, we’ve missed the mark. Until now. With one more win tonight, we can put our name in the history books again. The athletics program AND the school will get more attention and bring top notch recruits and top tier students from their high schools or countries to the small town in South Carolina. The university may move up in the national public rankings. The talent pool in the workforce will be better. The value of all our Clemson degrees will rise. I’ll feel much closer to all my college friends and to Tiger Nation. There will be something to talk about when you randomly meet another Tiger. The list goes on and on. It’s a domino effect.
And before the outcome of the game, I’m putting my heart on my sleeve. I believe in the team, not any one player or coach. But the ridicule I’ll receive if it’s a blowout: sickening. Tomorrow may be a terrible day or I may be skipping to work with a grin from ear to ear. I pray for the latter.
So yeah, winning the National Championship tonight does matter. It’s like landing the job that catapulted your career, or being the first to short or invest against the real estate market in 2007, or meeting the business partner or spouse that changes your life. It could be that once in a lifetime opportunity although it’s really what we do afterwards with it that counts.
So unfortunately, I won’t be there in person but collectively in spirit (fingers). If we win, then there will be ‘something in those hills’, and it’ll be another championship trophy to push that first tile. The football team will do its part. It’s up to us on which direction it goes tomorrow. Go Tigers! I’m All In.