As the ball settled into Hunter Renfrow’s arms and he casually tossed it to the ref while the crowd and Clemson Nation simultaneously erupted, I exclaimed, “They’re gonna win! They’re gonna win!”. To myself.
My family was asleep and as I ran around the house trying to find someone to hug a thought occurred to me that I still think about today.
The next morning I was trying to explain what that 2016 National Championship meant to me, but I couldn’t find the words to help my non-football fan wife understand. Finally, I settled on “This may never happen again in my lifetime.” She finally got it. A once in lifetime moment.
Except it wasn’t.
Two years later the game was not nearly as close and winning National Titles had somehow gone from a far flung dream to a right of passage for Clemson fans.
If you were born before 1981 you have 3 National Championships in your lifetime. If you were born after that you have 2. Georgia hasn’t won a national championship in over 40 years. It’s been 16 for Texas. Perspective.
I’m not here to tell you how to be a fan, everyone processes information and reacts in different ways and that’s what makes us human.
However, I am here to tell you that you’ve lived through a period that 128 other programs would give the world to have experienced half of, a period that was a once in a lifetime run that will not likely be repeated any time soon, whether by Clemson or any other team.
Remember when LSU was going to be the new dynasty way back in 2019? Or maybe it was Ohio State two months ago.
The reality is there’s been two dynasties in the sport over the last 6 years and Clemson was one of them. Perspective.
That’s a remarkable achievement that defied incredible odds.
Does that mean we shouldn’t be critical, point out areas for improvement or want better? Absolutely not. There’s reasons to be critical and a good bit of the criticism is deserved.
On the other hand, there are those not satisfied with 6 straight ACC titles and two National titles and will never be satisfied no matter what Clemson accomplishes. To some degree, it’s human nature and to be expected, just look at Alabama fans when they lose a game.
And truthfully, there’s a fine line between appreciating what you have and pushing for more, because the more you accomplish, the more that’s expected and the more difficult it is to stay at the top.
I realize there are those that will read this and say I’m making excuses or settling for less than we “deserve”, as if we “deserve” anything except their best effort on any given day. I, too get frustrated, yell and scream and wonder what the heck is going on just like most fans, actually probably more than most. Just ask those that watch or text with me during games.
However, once the game is over, and I process the results and consider the big picture, I always come back to realizing how lucky I am to be a Clemson fan and to have experienced the last six years. It’s been the time of my life (football fandom wise). Perspective.
It’s really hard to win game after game, year after year in any sport, much less a chaotic one like college football. Your team has done this for 6 years at the highest level, making playoff after playoff, that no team, not even Alabama, has accomplished. Perspective.
Alabama hasn’t always been good. There was a time when Southern Cal was the place to be (multiple times, actually). Miami once ran the sport, Florida State dominated the ACC, while Clemson wallowed in mediocrity for 20 years. Perspective.
Having perspective doesn’t mean we make excuses for what we’re seeing and It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect a competent offense, improvement or disciplined play. It just means we should appreciate how difficult those are to achieve year after year and sometimes that gets lost in 6 straight playoff appearances and two national titles in 3 years.
There’s a cost to undefeated seasons and national championships for fans. The expectations have been set incredibly high and that means the losses are tougher to bear. When you’re at the top the fall is further and the pain is more acute.
The pain you’re feeling now is part of the cost of those three big trophies in the Allen Reeves Football Complex.
I’ll take that deal every time.