Jadeveon Clowney and the ESPN Hype Machine
By now, we all know about ESPN’s hype machine. For the last few years, “no one” has been as good as the Big Ten in basketball (despite zero national championships in over 10 years). “No one” has been worse than Tim Tebow (despite him having a better playoff record than many current starters). It is what it is. As fans, we’re used to it. But last night, ESPN’s “excuse machine” was in full motion. I’ve never heard them try so hard.
North Carolina had already lost their game against South Carolina by the time the first quarter ended. A lack of focus and execution led to a quick 17-0 deficit. But the entire night the Worldwide Leader could not stop talking about how great South Carolina and the SEC are, and how bad North Carolina and the ACC are- despite the fact that South Carolina looked overwhelmingly unimpressive from then on. The Tar Heels were a few plays away from this being an incredibly close game (and 17 points isn’t a blowout either) – the dropped punt return; the goal-line drive that failed to yield a touchdown. Flip even one of those two around and it would have been a different game.
Sure, you can say the same for South Carolina. They “played to the level of their opponent.” They “got complacent because they were so far ahead.” Let’s not make excuses for anyone. This isn’t what this is about. North Carolina’s defense was awful, its offense plodding at times. I wasn’t impressed by them either. But South Carolina was not impressive, at all. For a highly-ranked SEC team that’s “so much better than their opponent,” in a conference that’s “so much better than its opponent’s conference,” they didn’t really prove anything. The sixth best team in the country SHOULD have beaten the team picked fifth in its “bad” conference by more than 17. It should have blown them out. But they didn’t. ESPN completely failed to acknowledge this. The hype machine rolls on.
Even more unbelievable, was the praise for highly hyped Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. He was pretty much a complete non-factor in the game. Three tackles. Zero sacks. He’s good, that’s undeniable. He was highly recruited and has accomplished a lot on the collegiate level. But he wasn’t close to great last night. There were far better South Carolina players on the field. Conner Shaw, Shaq Roland, Mike Davis and Victor Hampton were far more impressive. But the attention was always on Clowney, and ESPN made excuses for why he wasn’t playing well between every single play.
– “Jadeveon Clowney is sick”
– “He doesn’t feel well”
– “If he felt better, North Carolina wouldn’t have a chance in this game”
– “He’s not himself”
Those aren’t actual quotes from last night, but they easily could have been. If Clowney was that sick, why did he play at all? I’m sure the Gamecocks didn’t think they needed him. Their actions and words said as much. Clearly, South Carolina had no respect, or regard for their neighbor from the north to begin with. Neither did ESPN. No credit to the fact that North Carolina planned for, and in turn contained, Clowney. No credit to the Tar Heel’s pace which wore down South Carolina the whole night. No credit to an improved North Carolina offense under a veteran quarterback. No, it was just excuse after excuse. Now even the day after, Clowney is all over the news saying that North Carolina wasn’t that good and that he wasn’t impressed. If we’re talking about expectations he has no room to talk. The Tar Heels played exactly how they were expected to play. It was the Gamecocks and Clowney himself who were disappointing.
As a member of the media, I realize that sometimes we just need to be called out for our biases. ESPN’s headline of the game this morning reads that “Clowney, Gamecocks pound UNC.” Really? What game did they watch? The one where Wake Forest pounded Presbyterian? It’s okay to admit that the ACC is better than everyone thinks. It really is. Are we on the level of the SEC? Absolutely not, no one’s claiming that. I just want honesty and a little respect.
When everything finally finished in Columbia, the fans starting chanting “SEC! SEC! SEC!” This is irony at its finest for a school that left the ACC because we have academic standards. Yes, a school, that’s what these universities are. Is there anything more embarrassing? Perhaps, Clowney’s performance.