It’s been a while since I’ve had as satisfying an evening as watching Clemson decidedly triumph over Alabama, 44-16, in the national championship game. And before my Alabama friends get their feelings bruised, let me explain why.
First, there was the way Clemson played: with abandon, and like they had nothing to lose. The players and coaches actually looked like they were having fun, which is a nice thing to see in a college arena that has largely become nothing more than business.
Clemson’s incredibly talented freshman quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, reportedly decided on Clemson because the coach, Dabo Swinney, is a faith-filled man who has developed an amazing “culture” at Clemson (read: he encourages players to believe in themselves and a force greater than themselves.) Somehow, I get the impression that Alabama players’ worship begins and ends with themselves–but who can blame them? They are an enormously gifted team, and while Coach Saban obviously knows how to develop a great football program, I don’t think a culture of humility is part of his plan. My girls commented after the game that they felt sorry for the Alabama players. I assured them that this loss is the best thing that could happen to the Alabama program: they have not been even remotely challenged all year, and sometimes it takes a dose of humility to keep a team from sliding into complacency.
The best part of the night had to be Dabo Swinney’s interview following the game. Wouldn’t you be tempted, just a tad, to pound your chest following a win against the almighty Alabama? Instead, he praised his opponent, saying “Listen, Alabama–this is the most amazing champion ever, the University of Alabama and what they’ve done and Coach Saban.” And then he praised his God, and encouraged others to take inspiration from his team: “Hey listen, I hope that you get a little hope from us and a little inspiration that hey, if we can do it, anybody can do it. If a guy like me–I said this two years ago–you can’t write a Hollywood script like this. Only God can do this, and that’s a fact. And people may think I’m crazy or quacky or whatever, but only God can orchestrate this.” Well done, Coach Swinney. An unquestionable victory followed by a declaration of God’s glory sounds like the perfect evening to me!