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Bad sports, good sports: Jadeveon Clowney’s motivation level called into question

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All players are not created equal, and it is very clear that players are not treated equally by coaches or the media either. Jadeveon Clowney, the fantastically-named and even more incredibly talented defensive end for the South Carolina Gamecocks is learning that the hard way this season. This week, Clowney sat out his team’s game against Kentucky due to a strained muscle. The fallout is still flying.

A couple of years ago, Clowney was the consensus top-rated high school football recruit out of South Pointe High School in Rock Hill, South Carolina. His combination of size (6’6″, 275 lbs), strength, and speed (he reportedly runs a 4.6 second 40-yard-dash) is unheard of and it made him sought after by virtually every school in the country. He stayed local and committed to Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks in early 2011. He had a fantastic freshman year, definitely living up to the hype. His sophomore year was even better, as he became a unanimous All-American with a dominant season, topped off by this play against Michigan, which made every highlight reel in the country.

As he went into his junior season this year, many people believed that he would play this as his final college season and then enter the NFL draft, in which he would likely be one of the first two players chosen. His draft stock may not have changed, but he has not been having the season everyone expected so far. He was clearly winded often in his team’s opener against North Carolina, which called into question his conditioning. Teams avoided him fairly successfully through the first four games, leaving him with only 12 tackles and two sacks. This week, although he sat out Thursday’s practice due to a muscle strain, his coaches fully expected him to play on Saturday against Kentucky. Instead, he told them right before the game that he couldn’t go. Spurrier was clearly upset about this, and his quotes to the media did not try to disguise his annoyance.

If Clowney “wants to play, we will welcome him to come play for the team if he wants,” Spurrier said after the game. “But if he doesn’t want to play, he doesn’t have to play. Simple as that.”

“He may not be able to play next week. I don’t know,” Spurrier said Saturday after the game. “But we’re not going to worry about it, I can assure you of that.”

This does not sound like a coach who cares much for diva behavior, and that sure sounds like what he is getting. Who knows, maybe Clowney was genuinely hurt…it’s possible, of course. The training staff never ruled him out for the game, though, and the coaches were very clearly surprised by what happened. Spurrier would not even vouch for Clowney’s commitment to the team, saying, “You’ll have to ask him that.”

The guy has all the talent in the world, and I am still pretty sure we will hear his name called right at the beginning of next year’s draft, as NFL teams will not pass on a guy with his abilities. I hope he doesn’t become yet another one of those guys who squander talent due to a lack of maturity.

Bad sports, continued:

2) Bad calls are made even worse when a sport has the technology to fix them but doesn’t. The Tampa Bay Rays beat the Texas Rangers to move on in the American League playoffs on Monday, but they were not helped by a terrible call by umpire Bruce Dreckman. Delmon Young hit a line drive into center field that was dropping quickly. Center fielder Leonys Martin dove and clearly trapped the ball, yet the umpire said he caught it and called the batter out. Major League Baseball does not yet use replay for plays like that one, so there was no way to fix this brutal mistake.

3) Quarterback Josh Freeman is no longer a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After being benched by coach Greg Schiano, someone in the organization leaked the fact that Freeman was part of the NFL’s substance-abuse program. This is supposed to be confidential information, but the team was so determined to undermine this player that it allowed this information to become public.

4) Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, one of the only players in college football with a better name than Jadeveon Clowney, was suspended indefinitely by Alabama head coach Nick Saban this week after he broke an unspecified team rule. Stories later in the week indicated that he had taken money from a coach who was connected to an agent.

5) A bunch of football players from the University of Mississippi are under investigation for allegedly inciting a group of people watching a theater production on campus to yell gay slurs at the actors who were presenting a show called “The Laramie Project,” which is about the murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay student, in Wyoming in 1998.

6) I read a story about a kid whose dad wrote him a tongue-in-cheek note that said he was sick with “bucco fever” and had to leave school early on Friday, just in time to get to the Pittsburgh Pirates playoff game against the St. Louis Cardinals. I would have appreciated the humor more here had the note not been written so poorly. I hate run-on sentences.

7) San Franciso 49ers safety Donte Whitner said this week that he had filed to legally change his last name to “Hitner” as a statement of pride for his ability to deliver hard tackles that have brought him a number of fines from the NFL. Hey Donte, how’d this work out for Chad Johnson (a.k.a. Chad Ochocinco)? Not so well, and his chosen moniker didn’t even sound like that of the worst dictator and mass murderer in history.

8) Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria continues to demonstrate that he is a real loser. Trying to capitalize on the no-hitter that Marlins pitcher Henderson Alvarez threw on the last day of the regular season, the team is trying to sell unused tickets to that game for $15 a piece. Not only is this a totally transparent money-grab, the tickets being sold, according to Deadspin, are not even genuine. They were printed with the wrong date.

9) Indycar driver Dario Franchitti and a number of fans were hurt when he wrecked later in Sunday’s Grand Prix of Houston. Debris from his car flew into a fan area, injuring 13 people. Franchitti broke his ankle, fractures his spine, and got a concussion. Ouch.

Good sports:

1) Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was having a hell of a game on Sunday against the Denver Broncos. He had thrown for over 500 yards and five touchdowns, and the Cowboys were leading the undefeated Broncos late in the game. Denver quarterback Peyton Manning, who had quite a game himself, led his team to the tying score with less than three minutes left in regulation. I guess Romo suddenly remembered who he was, because he started the next drive by being sacked, and then, on the second play, he threw the crushing interception that you just knew he was going to throw. The Broncos ran the clock down to two seconds left and then kicked the game winning field goal. Beautiful.

Bad sports, good sports appears every Monday


Alan Spoll is a software quality assurance director from the suburbs of Philadelphia where he lives with his wonderful wife and children. He has spent his entire life as a passionate fan of the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, Flyers, and Penn State. Recent Phillies success aside, you will understand his natural negativity. Follow me on Twitter - @DocAlan02
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