Liam Day challenges the notion that South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney’s tackle yesterday in the Outback Bowl was some sort of superhuman feat.
Let me state at the outset that what I am about to write is in no way a criticism of South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney, whose tackle of Michigan’s Vincent Smith in yesterday’s Outback Bowl has been the talk of Twitter the past 24 hours. Clowney’s tackle is textbook, his head is up and he runs through Smith, in the process jarring the ball loose, which he then proceeds to recover with one hand.
Who I am criticizing are all the people on Twitter who proceeded to pound their chests in less than 140 characters as if what Clowney had done were some superhuman feat. Here are some samples:
Clowney = total beast.
Jadeveon Clowney just destroyed the whole state of Michigan.
Jadeveon #Clowney arrested on 297 counts of attempted murder. . .
No he isn’t, no he didn’t, and no he wasn’t. (You can read more of the inane chatter at Huffington Post.)
Aside from the chest beating, my beef with the Twitter reaction is this: the hit is a pretty routine one. Clowney was able to penetrate the Michigan backfield because of a missed assignment and gets to Smith at almost the same moment the ball is handed to him. Clowney didn’t have to shed a blocker and Smith didn’t have a chance to elude him. Clowney’s supposed to make that tackle. The bigger story would have been if he’d missed it.
This leads me to my real beef, which is how often, as fans, we get excited about that which is most unremarkable. (This is also true, by the way, of voters.) There is an old Latin expression used in legal circles that goes, Post hoc ergo propter hoc. Translated it means, after which therefore because of which. It is a comment on the common misperception that because two events happen to occur back-to-back the first event must have caused the second, which is hardly ever true. The world is much more complex than that.
However, as I said, this misperception is a common one. It will lead us to cheer the linebacker who makes a great tackle in the hole, but miss the fact that the nose guard took on two blockers freeing the linebacker up to make the tackle. It leads us to cheer the quarterback who completes the game-winning touchdown pass, but overlook the blindside tackle who picked up the blitz (that is, of course, unless you’re Michael Lewis).
Now, I have no idea whether Jadeveon Clowney, who is only a junior, will wind up being selected in the first round of the NFL draft, as a number of tweeters have suggested he should be based solely on this one tackle, which, let’s face it, is little more than a practice tackle, but if he is, let’s hope the team that selects him does so based on more than the tape of this one game. For if he is going to play at the next level, he’s going to need to take on lineman, who aren’t going to miss blocks like that Michigan lineman did yesterday, stretch the field and make tackles in pursuit of running backs who actually have the ball in their hands before he meets them.
AP Photo/Al Messerschmidt