It was only one game, or: lay off of Clowney, ESPN

Okay, I’ve had it. Enough. I can’t handle it anymore.

Over the summer, and really, since January, Jadeveon Clowney has been all over the college football news, and, specifically, ESPN. Whether it was endless replays of “The Hit,” winning an ESPY for that play, Heisman predictions, draft predictions, or a variety of other stories and special features, Clowney’s been inescapable. It’s great, as a South Carolina fan, to see a Gamecock receive so much positive attention on the national stage.

The flip side, though, is that all of that attention led to an insane amount of hype, created not by Clowney, but by the media reporting on Clowney. He’s been built up to be some sort of robotically perfect player, who will make huge plays every snap and have highlight reel tackles on every play.

Here’s the thing, though: the guy’s only human. He may be a physical and athletic freak, he may be incredibly talented, but at the end of the day, he’s still a human. He’s not going to have the game of his life every game. Plus, if every play he ever made was incredible, they wouldn’t be special anymore. They’d be routine. Plus, plays like “The Hit” would be illegal this season, so Clowney would be permanently sidelined if he was only making plays like that.

During Thursday’s opener, where it was like, 100 degrees and sunny and crazy humid in Columbia, Clowney and most of the Gamecocks looked rather sweaty before the game had even started. I don’t blame them. I know how hot it gets in the stands, and I was never on the field wearing layers of padding and clothes.

So Clowney, despite wearing a cooling vest, was hot before the game even started, then he was out there running around and he got hotter and tired. He spent part of the game on the sideline and I’m not sure he ever really fully caught his breath. Again, he’s a huge dude and it was beastly hot, so this is isn’t entirely surprising.

Enter Jesse Palmer, David Pollack, and Rece Davis, who were calling the game, and proceeded to repeatedly call Clowney out for poor conditioning and a lack of effort. Now, did there appear to be a play or two where perhaps he didn’t give 100 percent? Maybe so. But to insinuate that he was slacking and unprepared was not necessary.

After the game, Clowney, who joked about getting questions re: conditioning, said he was recovering from a stomach virus, something which would obviously impact his ability to play to his full potential.

ESPN’s crew seemed almost angry that Clowney wasn’t living up to the outrageous hype that their network has been perpetuating for months. Hype that no person, no matter how talented or well-conditioned, could live up to. Today, Colin Cowherd and Kirk Herbstreit called Clowney the “No. 1 Phony” of the first week of the season. That’s outrageous.

I’m not saying Clowney shouldn’t be held responsible for his play, because obviously he should. But the guy was just getting over being sick. It was hot. He can’t make the best play of his career on every play. Was it surprising to see him not be quite the dominant presence he usually is? Sure. But the fact of the matter is that ESPN way overhyped Clowney and now they’re unfairly acting like he’s some huge disappointment for not living up to their overhyping.

Certainly, if the season continues and Clowney seems to be taking plays off and not giving a good effort, it will be cause for concern. But after one game, everyone needs to just relax. The Gamecocks play Georgia in an SEC East showdown next weekend. I don’t know about y’all, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a repeat of this:

Maybe that would be enough to end all of the talk about Clowney’s supposed underperformance.

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