South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore’s knee injury Saturday made national news not just for the cringe-worthy video but also for the outpouring of love from celebrities, professional athletes, fans and even coaches of USCe’s in-state rivals.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney’s praise for Lattimore was unexpected but very nice of him to say, and I’m sure other coaches feel the same way when players on opposing teams get hurt. It was a classy move on Swinney’s part.
Then Steve Spurrier decided to have a little fun when asked to comment on Swinney’s praise, and caused himself a nice little fake controversy.
Here is what Spurrier said when asked about what the Clemson head coach said in praise of Marcus Lattimore:
“A lot of quotes came across the country and I read one today from the head coach at our upstate school. You know, that school that used to beat us a lot that doesn’t beat us much anymore, that one. Usually when that coach up there talks about South Carolina it’s a bunch of garbage and a bunch of BS usually. But I have to agree with him on what he said the other day.”
At this point, I think it’s important to remind many in the sports media that Marcus Lattimore is, in fact, alive and well. He did not suffer a fatal injury Saturday and will actually return to football once his knee injury has healed. Things really are going to be fine.
So when a columnist decides to overreact to Spurrier’s comments and say that Spurrier can’t get over the “professional bitterness” between the two coaches, well, that’s just a huge goddamn reach, isn’t it?
Aside from the fact that Spurrier is freaking saying thank you to Swinney for his comments, all Spurrier did was inject a little joke-y, intra-state rivalry humor into the situation. Turns out Clemson and South Carolina have a heated in-state rivalry in South Carolina, a state that doesn’t have much else in the way of sports. Bear Bryant used to call Auburn a “cow college” at every chance he got. So when Spurrier calls Clemson “our upstate school,” it’s a sign that we’re still using standard operating procedures when talking about football despite the seeming seriousness of Lattimore’s injury. This is a good thing. A lack of levity in this case is just as embarrassing as any joke about your rival being a land-grant university.
As serious as Lattimore’s injury was, three days after a knee injury that can be fixed is not the time for what wrestling fans call “Owen [Hart] Voice,” i.e. that hushed, super-serious announcer voice used by WWF/E announcers when some one is hurt for real, or in the case of Owen Hart, just fell to their death from the ceiling of an arena.
You use Owen Hart Voice in serious circumstances, such as in-game when Lattimore was hurt. But three days later, when it turns out Lattimore will heal, will be able to play football again, and is even coming back to school, we don’t have to be funeral-serious when mentioning his name.
So Steve Spurrier, a guy who has been in the coaching game for a while now and is pretty well-known for taking shots at other programs, is somehow a jerk for having a little jab at Clemson while essentially celebrating the fact that Marcus Lattimore’s football career isn’t over? Ridiculous.
If anyone is pushing this thing aside from the media, it’s Swinney. He’s all in the press talking about how Spurrier “embarrassed” himself and just failed at complimenting the Clemson program. Swinney wouldn’t comment at all if he wasn’t trying to push the story along a little.
In other words, relax, everyone. Everything is fine. College football is still allowed to be fun. Marcus Lattimore is not Owen Hart or even Tyrone Prothro (google it if you want to be terrified). Everyone is still allowed to crack on their rivals whenever there’s an opportunity. Let’s not act like a bunch of Purdue fans about it.