Jadeveon Clowney’s gross-out hit on a Michigan running back in the Outback Bowl officially launched his 2013 Heisman Trophy campaign.
It also exposed the lie that football can be safe, or that fans want it to be.
We don’t even care to know the name of the Michigan player whose helmet came flying off his head during that collision, or if he sustained a concussion.
Because we love our football that way. Violent.
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The game is beautiful.
The game is vicious.
The game is often beautiful because of its viciousness and the ability of players to look at it in the eye and perform marvelously any way.
Safe football makes as much sense as a diet order of chili cheese fries.
No touchdown pass or tackle-breaking run or diving interception or clutch play down the stretch has gotten as much attention as Clowney’s hit.
The pinpoint perfect pass by Clemson’s Tajh Boyd on 4th down and 16 against the Southeastern Conference heavyweight LSU Tigers was technically more spectacular and more important.
Clowney’s hit for the University of South Carolina was important, but the lead changed hands multiple times after that play.
Had Boyd been off by a half-inch – to the left or right – in the final minutes of what turned out to be Clemson’s most important victory since the Danny Ford era would simply not have happened.
Clemson would have walked off the field a loser in another high profile game against another high profile opponent.
Instead, the Tigers can now expect to be ranked in the Top 10 in next year’s preseason poll with reason to believe a national title run is possible.
USC would have likely still won without Clowney’s hit, which happened so fast the Michigan player had no time to brace himself for impact.
That often happens on a football field and no rules modification could ever change that.
Some of those collisions create a force equal to that experienced in a 35 mph car accident, according to the Sports Science guys.
Clowney’s hit lit up Twitter, spawned hundreds of slow-motion replays on ESPN’s “Sportscenter” and was the center of conversation on sports talk show around the nation, and on talk shows that had nothing to do with sports.
Even the International Business Times wrote about Clowney.
It was the flip side of the play that caused an Internet storm earlier this season, when USC running back Marcus Lattimore sustained a gruesome leg injury many thought had ended his career.
We like hard hits.
The more painful looking, the better.
That’s the way we love our football.
That’s the only way we’ll likely take our football.
Talk about wanting players better protected from concussion and other injuries will always take a back seat to the kinds of things an other-worldly athlete such as Clowney can make happen.
A man that big and powerful is not supposed to be able to maneuver his massive body and move like that, we marvel.
We clap out of courtesy when a player gets hurt and gets up, even if he’s been dragged to the sideline by trainers or is being wheeled off on a gurney.
But when they go down because they happened to be on wrong end of a Clowney hit, we cheer much louder, and longer.
That’s why a big, violent hit can launch a thousand Heisman Trophy candidacies.
Contemplating the long-term effects of such big hits will always take a back seat.