The Embers of Dabo Swinney's Alternate Reality Are Dying

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Ohio State's careful disembodiment of Clemson felt cathartic and just and reflective of new hope in a new year where we'd like nothing more than to turn the page and relegate what's become an omnipresent hellscape to the history books. Reality has shifted so severely and unpredictably that the masses barely batted an eye at the Buckeyes' sudden and awkward metamorphosis into white knight, far afield from their proud tradition of foisting all the undesirable traits of a professional franchise into the hollow suit of amateurish. But make no mistake. There was a vindictive joy and sense of justice emanating from New Orleans last night.

Dabo Swinney has seemingly been on a mission in recent years to nuke all the goodwill he built up as overachieving messiah. It's Brewster's Millions steeped in faux, folksy poverty. He's done it with the same aggressive regressiveness that's driven the country over the same span, usually into the deepest ditch available. The kind where the person who thinks they're telling it like it is simply cannot fathom why they've become persona non grata, an outsized mouth that seemingly won't stop until comeuppance is shoved in knuckle-deep and against muffled protestations.

Swinney's self-assured crusade ended two stops short of its intended termination, derailed by a flawless gameplan from Ryan Day and world-class execution from Justin Fields. The team Swinney ranked 11th in his latest poll didn't just bring their own guts, they wordlessly pulled out all the Tigers', strewing them about like so much confetti. The global-brain idea of providing 108-point bulletin board material failed miserably and humility came one OSU touchdown at a time.

The Buckeyes didn't win because of Dabo's disrespect. This was simply the shiniest red nose to complete the clown makeup the once-beloved coach has been caking on like a Joker-fied Joaquin Phoenix since April. Friday night was the exclamation mark on the sentence saying once and for all that this guy has absolutely no idea what he's talking about. The man who has been pontificating out of his ass for months and months and months got that ass handed to him.

There's no shame in savoring the sweetness. It should feel good when word spreads that the emperor doesn't have any clothes. It should feel good when the carpet-bagging monorail salesman is escorted out of town and conversation.

Lest you pause for a second stricken with worry that this is all too harsh, let's recap. In April, Swinney doubled down on his belief that God could stamp out COVID-19 as quick as it rose up. He predictably tripped over his own hubris in the wake of George Floyd's killing and the social justice protests, inviting buried secrets of him failing in the same arena to surface. He accused Florida State of cowardice for the sin of canceling a football game in the name of player safety.

Time and time again he has been loud wrong on issues both big and small, all along sticking out his chest, thinking the armor of "not being politically correct" is a virtue and not a stagnation. In context, the buffoonery about ranking Ohio State outside the Top 10 due to a lack of games played is extremely trivial.

But damn, is it instructive and reflective of an inflexible man who refuses to bend even in the wake of new information. In a year where everyone was just trying to make it work, Swinney insisted everyone meet his absurd standards.

He's an avatar for some of the worst impulses that did us all the most harm in 2020. A masterclass in simply not getting it. In living in a reality sheltered from the actual reality. Except when there's a real scoreboard involved.

And that's why it was so joyous to see tidal wave of karmic justice engulf the orange sideline. That's why it was so knee-slappingly exhilarating to watch Swinney and Brent Venabales desperately try to execute the wrong strategy, only to be outsmarted by Day. For so many of us, it's been painfully obvious that Dabo is a wonderful football coach who also perpetually doesn't know what the hell he's talking about.

To have everyone else see what should have been so clear all this time? Better late than never.