Glendale, Arizona – It’s been said, “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.” On Saturday night, as Clemson took on Ohio State, one Clemson player decided to make a move that was well short of being a good sportsman. In the second quarter, Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel was on the ground when Clemson’s Christian Wilkins intentionally grabbed Samuel’s where he shouldn’t have. Unfortunately for Wilkins, the inappropriate move was caught on camera. After the game, Wilkins said, “I was being silly, and I apologize for that. It’s stuff you do when you are competing, and I know it’s not a good look. I apologize for that and I shook hands with him after the game. There were no hard feelings.” Samuel’s said of the incident, if he had felt it, he would’ve been rejected. What Wilkins did is much more than simply, “not a good look”. It’s unsportsmanlike. Wilkins says, “It’s the stuff you do when you are competing.” For him, that might be true (up until this past Saturday), but for those who have worked hard to compete in the right way, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Coach Swinney responded to questions about the incident by saying, “I’m good with his apology.” Fellow teammate, Ben Boulware, had different thoughts on the matter. He said, “You get very comfortable around each other. I know there’s going to be that one person: ‘Well, I played football and never did that.’ You either sucked at football, you had no friends in the locker room, or you were the person that went in the bathroom stall to go change because you were scared to shower with the team.” Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel disagreed with Boulware’s statement by saying, “We don’t rock like that this way.” While there are many players across the sports world who play by the rules and compete in an honorable way, there are those among them who do not. With Wilkins’s apology, I hope that he will now make the necessary adjustments.
When we had our small business, I wanted to give an award to local players who exemplified good sportsmanship. At the beginning of the football season, coaches were asked to give us the name of a player who displayed good sportsmanship on the field throughout the season. At the end of the season, we would go to the football banquet and recognize the player with a plaque and a gift certificate. As a former player myself, how young people played the game was important to me and I wanted to show that I appreciated them. I’m still in contact with a couple of those former players and I’m proud to say they have done well post-athletics.
There is another quote that is used often. It is a paraphrase of a Charles Marshall quote from Shattering the Glass Slipper. The quote is, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” In the modern era of cameras everywhere and playback, people are watching more than they are not. Clemson’s Christian Wilkins found out the hard way. Wilkins did apologize, and I’ll take it at face value in hopes that he does better. Wilkins has one more game this season to prove himself as Clemson will take on Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship game in Tampa, Florida, on January 9th. In response to Wikins extracurricular activities on the field, Alabama’s Cam Robinson had this to say, “They better not try me like that. That’s all I got to say.”
I would like to encourage athletes to practice good sportsmanship. Don’t get in a position where you have to defend an unsportsmanlike action. Play the game the way it’s suppose to be played. By all means, compete. Give the game your all, but do it in a way that you can be proud of and at the same time be a good example to those who are watching. If you put that type of play into practice, win or lose, you will be a real champion. You can “Mark It Down”.