|Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 10:51 AM- -|
I started this blog over the weekend but never really knew how to frame it. On Monday, I had some meetings and took Ryan to both baseball games then enjoyed a nice dinner at Mac's Drive In with Ryan but I still spent a lot of time thinking about framing this blog. I have talked to a few coaches, former players, members of the media and a few fans for input. Their thoughts helped guide me in finishing this blog on an interesting topic.
Part of me thinks this is an important subject but another part thinks it is insignificant. I can see both sides of the issue and will guess that your reactions will be split as well.
I saw this happen in Danny Ford's days at Clemson. I am not sure exactly when it happened or how it happened but there was a time where he went from being Danny to being Coach Ford.
Admittedly I was only ten years old when Coach Ford got the head coaching job at Clemson but I remember fans and the media referring to him as Danny. However, at some point that changed.
I see Coach Ford occasionally in town and three things always stick out to me. First is his presence. He commands the room. Second is how he always goes out of his way to speak to Ryan and ask him about his progress. But the final thing that always sticks out with me is the respect level he also commands. I would never call him Danny or even refer to him as Danny. To me, he is Coach Ford.
I think today's athletes are different and today's young people are too. I can turn on TV on Sunday and hear the quarterback call his coach by his first name. I doubt any player ever called Vince Lombardi by his first name. Tom Landry was always Coach Landry, not Tom.
Professional baseball is different because they are managers and not coaches but I know that Derek Jeter had such respect for Joe Torre that he always referred to him as Mr. Torre.
In my opinion the title of Coach still means something. Coaches mold our young people. They influence lives. They are a very important part of our formative years. Therefore, calling someone "Coach" is a compliment and a sign of respect.
Dabo Swinney is a different situation at this point. This fall will be the first time that every player on this team will have only known him as the head coach. Even last year there were some players that came in with him as the receiver coach, so his role changed at some point in their careers.
I asked a former player this the other day and he told me that he sees a different person now than the Dabo Swinney he saw when he first arrived. "The players call him Coach Swinney now, " the former wide out said. "He went from being my position coach to being my interim coach to being my head coach in a few short weeks. But the players respect him and I don't know any player that calls him Dabo now."
I found that comment interesting. The players are probably the catalyst in this transformation.
Dabo Swinney's situation was going to be different anyway. If he had left to go to another school he wouldn't have been called Dabo. He had a chance to take over a smaller school several years ago and my guess is that when he arrived he would have been Coach Swinney.
Age is a factor as well. Maybe as he grows older then some fans and followers will grow into calling him Coach Swinney. When Coach Ford took over the Clemson job he was much younger than Coach Swinney but as he grew into the job I think he grew into being called Coach Ford.
But maybe Dabo is just different anyway. Maybe Dabo wants to be the underdog that overcomes. Maybe he wants to be the personable leader that people can identify with just being Dabo. Maybe Dabo just wants to always be Dabo. Maybe that is him branding himself.
Maybe the name is so different that people just use it because it is unique. If it was William Swinney instead of Dabo I doubt many fans would call him by his first name as often.
People called George W. Bush by his middle initial. His father was George Herbert Walker Bush. There nothing fun about that so he was called President Bush while his son was called "W" even when he was President of the United States of America.
Maybe we are just more informal now. I wonder what percentage of Americans call our current president by just his last name instead of the more formal President Obama?
As a counterpoint, I think we can look back and say many used JFK or Ike or Abe many years ago.
In sports, fans may use different names than players. I have heard many fans refer to former coaches at Ohio State and Michigan as Woody and Bo. However, I doubt many former players ever called them anything but Coach Hayes or Coach Schembechler.
Maybe its just personalities too. I have never heard anyone refer to Nick Saban as Nick.
In summary, this was a hard blog to frame but I wanted to point out many different examples from history. I wanted to use different sports and different personalities as examples. I also wanted to use a personal example that we have already seen here in Clemson.
Maybe it's not important. Maybe there is a certain age or a certain amount of games or championships that he has to win but my personal opinion is that we are seeing something different happening this year. This year's team is the first with all Dabo Swinney recruited players and I think this is another step in the transformation of Dabo into Coach Swinney.
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