Individual awards are among my least favorite things in sports, primarily because people who vote on who gets them are often unqualified for the task by virtue of clinging to archaic commandments that defy all sense and reason (see: C'MON MAN U CANT BE THE MOST VALABLE PLAYER IF YOU'RE TEEM DIDNT MAK IT 2 THE PLAYOFFS, et al). And the debates that surround such honors are incredibly annoying and pointless.
Don't believe me? Try following some sabermetric guys on Twitter the next time Jack Morris doesn't get into the baseball Hall of Fame. Even though I more or less agree with them, it's nauseating to see them argue because winning the argument accomplishes absolutely nothing. Whether or not a group of sportswriters decides to elect him to be a member of a completely arbitrary institution shouldn't - and in all likelihood doesn't - affect the way you remember how your favorite player made you feel when he/she was doing amazing things on the field/court/pitch.
Ten years from now, when I look back on Alshon Jeffery's career as a Gamecock, I'm not going to say, "Man, that 2010 Alabama game was amazing, but he sure got snubbed snubbed in the Biletnikoff* voting!" Consequently, it's not often that I get upset when a player on my team doesn't earn one of theses arbitrary distinctions.
*Did he win the Biletnikoff? I'm pretty sure he didn't. But I'm not going to bother Googling it because it's not going to in any way alter the joy I get from remembering seeing him dominate Dre Kirkpatrick. I did, however, Google "Biletnikoff" because it's a hard name to remember how to spell.
Allowing yourself to have strong opinions about pre-season awards is even dumber for reasons that should be self-evident and are rather tidily summarized by Stephen Garcia being named a preseason second team All-SEC QB in 2011. As you no doubt recall, Garcia went on to completely forget how to throw footballs, was benched after being the main reason South Carolina lost a nightmare of a game that ultimately kept them out of the SEC Championship Game, and was kicked off the team one week after said benching.
With that said, the decision of 20 out of 243 media members to vote for someone other than Jadeveon Clowney as first-team preseason All-SEC is monumentally stupid because it represents almost 10% of the eligible voters possessing a complete misunderstanding of what Jadeveon Clowney is: the best defensive end to come through the college ranks in decades. It's an outcome so baffling that it's worth breaking my own rule about not caring about preseason accolades.
My decision to write this post was the result of culminating frustration from seeing bloggers argue that if you take out all of Clowney's amazing plays, he's actually pretty average and happening upon extraordinarily lazy articles comparing the Robert Nkemdiches of the world to Clowney. Here's Rivals.com's Mike Farrell on why you shouldn't be doing things like that:
Clowney is the best high school football player I have seen in more than a decade scouting prospects... Clowney is a rarity, and comparing other defensive ends to him is like comparing wide receivers to Jerry Rice or offensive tackles to Anthony Munoz. It's not fair.
Since arriving in Columbia, Jadeveon has been named a unanimous All-American, surpassed Gamecock greats such as Melvin Ingram and Eric Norwood en route to capturing the school's single-season sack record, won the Hendricks award as the best defensive end in 2012, and made the best play in all of sports. In his two years as a Gamecock, Clowney has somehow managed to live up to impossible expectations heaped upon him coming out of high school.
As a professional prospect, Jeremiah Williams views him as the best defensive prospect he's ever evaluated, and the worst that any scout ever says about Clowney is that he's the best non-Andrew Luck draft candidate they've had the pleasure of laying eyes upon.
But the best argument for Clowney being a unanimous All-SEC first teamer is the breadth of the gap between him and anyone else. Who would you put ahead of him? Dominique Easley? Kony Ealy? Mocking The Draft views them as the 12th and 23rd best draft-eligible players in the SEC, respectively, with Clowney's teammate Chaz Suttion actually coming in one spot ahead of Ealy at 22. (Sutton did not make the media's first, second, or third team.)
At this point, choosing not to recognize Jadeveon Clowney as the best defensive end in the SEC just isn't even a valid opinion about which reasonable minds could disagree. It's like refusing to acknowledge that global warming is happening or insisting that Grown Ups 2 was pretty good: it's a position so dumb that everyone will judge you for holding it. Or, at the very least, the decision to give you an All-SEC team ballot should be seriously reevaluated.
With the absurdity of Clowney's omission firmly established, let's think of some things that might have caused 20 adults competent enough to obtain media credentials to make such a ghastly error:
- 20 people read Mark May's Xanga post about how awards should only be given to sixth year seniors.
- Newspaper owner gave ballot to his ne'er-do-well older brother so that he'd feel included in the family business.
- "Wait, you mean Clowney isn't sitting out this year?"
- "LOL, you can't just make up some dude who weighs 270 and runs a 4.46 40."
- 20 write-in ballots were cast for "Sharknado".
Let us know how you think everything went awry in the comments.