A few thoughts on Laptop Dome, the dumbest scandal in the history of dumb scandals.
This all appears to have boiled over for now, but Dave Doeren’s comments immediately after Saturday’s loss to Clemson demanding an “investigation” into a laptop on the Clemson sideline were dumb, Clemson having a laptop on the sideline for social-media purposes is dumb and Dabo Swinney complaining about Bradley Chubb swiping towels was dumb.
Where to begin?
Might as well start with Doeren, who needs to be more professional than that. Coaches often try to deflect attention from their team after a bad loss, but this clearly wasn’t that. Doeren was steaming, and the accusations just made him look petty after a hard-fought game. He had every right to be frustrated and disappointed, but there’s a time and place to complain about Clemson having a laptop on the sideline, and that wasn’t it. (Especially when the “investigation” would have made for about a four-minute episode of “Law & Order: ACC” that ended before the first “dun, dun!” sound.)
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Asked Wednesday on the ACC teleconference if he wished he had handled it differently, Doeren said he did not: “No. I mean, look, I’m not a politically correct guy. I coach with a lot of passion. Our kids play with it. He does the same thing. At the end of the game, when you lose a game that has conference championship implications on it, sometimes things are going to be said.”
It’s OK to be emotional, and it’s OK to be angry after a tough loss, especially one as difficult as this one. It’s even OK, if not ideal, to complain about the officiating, although that’s almost always spitting into the wind. It’s not OK to lash out with an accusation that carries with it an implication of cheating that turns out to be baseless. If you’re going to question someone’s integrity, you need to be closer to the mark than that. That’s got nothing to do with political correctness.
Which isn’t to say the Clemson social-media team is entirely blameless. There’s clearly nothing that can be done from a laptop on the bench that can’t be done from just off the field or away from the bench. Having the laptop in an area where teams are prohibited from using any kind of that technology creates a perception of a rules violation whether it is one or not. As long as these are the rules, the sideline should be a no-laptop zone, whether the ACC says it’s OK or not. Clemson should know better, and we have the cluelessness of their social-media team to thank for the fact that we’re even talking about this.
Swinney fired back Tuesday, angry that Doeren had, from his perspective, questioned his integrity, pointing out other incidents between the N.C. State sideline and Clemson players. Fine. Swinney had the right to respond and he did, humorously at times. But Swinney also took a jab at Chubb’s towel-stealing antics and that’s where we have to draw the line.
Chubb playfully swiping towels off Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant’s belt is the kind of sly exuberance that we should encourage in players. Chubb is a fierce competitor who sometimes loses control and crosses the line, with the personal fouls to prove it, but he also can be a playful goofball, and the towel-stealing definitely falls on the latter side of the ledger.
If Brett Favre was doing it, everyone would guffaw. So if we get nothing else out of this supernova of stupidity, can we please just let Bradley be Bradley?
Sports columnist Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock