How visiting the Cubs helped Clemson's Dabo Swinney teach the Tigers not to suck
Joe Maddon taught Dabo a couple lessons in their short time together last spring
TAMPA, Fla. -- Media days at big events like the College Football Playoff and the Final Four don't always give you great stories, but most of those events don't have people like Clemson coach Dabo Swinney in attendance. This year, while being interviewed by the media over a one-hour session, Swinney reminisced about a trip to Wrigley Field to see the Chicago Cubs, one that gave him a couple of things to take back to his own team this season.
Back in April, Swinney and assistant coaches Brent Venables and Marion Hobby went to Chicago for the NFL Draft and decided they wanted to see the Cubs. So, Swinney asked his agent if he knew anyone who could hook them up with tickets.
I should probably let Swinney mostly take over from here ...
"He goes, 'Well, I know Joe Maddon,' and I go, 'Who's Joe Maddon?' He went, 'He's the manager.' I go, 'That's a pretty good guy to know.' So, Joe Maddon hooked us up ..."
Fortunately, things didn't go as planned. There was a rain delay, so Swinney's agent took them on a tour of the Cubs' brand new locker room.
"I walk in there, and they've got a drum set, they've got a disco ball hanging. I'm like, 'What the heck is this? And they're like, 'This is the celebration room. Joe likes to celebrate.' And I'm like, 'I like this guy.'
"I really didn't know many of these guys, but as it turns out, man, these guys are huge football fans ... and they're all like, 'Hey coach, how you are you doing?'"
Swinney was especially excited to learn that pitcher Jon Lester's wife is a Clemson grad. He was also impressed with the culture in the Cubs clubhouse.
"I've got a chance to kind of see the culture there, and I was like, 'Man, this is really cool.' These guys are loose, they know they've got a good team."
Then, he met Maddon and was a bit star struck.
"I walk in his office and he's got his baseball pants on and he's got this shirt on that says 'Try Not to Suck,' and I'm like -- he's big. I'm like, this is Joe Maddon."
Maddon told him that he had seen Clemson play last year, and the two hit it off. They talked for a bit about the Cubs' culture and how the team had a big goal but was taught not to fear it but rather embrace it.
"It kind of resonated with me ... that was one of the things I came back and I told the guys day one: 'Listen, everybody has been telling us we're this target, well, we are the target, but let's embrace that. Let's be committed to that and embrace that. Let's run right to it.'"
Swinney also liked the message on Maddon's shirt.
"I've always told the guys, my message has always been, hey, don't lose to Clemson. If we don't lose to Clemson, we've got a chance here. You know, Joe Maddon says, 'Hey, if we just don't suck, we've got a chance to win.' So that kind of resonated with our guys."
So, after a season of embracing the target, Clemson hopes that on Monday night, it will get a chance to embrace the trophy. After all, if the Cubs can win a World Series, anything is possible. But first, the Tigers will have to try not to suck.
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