Saturday, August 25, 2007

Fully Invested?

As we approach another college football season, I believe it is appropriate to reflect on the raison d'etre of BYU athletics (did I impress anyone with that phrase? I'm trying to). From Ezra Taft Benson suggesting that BYU's athletic success should become a focus after the favorable press given the LDS Church following BYU's 1951 NIT (and de facto National) basketball championship, to then-BYU president Rex E. Lee telling not-yet-LDS Ty Detmer that he, by winning the Heisman Trophy, had done more for missionary work for the Church then any other BYU player--or something like that--I am of the view that athletics continue to exist at BYU because of the potential for positive exposure to the Church. I apologize for not being able to provide references to the preceding attributed comments, by the way. Some things don't lend themselves to quick discovery.

Let's examine support for BYU sports. Most Cougar fans are LDS. I imagine that, at least at the core, those of us who are LDS root for BYU because we see it as an extension of our identities: we love sports; if we could play Division I sports, we would certainly do so; if we played Division I sports, what school would better represent who we are than the one which represents our religion?

Now, are we "fully invested" in our support of BYU athletics? Of that, I have little doubt. Are we fully invested in the religion underlying the school? That's a different matter, isn't it? It is possible to see BYU just as another school playing sports. I have even met a couple of confused souls who said they liked BYU football and University of Utah basketball. My admitted initial reaction to such is to view them as Mormons with the second "m" missing in that word, but then I remember that I'm supposed to be Christlike to everyone. . . .

Before we played Arizona last year, I posted a commentary about a couple of Cougar fans that disparaged the Wildcats and those that hate BYU. Their remarks were not what one would hope from people who belong to a religion both demanding a high level of commitment and claiming to be the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

Living the teachings of the Church is extremely difficult--no doubt about it. I struggle constantly to try to live my religion which, by definition, means that I should always be looking to better myself, love others, and eliminate shortcomings (among other requirements). But the fact that it is hard doesn't exempt us from the responsibility to do so, and I think that responsibility is frankly greater for those of us who proclaim ourselves BYU fans because of the religion the school represents. I hope we all remember that for the coming year.