Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Cartoon: Most happening place in Provo

This is from the Daily Utah Chronicle, by Kurt Francom. Here is the link to the original.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Cougars In Final Four?

I know, it is extremely early to start this kind of talk, but BYU's basketball team just took out the #6 team in the country, and went toe-to-toe with the #1 team for all but the last two minutes of the game.

Given that this squad is considerably different from last year's, it shouldn't be nearly this good yet. But it also seems likely that the team will get much better as the year goes on, just as any team with new pieces (and new roles) normally does.

Coach Dave Rose is still finding out what he has with this group. Jonathan Tavernari will probably learn to choose his shots better. Coach Rose will ensure that the team won't rely exclusively on three-point shots at the end of a game when they are tired--missing all of them essentially handed the game to North Carolina at the end. Jimmer Fredette and others will find their places on the team.

And when the team comes together in late-season form, I don't see them being inferior to many teams at all in the country. I do anticipate a little bumpiness as their identity is forged--I can't say that I expect them to go entirely undefeated in conference play. But I believe that this year's version, as early as it is in the season, is very close indeed to the level of team that finished last year, which had a winning record on the road and was undefeated at home.

Finally, Coach Rose demonstrated that he knows what to do with his team when playing a reputedly superior opponent, including calling timeouts to get them to regroup when Louisville appeared in position to pull away from them. And we know what happened to Louisville.

BYU in the Final Four this year? That might not be considered Madness when March arrives.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Class Or Crass, Continued

I was able to attend the BYU-Utah game today, and, wow--what another exciting finish. I'm to the point where I expect gut-wrenching games every year, and this was no exception. Perhaps I will just watch the last minute of every BYU-Utah game from now on to minimize the stress.

I observed a few things that slightly marred the day, though: One was Utah coach Kyle Whittingham not being man enough after the game to give Harvey Unga his proper due after Unga's stellar performance almost single-handedly won the game for BYU. Whittingham responded that Unga was "pretty good" when asked to comment on his play. He later half-heartedly said that Unga "really hurt us", but it seemed clear that Whittingham still could not bring himself to be fully complimentary of this great player that originally committed to play for him. Somehow I cannot see Bronco Mendenhall being anything less than completely commendatory of an opposing player, even if he had lost a recruiting battle for that player.

Why do I mention that? If any LDS Utah fans visit this site, I want to continue to hammer home the point that their school and coach probably do not represent them very well.

More disturbing than that was the twenty-something Utah fan standing on a street corner near the stadium before the game waving a sign that read "BYU sucks" on one side--OK, I admittedly don't expect better than that from many of those in red--but "Bronco likes little boys" on the other. Nice.

Unfortunately, though, I also saw a couple of college-age BYU fans wearing shirts that I had recently heard about. One said "U Suck", and the other--I have forgotten what it said--was no better.

I am concerned when I see BYU fans stooping to the level of many Utah fans, allowing for the likelihood that none will ever stoop so low as to approximate the depraved joke about our coach noted above. Not one BYU supporter should be derogatory of a rival. There is a minimum level of refinement, if you will, expected of Latter-day Saints, and, by extension, BYU fans. Does this mean we should all be model citizens? Well, yes it does.

We should frankly be cautious when dealing with colleagues who are Utah fans when we return to work. It is great to be victorious. We should be gracious in victory, regardless of how those colleagues may have been when the tables were turned. A broader perspective needs to be considered when dealing with human relationships. In the end, we should be representative of our faith at all times, including after the emotionally charged rivalry game.

As a minor postscript, behavior representative of a BYU fan should also include cleaning up our trash at the stadium when we leave. People seemed conscientious in that regard when I went to a game earlier in the season, but I didn't see many around me picking up after themselves today.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Class Or Crass?

I am writing today about the Cougars' main rival, the University of Utah, for a specifically BYU-related purpose.

Before the recent Wyoming vs Utah football game, Wyoming's coach guaranteed to a group of Wyoming students that his team would beat Utah. That bit of bravado quickly reached the Utah locker room and apparently ruffled a few feathers. After thoroughly dominating Wyoming to the tune of 40-0(!) at halftime, Utah's coach Kyle Whittingham decided to try an onside kick after a field goal increased their lead to 43-0 in the third quarter. The reaction to that utterly classless act was unanimous condemnation.

Or so I thought, until I read the comments to an article by Gordon Monson in the Salt Lake Tribune. I would probably be conservative to say that 80% of the Utah fans leaving comments were in favor of Whittingham's actions, which apparently included several long bombs to try for quick scores. Some fans tried to justify what he did by comparing his actions to that of other coaches, even though most examples given were taken out of context.

The Tribune allows users to rate comments positively or negatively. Comments that showed any kind of reasonable thought, whether by Utah fans or otherwise, showed multiple thumbs down. Comments in favor of the petty actions of their coach showed multiple thumbs up. Not surprisingly with Utah fans--based on experience--a fair number of them compared their actions to something that BYU had done or might be perceived to do. One went so far as to say that if Wyoming's coach had guaranteed a victory against BYU, the LDS Church would send its missionary force to Wyoming to conduct another Mountain Meadows Massacre. To its credit, the Tribune did remove that comment after I (and, hopefully, others) clicked on the "Report Abuse" link, but not before it had gained several thumbs up.

Now I'm getting to the point. Why would a member of the LDS Church support a program that is so heavily dominated by this type of fan? If you are a Mormon Utah fan, do you think that this school may once again become the type of school that it was years ago--the school of choice for those of your faith, a school for whom the majority of supporters share your beliefs or at least your values? Have I been told incorrectly that many LDS don't want to take their children to Utah games--especially involving the school owned by your church--because of the foul language coming from more than a few of your fellow fans? Has it not crossed your mind that these people tolerate you at best and despise you at worst?

If you are LDS, the University of Utah is not YOUR school, in the sense that it reflects your values or even really wants you there, other than for the fact that it requires a student population, which is supplied to a fair extent by Mormons--the U's previous (non-LDS) president even admitted that a sizable portion of the school's quota was filled by students that had first applied to BYU. And if that sounds like veiled arrogance on my part, please understand that, although I did attend BYU, I would not even have applied if the grades required today for admission were the standard when I was in high school.

If you are a Mormon Utah fan, what is keeping you from supporting the school that fosters your values? How do you justify supporting a school for which the majority of fans do not share your values and are in fact against much of what you stand for? If it is because you were denied admission to BYU, is that really a valid reason? Is it really right to be against BYU because there is incredible competition to get in these days? If you have another reason, does it hold up to serious scrutiny?

There's a bigger picture to consider than one of a provincial nature. Rarely does a Utah coach, even an LDS one, as we are coming to recognize, reflect the type of person that we hopefully aspire to be. BYU athletics means something on a national level, and even abroad. People recognize that it represents the LDS Church institutionally. With the alternative here in Utah, can you, a Mormon, recognize that and align yourself with the program that far more promotes your values and beliefs rather than the one that is in many ways against them?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Is BYU a Top 25 Team?

I read an article recently about efforts of BYU's athletic department to lobby for votes in the national polls. I, as much as anyone, would of course like to see BYU re-join the Top 25. Unlike last year, though, I'm not sure that the team deserves to be ranked at this point.

A point could be made regarding the up-and-down year for many teams, and the fact that several three-loss teams have more votes than two loss-BYU, although each of them is a member of a so-called BCS conference (most being in the SEC, as it happens). I am also not sure that one-loss Boise State, ranked number 19, would beat BYU if they were to play. Nevertheless, the issue for BYU is one of decided under-performance. Earlier in the season, I felt that if the Cougars could just eliminate penalties and turnovers, they would play to a very high level. I also felt they would likely be unbeaten if not for those issues.

Somehow, though, they haven't reached their potential despite subsequently cutting down on penalties and turnovers. The had enough in them to convincingly defeat an Air Force team that wasn't as good as some were beginning to think. They showed some satisfying tenacity in winning at the home of a New Mexico team that had been playing solid football, and always gives them stiff competition. But the passing game struggled against UNLV, and they pounded their way on the ground to 24 points and a win. Against lower-division Eastern Washington, they ended up with 42 points, but one of those touchdowns came from an interception return, and the passing game was again not particularly effective--Max Hall completed only 50% of his passes. They should have had 42 points by halftime with an interception return factored in. Finally, the Cougars scored only 35 against struggling Colorado State yesterday. Perhaps I should give BYU the benefit of the doubt on that one, however, as CSU did soundly trounce UNLV in Las Vegas two weeks ago and, although they couldn't muster any offense against Utah, the Utes scored only 27 points against them. It may also be worth noting that the BYU team that routinely routed opponents last year could only manage 24 points against the Rams--who have been weak for some time now--so perhaps a low point total against CSU is not worthy of alarm.

Nevertheless, I will not be surprised if BYU is unable to crack the Top 25 until they are 8-2, with wins over TCU and Wyoming. More importantly, if they have not come to play "cleaner football", as Coach Mendenhall is fond of saying, they may very well lose--horror of horrors--to an improving Utah team the week after the Wyoming game. Then the desire for a national ranking will have to be put on hold for another year.