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?

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