Jay Evensen: Brandon Davies should have been story of the week

Published: Thursday, Sept. 1 2011 10:31 a.m. MDT

BYU Cougar Brandon Davies cheers on his team while they play Wyoming in Provo, Utah, Saturday, March 5, 2011.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

The best news story last week got little play nationally, even though one columnist for the Portland Oregonian wrote simply, "Wow."

When BYU suspended Brandon Davies for an honor code violation during the middle of a legitimate run for the national championship last March, the world took notice that an institution actually would put something, anything, ahead of winning. But last week Davies was reinstated and reportedly overjoyed at receiving a second chance, without generating nearly as much chatter.

Here's what the Oregonian's John Canzano wrote: "I figured the player (Davies) would re-surface somewhere, bitter and more talkative, and eventually write a book about life under the code at BYU. Instead, he's back for more, and grateful for the chance."

This, he said, is amazing "when contrasted to the decision-making we see from many college athletes today."

The news business naturally gravitates toward tales of scandals, crimes and famous people behaving badly. That's not just a ploy to sell newspapers (if anyone out there has a real plan for selling papers, a lot of management types in this industry would like to hear it). It's a reflection of what people typically like to read and discuss.

But there ought to be more room on our public radar screens for stories about redemption, as well, and about an honor code that forces athletic programs to focus on students more than games.

That doesn't seem to have been the case at the University of Miami, where football players are alleged to have accepted gifts, money and prostitutes. It wasn't the guiding principle at the Ohio State University, where a famous coach was forced to resign amid enough moral debris (jewelry, drugs, cash, tattoos and relations with a drug dealer) to resemble an explosion at a sewage plant.

It isn't the case in far too many businesses and governments, where greed and self-interests have, among other things, nearly destroyed the world's economy.

Read the headlines and you may get the idea that the world is awash in opportunism and dishonesty; that, to put it in "Star Wars" terms, this planet is little more than a lawless Tatooine in a desolate corner of the universe.

Which is why we need stories like Brandon Davies to bring us back to, well, earth.

People, generally, are honest, and they want to do what is right. The web site wallettest.com offers an interesting sociological case study to back this up.

The site dropped 100 wallets, each containing $2.10 in cash, a fake $50 gift certificate and identification clearly giving the owner's name and contact information, at various places around a medium-sized U.S. city. Overall, 74 percent of the people who found a wallet returned it.

Of course, the results might have been different if the wallets contained wads of cash, a football or basketball championship, or fame. But I'd like to think most people still would give it back.

I have collected several reasons through the years for believing that. There were the two Utah County sisters, aged 21 and 16, who found a duffel bag in an abandoned shopping cart last year in Spanish Fork. Inside, they found $17,811 in cash. They called police, who located the owner.

There was Josh Ferrin, a man I work with at the paper every day, who discovered more than $45,000 in cash hidden in a house he had bought in Bountiful. He gave it back to the home's previous owner, whose deceased father had saved it through the years.

There was the convenience store clerk in South Salt Lake who, two years ago, found $1,200 in cash on the floor in front of his counter. He, too, gave the money to police, who found the owner. The list goes on.

Integrity is not completely synonymous with honesty. As British ethicist Roger Steare once said, it is a "word that describes the sum of all our principles and values."

And when people or institutions exhibit it, good things, such as a student athlete paying the price and earning a second chance, often happen. That is the story that ought to have risen higher on news budgets last week.

Jay Evensen is associate editor of the Deseret News editorial page. Email him at even@desnews.com. For more content, visit his website, www.jayevensen.com.

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS