Has there ever been a better time to be a Brigham Young University basketball fan? Currently BYU stands at No. 3 in the polls and looks poised for a rare run into the NCAA Tournamentâs second week.
You canât turn on ESPN these days without seeing a clip of BYU All-American Jimmer Fredette launching a 30-foot 3-pointer, or a live interview with âThe Jimmerâ or a hoops guru breaking down game film. Even more likely, youâve seen all of the above. If Jimmer were a stock, heâd be Google at $610 a share with room to grow.
Indeed, itâs been quite a season. I only wish Iâd seen more of it. Living in the East has not afforded me as many opportunities to watch games as my friends in the West. Just imagine how thrilled I was that BYUâs game with then-No. 6 ranked San Diego State University last Saturday would be televised coast-to-coast on CBS. It was only the second game all year I watched from tip-off to final buzzer.
Thankfully, the game was nearly everything weâd been promised. It featured physical play from both teams, timely offense and good coaching from two of the best. It was entertaining and competitive until roughly the 10-minute mark of the second half. For the rest of the matchup, BYU answered every SDSU mini-run with huge shots from plenty of players not named Jimmer.
As the clock ticked down, the only real suspense was whether or not SDSU fans, desperate for a win over their much-hated league rival, would stay classy or repeat their embarrassing behavior from previous meetings.
SDSU coach Steve Fisher sent an e-mail earlier in the week asking all fans, especially those in SDSUâs famed student section dubbed âThe Show,â to behave appropriately.
Among other things, Fisher wrote, âWe cannot cross the line into topics that are out of bounds and distasteful, particularly making fun of one's religion."
Maybe some SDSU fans have junk filters blocking Coach Fisherâs e-mails.
Itâs obvious that if youâre watching premium cable and your children walk in the room, you better be prepared to explain the profanity, innuendo, etc. To a slightly lesser degree, the same is true if your little ones wander in while watching any number of prime-time sitcoms on NBC, CBS, ABC or FOX. But should that be the case if youâre watching a college basketball game on national television?
During the final minutes of the SDSU-BYU game, my daughter popped in to check on the score and enjoy a quick one-on-one chat with Dad. I was explaining a foul against SDSU when the crowd, obviously disagreeing with the call, began to chant a popular two-word phrase connoting disbelief. âDad, are they chanting what I think theyâre chantingâ
âYes, dear, they are.â
âCanât they get in trouble for that?â she asked.
Basketball is a sport that encourages fan involvement. We sit close to the court and have easy access to players. Weâre often referred to as the âsixth-manâ and, perhaps more than in any sport, we can feed a teamâs momentum.
Everyone wants to win the big game, right? Thatâs why we buy tickets, and thatâs why we scramble around on a busy Saturday morning to be in a position to devote two hours to a basketball game. Itâs not a crime to want your team to perform well and to beat your rival. But when is too much, too much?
Perhaps it was poor taste that hundreds of SDSU students dressed as missionaries in white shirts, ties and fake name tags, but most would argue it was harmless. I thought the efforts to distract BYU players at the free-throw line with giant heads of pop culture figures was quite clever. I saw Woody from "Toy Story," Marilyn Monroe and Donald Trump. Nothing offensive there.
But what about the sign that read, "Wives-for-Rent"? Or the signs that carried vile slurs aimed at Jimmerâs girlfriend? What about the fans who threw candy on the court? Iâd call it elementary school stuff, but thatâs not fair to little kids who actually know better.
If you were the athletic director at BYU or any other school that endures religious taunts, dangerous playing conditions or any other behavior that crosses the line of good sportsmanship, wouldnât you find other places to play? After all, there are 344 other Division I basketball teams in the country.
Itâs certainly acceptable and encouraged to cheer and chant and to hope with all your heart your team wins. In the proper spirit, sports can bring people together and bridge differences in cultures, wealth and religion. Whatâs happening at âThe Showâ at SDSU shouldnât be encouraged and is completely unacceptable.Comment on this story
To be certain, this inappropriate, childish behavior happens on other college campuses around the country, and BYU has its own share of fans that have probably crossed the line. If BYU treats Notre Dame or anyone else this way during a visit to Provo, Iâll gladly reboot this column and let the Cougars have it.
Rivalries are wonderful and good-natured ribbing and passionate competition are part of sports. Chanting obscenities, mocking religion and denigrating players and their families is not. No one should ever have to apologize to a child for a sportâs broadcast.
I anticipate many SDSU fans will call me prudish, self-righteous and other derogatory names. I just wish they could follow Ron Burgundyâs advice to âStay classy, San Diego.â