Josh Ferrin, Deseret News
Brigham Young University's alumni president had a choice to make Thursday night: Watch BYU alum Mitt Romney's speech at the Republican National Convention or watch the nationally televised season opener for BYU football's team.
Michael O'Connor refused to choose. Instead, he saved both for later.
"I couldn't handle either one of them live," said O'Connor, who lives in Riverside, Calif., and like Romney is also a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "I'm so invested in both of them that I didn't want to go back and forth between the two and be tempted to go back and forth between the two. I wanted to be able to watch them both in a manner in which I could be fully concentrated on one of the other without thinking about the other."
Across the country, many LDS BYU football fans faced the same dilemma: Watch as the first Mormon to become the presidential nominee of a major political party made his acceptance speech, or watch the Cougars kick off their season against a strong opponent, the Washington State Cougars of the Pac-12.
Fans of both Romney and BYU went to Twitter to share their excitement — or defend their choice.
For Jeff Smith, a BYU alumnus in Palo Alto, Calif., the decision was a simple one. He said he watched only the game.
"In 2008, I was all over the conventions and everything leading up to the elections. But the last four years I've been turned off towards politics and politicians," Smith said in an email.
"When Romney has already been campaigning for a year-and-a-half (make that more like six years), I just don't feel like there is anything new to say that hasn't already been said. The start of college football is like a breath of fresh air!"
While some chose one or the other to watch live, others flipped between the two — including those attending the events.
In his article for Buzzfeed, McKay Coppins, a BYU alumnus, described the excitement as the LDS church members among Utah's Republican delegates at the convention buzzed about having Romney on the stage while BYU was winning their game against WSU:
"The Mormons on the floor of the convention hall here Thursday night were feeling like winners," Coppins wrote.
"Not only had one of their own just officially accepted the Republican presidential nomination — marking a climax to the current 'Mormon moment,' and a triumphant emergence into the American mainstream for their faith — but Brigham Young University's football team was about win its season opener. As the balloons fell, Utah delegate Brent Bishop looked up from his iPhone and announced the third-quarter score to the rest of the delegation.
"'14-3, BYU!' he declared. 'We're winners all around tonight!'"
"High-fives were exchanged. Woo-hoos were emitted. And Mitt Romney's proudest and most loyal constituency soaked in the feeling of victory on a night when their political and religious standard-bearer finally decided to join them in the Mormon moment."
In LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said she sat in the university president's lodge with a television carrying the speech, while a television nearby aired the game playing out in front of her.
"It was really funny because there was a group of us that kept turning our heads from one to the other, so actually I was able to see both, which was terrific," she said in an email. "It really was a great night."
Back in Riverside, Calif., O'Connor said he avoided the temptation to switch between the two events by recording both and escaping to attend a baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. On the way home from the game, he listened to Romney's speech on satellite radio and then settled in at home to watch the recording of BYU vs. Washington State.
BYU thumped WSU, 30-6.
"The Angels won, Mitt Romney knocked it out of the park and the Cougars beat Washington State," O'Connor said. "So, I'm tired today, but I'm wearing my Cougar blue golf shirt to work."
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