There’s adversity in all things, we decided, so we lived through our football season. We stayed true-blue fans and we’ll move onto basketball now and volleyball. —BYU fan Evelyn Ellsworth
PROVO — The way some blue-clad fans look at it, the 2017 BYU football season had two clear highlights.
The pinnacle, of course, was the win over San Jose State. Oh, that blessed 41-20 win. It might have been the most celebrated victory since Robbie Bosco led the Cougars to a 1984 Holiday Bowl triumph over Michigan on one leg. Even if it wasn’t quite on that level, it was a much-needed result. It snapped a seven-game losing streak, giving football fans something to cheer about if only for one afternoon — and perhaps giving longsuffering BYU faithful hope that losing streaks can end at seven games.
The football season’s other highlight?
How to put this nicely let’s see well basketball.
Thank goodness for hoops. Phew! It arrived just in the nick of time.
"Yeah," BYU fan Matt Brousseau of Lehi admitted, "I’m looking forward to basketball season."
Football is merely the appetizer and basketball is the main entrée on this campus anyway, right?
While we’re on a culinary tangent, there was a third highlight for BYU this fall. Take a bow, caffeinated drinks. Oh, yes. Cosmo should also take a bow, but only after busting some going-viral-again-worthy moves.
Other than that, there simply wasn’t much for BYU football fans to get excited about — except for a merciful end.
"The football season just wasn’t entertaining this year," said lifelong BYU fan Kerry Cooper, a Salem resident whose grayish streaks of hair gave away the fact that he’s been around for much, much better times. "It was such a bad product on the field. We went to the games, but it was hard sometimes."
"Rough" is how Brousseau described it.
"It seems like we never improved that much," BYU fan Evelyn Ellsworth said. "We’ve been season ticket holders for 40 years, so it was hard."
"Painful" is the word Ken Carlson chose. The Orem resident even skipped the final game because "a better offer" came up. (The better offer: yard work. OK, not really. It was a golf trip, his wife said with a smile.)
"I’m still a fan," Janelle Carlson said. "I hate to see them lose, but I like to watch them play."
BYU fans only get one more chance to do that. The Cougars officially call it quits for the year after (here’s hoping it’s after) Saturday’s game in Hawaii. Their old rivals from Oahu have had just as miserable of a season — 3-8 with four straight losses — so this is a decent opportunity for the Y. to finish on a winning note.
Then again, games against Utah, Utah State, East Carolina, Fresno State and UMass — especially UMass — seemed winnable, too.
If this football season has BYU sports fans feeling a Jimmermania-level of excitement for the Cougar cagers — that’s what newspaper writers called basketball players when football seasons like this one were common in Provo — they’re not alone.
“We were really ready for basketball to start,” BYU sophomore Kjerstin Roberts said Tuesday at the Marriott Center while rounding up oversized cutouts of goofy faces that the student section hoists up when opponents shoot free throws. “We’re just super hyped.”
Don’t feel too much pressure, Dave Rose, but Cougar Nation has turned its forlornly eyes to you. While a 3-9 football season managed to suck the life — or at least the fun — out of fandom for some, this basketball team has an opportunity to perform CPR on a wounded fan base.
"There’s adversity in all things, we decided, so we lived through our football season," Ellsworth said. "We stayed true-blue fans and we’ll move onto basketball now and volleyball."
The good news?
BYU’s 3-1 basketball team has already racked up as many wins as the football team, and the season isn’t even a month old yet.
"I just love basketball. I think the team’s going to be pretty good," Cooper said. "It’s a good product. They like to run and gun, and that’s fun."
Though it can provide a nice distraction, there's no guarantee basketball will always provide a panacea for emotional distress incurred during the football season.
Last Saturday was a painful example of that. Some fans made it a two-for-one day on campus, first attending the dismal football loss to UMass at LaVell Edwards Stadium and then having hopes of a soul-soothing win dashed that night when the Cougars dropped the ball (many times) at home in a disappointing 89-75 loss to UT-Arlington.
But the Mavericks are a good team — barely lost to BYU’s next opponent, 25th-ranked Alabama, 77-76 on Tuesday — and the Cougars have the makings of a fun year with exciting players like Yoeli Childs, TJ Haws and Elijah Bryant. There's some hope.
BYU had a crowd of 10,000-plus in attendance for Tuesday’s entertaining 95-88 win over a feisty Niagara team.
"I think our students were a lot more ready for basketball this season," said Roberts, a ROC board member, "because they had seen a rough (football) season. They were ready for us to have a fun sport to go to."
Beating the Purple Eagles wasn’t a monumental win, but it was a successful outcome. No BYU fan will take that for granted right now.
"Football was kind of disappointing this year," said Las Vegas-based BYU fan Brent Bailey, who attended this game while in town for Thanksgiving. "But now we’re pretty fired up for basketball."
Brousseau is among the fans who try to keep a good perspective, which seems like a healthy way to approach fandom.
"I’d love to see these boys do well this year, but whether they do well or not, I’m going to support them — both football and basketball. I love them both,” said Brousseau, who laughed while admitting he’s a BYU fan who used to play hoops at Utah Valley University. "The kids work hard. Sometimes things don’t work out the way they should, but, you know, I’m looking forward to a good basketball season."
If nothing else, this football season made fans excited to jump ahead to 2018. It couldn't get much worse.
"I hope we’ve got a great (football) team," Ellsworth said. "We’re looking forward to next year."
In the meantime, basketball is a welcome distraction.