Lessons learned from sports

I love college football. I grew up in Ohio back when the Buckeyes were coached by Woody Hayes. In spite of his many coaching victories, Woody is probably most remembered for assaulting an opposing player during a game. That act cost him his job, his livelihood and his dignity.

There was definitely fanaticism among OSU supporters, but some of the incidents involving college football fans in Utah the past couple of years are in bad taste and border on clinically cuckoo.

I’ll admit up front that I have never been to a Ute home game. I have two degrees from BYU so fall Saturday football forays are usually to Lavell Edwards Stadium. In fairness to Utah, through the years I’ve seen some poor behavior and incidents of bad sportsmanship at the home of the Cougars.

Last season the annual Utah/BYU rivalry game had plenty of drama. Both teams were highly ranked and eager to prove themselves. BYU won, but some comments after the game by quarterback Max Hall tainted the celebration. He said he hated Utah and he called Ute fans classless. He referenced an incident the previous year at Rice Eccles where members of his family were ridiculed and drenched in beer.

After last year’s game as LES, members of Kyle Whitingham’s family were allegedly berated and one member reportedly knocked to the ground.

This past week late in the Utah/TCU game a female Utah fan reportedly paraded around the north end zone shirtless. After the loss another Ute supported was ticketed because he vented his frustration by shooting his lawn with a gun.

I understand emotion and enthusiasm. But when I hear of these kinds of incidents, I always have a question I want to ask the perpetrators:


College football is a game. It is supposed to be fun—for the people in the stands, for the players, for the fans watching on television or listening on the radio. Win or lose, afterward everyone needs to feel good that they were a witness to the sporting event. When a supporter of either team feels a need to degrade another person’s enjoyment of the experience that is an indicator that he is crossing the line of propriety.

There are rude, boisterous and obnoxious people at almost any sporting event from Little League games to professional competitions. Most of us have learned to ignore the dad at the soccer game who verbally berates a 12-year-old linesman for what he thinks is a bad call. We give the benefit of the doubt to the person at the Jazz game who yells vulgarities and profanity at the top of his lungs because we assume his parents never loved him.

I took all of my children to BYU football, basketball, soccer, baseball, etc. We went to the Winter Olympics, Jazz and Real games. I wanted them to experience competition and pageantry. I wanted them to see examples of sportsmanship. Although I did not plan for it, sporting events also proved to be a good means of letting them learn that there are idiots in the world.

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