College football approaches. Of more import than the dawn of that day are the blue and white rays of light that lie just over the horizon, stretching forth from amidst majestic mountains. There’s an excitement stirring deep within my soul – an excitement surpassed only by the anticipation of my daughter’s birth. I can say in no uncertain terms the expectation of a 5:30pm Eastern kickoff time is more palpable to me, more electrifying to me than the prospect of the bid we currently have on a house. Why?
I love my God. I love my wife. I love my country. And I love BYU Cougar Football.
I am truly a son of BYU, born in Provo, Utah to two young parents struggling to raise and support a family while there pursing a higher education; 20 aunts and uncles, 16 cousins, 2 grandparents, and four siblings have attended the school. I grew up in Wyoming a BYU fan and was subjugated to not only mockery, hostility and literal threats because of my love for the Cougars of BYU, but of my religious convictions because of this association. But never have I faltered; never have I wavered; never have I shirked from the responsibility of cheering for my team.
Now I live in the South, where college football is second to none. Coaches are paid a king's ransom to win games and a bowl system is designed to ensure a continual monetary supply. Here the ridicule is the same as my youth, though instead of stones slung by the pauper, I am accosted by the prince. I face ridicule from the proud and haughty hosts that mock the efforts of a successful team in a ‘mid-major’ conference. Little defense have I against the deluge of jibes and taunts of those who have amassed so much prestige and honor through years of on-field success and accolades; yet, even in the midst of such sneering and laughing I am not ashamed. Instead I stand tall, proud to be an ambassador for the Cougars. I am not ashamed because of what my team stands for, what they’re expected to be not only on the playing field, but in life.
Success on the playing field is not enough for the true Cougar fan. A perfect record, a flawless season, a radiant trophy, prestige and recognition…as wonderful and sought after as these honors are, they are but dross – hollow, weak, rubbish – without the commitment to a higher purpose that is required of those who come to compete at BYU. I can, without equivocation, boldly state that the student-athletes of BYU are held to the highest standard of moral, scholastic and athletic character than any other NCAA team in the United States of America.
Could any team that has won a national championship in the past 10 years even come remotely close if it were to ask its student-athletes to actually be student-athletes? Could any one team in the SEC compete with the others if it required its athletes to abstain from alcohol, tobacco, drugs and pre-marital sex? The answer is a resounding and emphatic no.
Give me men of honor, of integrity and of principle. Give me men who will contribute to society in a positive manner. Give me men who are not the greatest of athletes but are the greatest of men. Give me men who the world deems as sub par and inferior that continually exceed expectations while holding fast to principles that make men real men.
This is why I love it. This is why it is honestly more than a game. This is why I get so involved and invested in the successes and failures of this team. This is because no other team, at no other university, teaches such a powerful life lesson, a lesson that is needed more now that at any other time in the history of our nation, our world. That lesson is this:
Who you are matters. What you do outside of the window of public view matters. Actions in private have repercussions in public. It is not sufficient to be glamorous and eye-catching in the moment; it is paramount to be solid and grounded in character. Actions have consequences…always there are consequences. Success in the world is fleeting and can be swept away without a firm foundation. No prestige and honor can compensate for the lack of moral fortitude. As history old and new continues to make clear, when there is no conviction of character, surely follows conviction of a more sordid sort.
I want my football team to be men - real men, men of character who pursue perfection on and off the field. As a Cougar fan, one is not acceptable without the other. But if ever one must suffer, let it be the former; for without the it, accolades of the latter are simply hollow victories forgotten in time, helpless and without power to inspire greatness.
Give me substance.
Give me BYU Football.
(Transcript from the above link):
Today…is your defining moment. Expectations are extremely high, but you knew that before you set foot on this campus; before you signed the honor code; before you put on your first BYU shirt. We have a tradition unlike any other. Those who have gone before us are the giants upon whose shoulders we now stand. There’ll be no sitting on the sidelines. No waiting for somebody else to make to happen…and there will be no compromises. What I’m asking for…is for your performance today to come from a deeper place. No matter how hard, no matter how tough, you are expected to make a difference. There is no other way here, other than greatness, and now it’s your time to perform. My question to you is are you ready? Today are you ready? Are you at your best?
Because once you leave this room people are counting on you. They’re counting on you to be great. They’re counting on you to be great. And they’re counting on you to do all the things you’re supposed to do as a representative of BYU.
Please never forget why you’re here. Never forget who you are. And never forget – so much…so much depends on what you do today.