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Friday, November 26, 2010

Pride, Rivalry, BYU and the Utes: A Thoroughly Disgusting Spectacle

I hate sports. The great thing about the Internet is that you never have to deal with it if you don't click on "sports" or a sports icon. Well, the Superbowl does hit the main news headlines about a week before the big game. Only then does sports intrude on my consciousness.

Why such strong feelings from a former competitive athlete? Simple, I was put off by the unnatural importance people give to it. So, a posting on sports is uncharacteristic of me.

I didn't expect it to intrude on my consciousness while reading GetReligion.org. But, because it did, I'm posting on it.

First a wonderful quote from President Uchtdorf's Priesthood address, "Pride and the Priesthood" from November 2010's General Conference.
Perhaps there is no better laboratory to observe the sin of pride than the world of sports. I have always loved participating in and attending sporting events. But I confess there are times when the lack of civility in sports is embarrassing. How is it that normally kind and compassionate human beings can be so intolerant and filled with hatred toward an opposing team and its fans?
I have watched sports fans vilify and demonize their rivals. They look for any flaw and magnify it. They justify their hatred with broad generalizations and apply them to everyone associated with the other team. When ill fortune afflicts their rival, they rejoice.
For those of you who need a little history about the rivalry between BYU and the University of Utah I offer the following from Austin Murphy's article, "The Right Call" in the November 8, 2010 edition of Sports Illustrated:
The BYU-Utah rivalry, the so-called Holy War, is often described as a clash between church and state: the devoutly Mormon Cougars versus the secular Utes. (Certainly there are plenty of BYU fans who choose to see it that way.) The fact is, roughly half the players on Utah's roster are LDS.
. . . Last year, after tossing the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime to beat Utah 26--23, BYU quarterback Max Hall spoke from his heart about his feelings for the Utes.
"I don't like Utah," he said. "In fact I hate them. I hate everything about them. I hate their program, their fans.... I think the whole university and their fans and their organization is classless."
At Rice-Eccles the previous season, Hall contended, Utah fans "threw beer on my family" and "did a whole bunch of nasty things.... They deserved to lose."
Utah fans got less upset about that rant than they did about a self-righteous pronouncement by Cougars receiver Austin Collie following BYU's last-minute 17--10 victory over the Utes in 2007. "When you're doing what's right, on and off the field," Collie proclaimed, "the Lord steps in and plays a part."
The fact that there were 27 returned LDS missionaries on the Utah roster probably didn't enter Collie's mind. But implicit in his remark—and this is the attitude that drives Utes (LDS Utes in particular) around the bend—is the belief that the Cougars and their fans are literally holier than thou. That, at least, is what Utah fans choose to infer.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey summed the situation up well in her November 12 posting on GetReligion.org entitled, "A Mormon rivalry."
Half of the University of Utah’s team are Mormon, and one of the players says some of his Mormon teammates of them feel that BYU players think they’re better Mormons because they go to a church-affiliated school.
[The author's errors are preserved for accuracy. Ignore them and focus on the point she made.]

I'll close with President Uchtdorf:
. . . Pride is sinful, as President Benson so memorably taught, because it breeds hatred or hostility and places us in opposition to God and our fellowmen. At its core, pride is a sin of comparison, for though it usually begins with “Look how wonderful I am and what great things I have done,” it always seems to end with “Therefore, I am better than you.”
When our hearts are filled with pride, we commit a grave sin, for we violate the two great commandments.7 Instead of worshipping God and loving our neighbor, we reveal the real object of our worship and love—the image we see in the mirror.
Pride is the great sin of self-elevation. . .

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