Many years ago when I actually cared more about sports than I do now, I read an article in Sports Illustrated entitled, "Clean, Sober And Insufferable: Brigham Young is loathed for its holier-than-thou attitude as well as for its relentless success" by Douglas S. Looney.
I had reason to recall that article when I recently read "BYU Is Now the Duke of the West: Like the Blue Devils, the Cougars Seem to Be Hated Everywhere They Travel; You Got Jimmer'd" by Ben Cohen in The Wall Street Journal.
Granted, one concerns football and the other basketball, but they both have one thing in common. They establish the well-understood fact that people hate BYU because of sports.
I used to hear the claim that BYU sports helped spread the gospel. People would claim that athletes like Steve Young did more for the Church as an athlete than he ever could have as a missionary.
I don't believe this anymore if I ever did. Football does not spread the gospel. Basketball does not spread the gospel. Spreading the gospel spreads the gospel.
How can BYU and its athletes spread the gospel if so many other sports fans all hate them? It's hard to believe this is going to help the Church.
When I was a professor teaching at a university in the early to mid 1990s, I suddenly found myself deluged with questions from students in my classes. They all wanted to know about Eli Herring. Initially, I didn't know who he was. I found out quickly.
All the students wanted to know what it was about my religion that would cause someone to turn down a lucrative career in the NFL. I did my best to explain why he might make such a decision. There seemed to be fascination all around.
One student, who came to my office during office hours to ask me solely about Herring, listened avidly to my explanation. He then queried, "Are there any Mormons playing football in the NFL?"
I replied, "Yes, there's Steve Young for example."
The student's response, "Oh, is he Mormon?"