Menu Bar

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Hadley Offers Cougar Fans Much Needed Peace

As I slugged to bed after yet another defeat at the hands on the Utes Saturday night (I'm on the east coast, so it was very late), I was in complete despair. Although the game was technically close, it felt like a blowout. And it felt like what I had been denying for so long was actually true: the Utah football program was simply better than the BYU program. For the next few days, I wallowed in misery and resigned myself to the conclusion that BYU's football program was, is, and always will be mediocre. And some years it might be downright bad. The glory days of national championships, Heisman trophies, and 55 points per game are over.

I even started doubting Bronco Mendenhall, someone I had spent the last few years defending on Twitter and the message boards against an onslaught of angry fans.

Spencer Hadley, left, with his father, Alan.
But yesterday was a new day for me, and I think for a lot of BYU fans. Jeff Benedict's piece in Sports Illustrated reminded me of what it means to be a BYU football fan, a member of the LDS church, and a Christian. Without going into every detail of the story--it is a must read for every college football fan--it recounts Spencer Hadley's trip with the team to the to a local jail just days after Hadley's suspension. It tells how, unexpectedly, Hadley decided to open up to the inmates about the bitter shame of letting down his team, his family, his church, and himself and about the sweet joy of redemption as he earns back the privilege to represent the school in uniform. At the end of his talk to the inmates, Hadley embraced Bronco and wept into his shoulder. The inmates were also in tears.
In a sport where winning is the one and only goal, Mendenhall has consistently put everything on the line to hold the BYU banner where it ought to wave. In the process, he has been a spiritual mentor to those who need it most when they need it most. From Hadley, to Kyle Van Noy, to O'Neil Chambers, Bronco Mendenhall has made it clear that during this transformative time in these young men's lives, football is far from the most important thing. And in the process, Bronco reminds us all that football is a game--a wonderful, spectacular game, but a game nonetheless.

So, maybe Utah does have the better football program. Maybe BYU will never again compete for a national championship. Maybe BYU will never land a top 25 recruiting class. But if BYU remains a unique place where boys become men and Gospel truths make linebackers weep, then I will forever remain loyal, strong, and true to that university.