In the past few days I’ve noticed some of my friends joining a Facebook group called “Max Hall said what everyone was thinking.” (I have quite a few friends in this group right now. If you’re one of them I’m about to condemn it in no uncertain terms. I hope this doesn’t upset or offend you as I value your friendship. Maybe this post can open a dialog. Who knows, perhaps you have some rebuttal for my argument that I haven’t thought of yet.)
Max Hall is, of course, BYU’s quarterback and the group refers to these comments (taken from the group’s page) that he made after the game last Saturday:
I don’t like Utah. In fact, I hate them — I hate everything about them. I hate their program. I hate their fans. I hate everything. So, it feel good to send those guys home… I think the whole university and their fans and organization is classless… I don’t respect them, and they deserve to lose
This article gives more context, but unfortunately it doesn’t mitigate the inflammatory nature of the remarks. Now, before I comment on anything else I should say that Hall made the comments right after a tough game during which there was undoubtedly a lot of adrenaline pumping through his system. I know that that sort of situation can cause people to say things they would otherwise keep to themselves and though I think Hall is an idiot for what he did, I can understand making a mistake. (On the other hand, Hall would no doubt like to go pro but if the emotion of a game prevents him from controlling himself he’s hardly NFL material.)
In any case, Hall’s comments were a mistake. He admitted as much and was also officially rebuked for them. What is much more troubling than Hall messing up is the fact that BYU students have created a group to honor and perpetuate his mistake. Though Hall’s comments reflect poorly on him and his school (which is my own alma mater too) the Facebook group endorses negativity and unsportsmanlike conduct. Hall at least had the weak excuse that he was riled up by the game. What excuse do BYU fans sitting at home on their computers have? That they’re ill mannered jerks?
The comments on the Facebook group’s page vary. Some mention that the University of Utah’s football team was playing a dirty game. Others mention that U football players have similarly said insulting things about BYU. However, that type of excuse is so flimsy it’s laughable. Both teams played a dirty game and even if the U had worn brass knuckles onto the field BYU students should have taken the high road once the game was over. Do they really hate U fans? Seriously? Isn’t BYU all about service and showing Christ-like love? Even to people who chose to get an education at different universities? Ultimately, this whole thing makes BYU look like it’s filled with mean-spirited bullies.
I think it might be useful to imagine this whole episode as an inspirational sports movie in the vein of Rudy or Remember the Titans. On BYU’s side we have a fifth year senior who didn’t even play very well. Maybe the U deserved to lose, but Hall’s performance hardly justified a win. On the other side, the U had an 18 year old freshman as their quarterback. As the announcers on the Mountain West Sports Network said during the game, he didn’t show that he was a freshman during the first half but it was apparent in the second. Nevertheless the Utes held BYU at bay the entire game until Max Hall finally got lucky and threw a complete pass to win. Then, despite the win, the much older Hall went on to ice the cake with an insult.
If this were a movie BYU would, without question, be the bad guy. Most sports movies include some brutish, mean antagonist and BYU almost perfectly fits that bill. The only problem is that Hall will never have to face the U again so there won’t be a rematch during which the older, more experienced bully is crushed by the resilient underdog. In other words, the U was Rocky. The U was Rudy. The U was every sports movie hero and BYU ended up playing the part of a stock bad guy.
I think this movie analogy is useful because the Facebook group supporting Hall currently has 2065 members at the time I’m writing this. It makes me wonder: does everyone want to come off as a vindictive bastard? Do people like perpetuating the worst parts of a dirty game? Does this group strike any of its members as being somewhat at odds with the values they claim to believe in? I’m not saying that BYU fans (and many of my friends) are bastards or hypocrites, but the Facebook group certainly makes our school appear to be extremely bad sports. And really, that’s not good for anyone.
My guess is that most people aren’t thinking very much about this issue. Rivalries are fun and the conflict they allow can be a much-needed outlet for a lot of people. Perhaps BYU supporters who have joined the group simply feel like they’re showing school spirit. However, I hope that BYU students and fans realize that sports rivalries are not worth being a fool over. Going to another school and (passionately) supporting that school’s team doesn’t make someone a bad person. One bad apple shouldn’t be used to generalize the bunch (which BYU must appreciate, in light of Hall’s comments and the unfortunate actions of some BYU fans after the game). This seems obvious, but the existence of a group like this makes it seem like BYU students have lost sight of things that really matter. If the world is actually going to be the campus of BYU students, there isn’t room for hate groups.