<B><I>COMMENTARY:</B></I> <BR> I learned yesterday that a shameful number of people called KSL Radio (Utah) with particularly negative comments or wrote mean-spirited posts on Internet sports message boards about your service to BYU.

These anonymous critics aren't fit to tie your shoes. I'm not saying you or your administration were perfect. What I'm saying is that too many of these critics set up a "straw man" – that you should have been perfect or meet some imaginary standard they created and then felt good and powerful about knocking the straw man down.

Yet these same critics would probably run and hide if the light of day was focused on them and their identities unveiled. As a young boy, my father told me to always remember, "It's always the lightest wagon that rattles the most."

Why is it that I am suspicious the most vocal vitriolic critics may be failures in some important measure of their own lives?

Maybe that's the reason they hide behind their anonymity and then decide to roll boulder after boulder upon persons who aren't in a position to defend themselves.

It kind of reminds me of the Jerry Springer show on TV where the losers in the audience gloat over persons who are even more screwed up than they are. At least these audiences show their faces as they rip into each dysfunctional guest.

These anonymous critics don't provide you the same courtesy, but hide under a rock. Cowards hide under rocks.

What is this malady that compell some people to rip someone else down with cheap shots in the relative safety of anonymity in order to make themselves feel BIG? To think these are mostly LDS members whose Sunday values belie their unforgiving and mean-spirited comments is even more disturbing to me.

Please know there are many who are thankful for your devoted service to BYU. I am one of them and I don't even know you. There is far too much naysaying and negative bashing that takes place in BYU sports, but that's life.

I do know from firsthand experience what it is like to be judged unfairly sometimes. Since you are a public figure in Provo, you're an easy target for people with this combination:

(1) too few facts in their possession
(2) too much venom or have a hidden agenda
(3) cowards who attack from the shadows and gleefully participate in mob mentality
(4) a big mouth or fast typist who speaks/writes before he/she thinks

A good number of devoted BYU fans are not members of the LDS Church and many of them are a better example of Christian charity than those who profess membership in the LDS Church. Cheryl Brown, mother of BYU running back Curtis Brown, is a powerful example of one such individual. She's just as fiercely devoted to BYU as any fan, but she doesn't believe her devotion is a license to cheap-shot anyone.

It's as if the love of college sports give people the right to "pass" on living the Golden Rule. BYU fans should follow this higher standard. If there was an enforceable "honor code" for such behavior, a lot of people would have their speaking or posting privileges suspended or revoked.

Joseph Smith, the founding prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) commented, "While one portion of the human race is judging and condemning the other without mercy, the Great Parent of the universe looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard."

In more recent times, the late LDS apostle Elder Marvin J. Ashton, remarked: "In the world today we are victims of many who use their tongues as sharp swords. The misuse of our tongues seems to add intrigue and destruction as the media and private persons indulge in this pastime. In the vernacular of the day, this destructive activity is called bashing. The dictionary reports that to bash is to strike with a heavy, crushing blow.

"Such a popular behavior is indulged in by far too many who bash a neighbor, a family member, a public servant, a community, a country, a church. It is alarming also how often we find children bashing parents and parents bashing children.

"We as members of the Church need to be reminded that the words ‘Nay, speak no ill' are more than a phrase in a musical context but a recommended way of life.

"We need to be reminded more than ever before that ‘if there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.' (Articles of Faith) If we follow that admonition, there is no time for the dastardly hobby of bashing instead of building.

"Some think the only way to get even, get attention, gain an advantage or to win is to bash people. This kind of behavior is never appropriate. Oftentimes, character, reputation and self-esteem are destroyed under the hammer of this vicious practice.

"Real charity is not something you give away; it is something that you acquire and make a part of yourself. When the virtue of charity becomes implanted in your heart, you are never the same again.

"Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don't judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet.

Charity is accepting the differences, weaknesses and shortcomings of others; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn't handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is expecting the best of each other.

"Most of us are already well aware of the areas we are weak in. What we all need is family, friends, employers, brothers and sisters who support us, who have the patience to teach us, who believe in us, and who believe we're trying to do the best we can – despite our weaknesses.

"Whatever happened to giving each other the benefit of the doubt? Whatever happened to hoping that another person would succeed or achieve? Whatever happened to rooting for each other?"

It's tougher being on the firing line than in the stands, but many of your critics miss that point. I'm waiting for any commentator or critic to say, "I am qualified to bash Val Hale because here is my successful experience in leading a major college athletic department. From my firsthand experience, here is my criticism …" Of course, that won't happen.

Their real agenda is not to show this or that defect in what you did or did not do and enter into an open dialogue. An open dialogue is when they reveal themselves and have the guts to talk with you man to man, face to face. Their real agenda is to show the world how smart they think they are, but ONLY if they can do so from the shadows with no real accountability.

There is a sickness of the soul that reveals itself when people hide in the shadows, trying to elevate themselves by tearing down another admittedly-flawed person in the spotlight.

Val, I wish you well in your new job search. Thank you for contributing to the growth of BYU athletics. Try your best to ignore the cheap-shot artists for the troubled individuals they reveal themselves to be.

You've got a lot of friends you don't even know, even if you were not perfect in all respects in your work. I am far from perfect myself, but perfection isn't the issue. Charity, brotherhood and the Golden Rule is.

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