Bronco 3:16

BYU Coach Bronco Mendenhall's recent use of LDS scripture at a BYU press conference has touched off a firestorm of sports media discussion. Contributing Columnist, Rob James, takes a minute to weigh in on the matter.

If there is one thing that people are beginning to learn about new BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall, it is that he has an agenda that is based on the legacy and history of BYU football, the mission of the university's faith and the faithful efforts of his players.

Recently, Coach Mendenhall used the forum of the unveiling of the teams new uniforms to quote LDS scripture, including, "Never were men known to have fought with such miraculous strength and with such mighty power."

"I know what I'm responsible for," Coach Mendenhall said. "I'm responsible as the leader of this program to be the flag-bearer of this university and the church."

He went on to say the BYU football program would represent BYU as a beacon to the world.

His comments came across with mixed reaction. Some were offended that he used the unveiling forum as an occasion to quote scripture.

Some thought it was a haughty endeavor to place the BYU team in the lofty position of the "The Lord's Team".

Others drew assumptions that his appraisal was far more than a metaphor or an effort to convey his passion. They called it his effort to label BYU the righteous Nephites, Utah the evil Lamanites, and himself the courageous Helaman and Coach Whittingham the evil leader of the ravenous Lamanites.

My guess is that Bronco was no more offering up a parable making himself out to be the leader Helaman than the kingdom of God is actually a mustard seed.

I guess I missed the Sunday School lesson that said, "Scripture was to be likened unto man in all ways save it be sports."

Who wrote the rule that excludes scripture, spirituality or God from football? Do not most people apply religious perception to their livelihood?

How is it that I can apply scripture and pray for guidance success and motivation for my business endeavors, but a football coach is excluded?

Have not hundreds of apprehensive parents left the care and future successes of their children in the hands of this man?

A couple of weeks ago, prior to the 12th seeded UW-Milwaukee Panthers facing off against 4th seeded Boston College in the 2nd round of the NCAA Basketball tournament, Panthers coach Bruce Pearl reminded his players how David slew Goliath.

Now I'm not sure, but I don't think Coach Pearl was implying that UW-Milwaukee was more righteous than the evil Boston College. Nor was he insinuating that his players throw rocks at the favored Eagles in an effort to slay them.

Hence, there was no controversial occurrence following his non-sports related parable. The Eagles fans were obviously intelligent enough to understand he was speaking in allegory.

Now, lest this further fuel the fire, let me admit that I sometimes see sport become too obsessive and idol-istic for many people. But Idols come in many shapes and sizes. Because one idolizes his new car more than his God, does not make every car an evil idol. Because a man worships his job to the neglect of his family and the disregarding of his God does not make any and every job an enemy to God.

Many assume that any to bring religion into sporting events in any way or to pray during or about them is sacrilegious. I remember when I was about 8 years old, sitting with my uncle at our kitchen table, and having him insist that we pray before diving into some cookies and milk. My uncle was tragically killed a few months later, but his example at the table has been a lesson in gratitude and humility my whole life.

BYU is a religious school. BYU football, whether you think it is right or not, is a flag bearer of the university and the LDS Church by virtue of its association with both institutions. If you don't think BYU football reflects on the LDS church to some degree, just go back and look over the media coverage of the last two sexual assault cases involving one-time BYU football players.

The fact is that many people would never have heard of BYU without LaVell Edwards raising the flag during the 80's and 90's. Who would know that UW-Milwaukee exists without their Cinderella trip to the sweet sixteen this year? Who of you would know there is a school named Gonzaga in Washington without their recent prowess in college basketball?

University Sports programs are often a university's brightest beacon.

You don't often find a scriptural passage that can have such powerful metaphoric meaning. To use a passage to motivate a young player by wishing for him that, "Never were men known to have fought with such miraculous strength and fight with such mighty power," scriptural or not, seems to me… perfect.

This article represents the opinions of its author and should not be construed to be representative of the opinions of TBS staff.


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