Pride and Prejudice of BYU Fandom

As the original editor, publisher and a former partner of www.TotalBlueSports.com and TOTAL BLUE SPORTS magazine, I am increasingly disturbed, and sometimes embarrassed, by the negative tone and tenor of a few message board posters who simply believe they have paid for the right to express any irresponsible or mean-spirited comments they want – the emotional consequences to all others be damned.

I vehemently disagree. TBS is not some kind of Utopian democracy.

In my previous ownership/management tenure with this website, I often served as the TBS message board cop and referee, adamantly-but-respectfully reminding some that this website was created with the express purpose of being a much more positive, civil and responsible venue providing like-minded BYU fans -- including family and friends of former, present and future players – what they really wanted to read in a place and space unlike any other.

I know the original TBS partners have NOT changed their position.

That does not mean subscribers cannot disagree or provide constructive criticism with each other or the TBS partners, administrators and longtime contributors like me, but we always strived to maintain a higher level of civility and responsible posting. And we were successful.

Some TBS posters in recent months have unintentionally lowered those longtime standards.

Just like Bronco Mendenhall's BYU football program is not for everyone, neither is TBS the place for posters who insist on writing inappropriate remarks. It is particularly galling when some posters deliberately insult and alienate family members of players or recruits who also pay for the right to participate in this unique forum for BYU fans. Unusually, everyone at TBS is required to post using their real names, but that doesn't seem to make a difference for some.

As an independent editorial entity not associated with BYU in any way, it is not TBS's role or purpose to influence prospective recruits to attend BYU – even if it does so indirectly – but to report the thoughts and feelings of prospective recruits and existing players and coaches. In that capacity, TBS is no different from any other conventional media outlet – with their own message boards – covering BYU sports

The fact that TBS has more parents and close family members of Cougar athletes and prospective recruits – who contribute regularly while others lurk silently in the background – distinguishes it from any other BYU-related sports website. It is a good thing that some parents feel comfortable enough to publicly interact in a forum with fans of all stripes and flavors, providing first-hand facts and direct-from-the-source perspectives.

Some TBS posters passionately argue their freedom of expression to write what they want, without fear of written reprisal from these family members or others who disagree with them, is not only fine but fair. They are wrong and, quite frankly, TBS may not be the place for them because they are clearly in the fractionally tiny minority. Unfortunately, they create a lot of unwanted negative message board "noise" and bickering.

More importantly, whether they know it or not, they do influence the minds and hearts of the parents and close family of highly recruited athletes who are occasionally amused, irritated and sometimes insulted by the audacity of some who post before they think sensibly about their emotionally-charged comments.

There is a distinct possibility some posters, upon reading this column, may threaten or terminate their TBS subscriptions in defiance and outrage, but I have a vested interest in ensuring this venue becomes more attractive to more BYU sports fans who yearn for a more positive environment free from bitter vitriol, mean-spiritedness and unwarranted personal attacks.

Since leaving TBS, I voluntarily write all my columns without monetary compensation because I love this website and fully support my former partners – and choose to help them with additional editorial content when my time and interest permits me.

There's a reason TBS does not, intentionally, have a FREE message board like most other web sites on Scout.com or Rivals.com.

It was never the partners' desire or design for TBS's message board to become a paid-subscription extension of Cougarboard.com. TBS subscribers should again be reminded this unique venture was specifically created to provide accurate stories, firsthand insights and observations from boots-on-the-grounds partners (Brandon Gurney and Talo Steves) and editors – and provide an interactive online forum that accentuates more positive and responsible BYU-related fan postings not found anywhere else on the Internet.

Internet posters on many other free college message boards, and sometimes Cougarboard.com, have their postings deleted, or are sometimes banned temporarily or permanently, for more egregious infractions of common decency and etiquette – as determined by the owners and/or administrators.

For TBS subscribers who believe their negative comments or criticism should not or do not carry much credence or weight with the family or parents (also TBS members) of uncommitted BYU recruits, you are way off-base. I have spoken off-line with some of these parents and, though some respond on the message board with irritation, the full measure of their ire can and may influence whether or not their sons choose to sign with BYU.

And for any TBS subscriber to say they don't care whether these parents or their sons choose BYU, or they probably aren't going to sign with the Cougars anyway because they have bigger and better college opportunities with other football powerhouses, I feel empowered to state categorically that TBS may not be the place for you. I care – as do the overwhelming majority of TBS subscribers.

What sets TBS apart from any other site is the sole fact we have more parents of recruited – highly or not – athletes who willingly choose to spend time interacting with regular fans on the message board or in the chat room, answering questions or setting the record straight. This is something the TBS partners encourage and hope all other subscribers realize their good fortune and opportunity to address their firsthand questions or concerns in a professional and civil manner with these parents.

Subscribers should also understand that some parents of the more highly recruited athletes might be intentionally and deliberately coy or vague with their TBS message board comments, anecdotes and sentiments – not wishing to give away any real leanings they may or may not have when it comes to influencing their son's life-changing college selection.

It is highly notable that some of these parents are only paid-subscribers to TBS and not to other paid college sites their sons are also being wooed by. It doesn't mean anything, but, then again, it could mean a lot.

In the case of the TBS-subscriber fathers of two of the most coveted 2009 BYU recruits – Manti Te'o and John Martinez – I probably know these men better than most TBS subscribers (I have known one of these men for more than 10 years and another through numerous conversations) and I haven't the foggiest notion where they will influence their sons to attend college at.

In any event, I don't think TBS subscribers should be making unfair or inaccurate prejudgments or castigating them in an unfavorable light with unseemly remarks. I can promise you it could definitely hurt BYU's chances of signing them, whether they are willing to admit it or not.

My logic is quite simple: How would I feel, if I was the father of a nationally-recruited athlete also interested in BYU, reading some irresponsible, inaccurate, mean-spirited and ill-advised posts on TBS as another paid subscriber? I'd be royally ticked. True or not, some of these unfortunate posts are a representation of a fan base representing a LDS religious culture and people with the biggest "victim-complexes" (my own words and thoughts) whenever their church is unfairly or inaccurately portrayed, yet some are quick to judge others in their postings with unkind, untrue, uncivil and downright mean message board comments.

And you wonder why some BYU sports administrators and coaches, if they had their way, would do away with Internet college message boards altogether.

I believe more stringent steps and consequences need to be outlined and specified by the TBS owners when, and if, inappropriate topics or individual irresponsible comments are posted.

Like its unprecedented "real-name-only" policy, TBS operates under unique constraints that only allow Steves and Gurney open access to BYU practices and coaches for interviews, but not quite the complete package extended to other credentialed media persons. However, it also affords TBS the opportunity to have Troy Verde shoot his excellent photos, like other credentialed media members, for TOTAL BLUE SPORTS magazine.

Steves, Gurney and mostly-silent partner Jedd Parkinson deserve all the credit in the world for the numerous challenges and obstacles they have overcome to provide and consistency deliver a stand-alone online and magazine product and presence for diehard BYU fans.

For my small part, I knowingly made enemies within the BYU sports administrative hierarchy, and also with Scout.com's CEO in the early years, stubbornly fighting for respect, credibility and recognition for TBS. Some of the original TBS subscribers may recall some of the public encounters.

I also fought to keep TBS free from unwarranted personal attacks between paid-subscribers and, respectfully-but-forcefully, challenged anyone who questioned the integrity, policies or conduct of TBS's owners in the design and development of our own creation.

With this column, I have again assumed the position – using the Internet equivalent of the Queensbury Rules – to stand and defend those same rights and privileges that www.TotalBlueSports.com was created for given the unusual, if not tenuous, circumstances that allows TBS to continue to operate, survive and prosper.

Though I no longer have an ownership voice in TBS, I am free, as long as I also live within the rules, to express my unique perspective as an ongoing editorial writer who has earned a measure of credibility over the years.

But before you have at me, you should all be reminded of TBS's beginnings detailed eloquently by founder/partner Jedd Parkinson on May 11, 2004. His story, "AGAINST ALL ODDS: The Inside TBS Story Revealed," can be found here.

Flame away.


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