Living off Moral Victories


BYU basketball team loses at Oregon in Eugene, 100-96 in Overtime. Photo Credit: Daily Herald

Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal.  Nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.

There’s a battle going on between BYU fans.  There are the angry negative BYU fans, and there are the optimistic positive BYU fans.

The angry “negative” fans seem to be emotionally exhausted.  They are tired of investing time, money, and emotion into BYU athletics.  Many of these fans have become the victims of an unhealthy, abusive relationship.  They try and hide the black eyes and broken hearts, and yet just keep going back for more.

The optimistic “positive” fans are un-phased by losses.  They are loyal, strong and true.  They are content with BYU losing because the team gave a “good effort.”  The game was “exciting to watch!”  These fans psychologically tell themselves that it is okay to lose, and live in a magical fairy-tale Walt Disney universe.  Winning sports games is not the most important thing in the world.

What kind of fan am I?  I guess I would be lying if I said that I have been having a blast watching BYU lose close games to good teams on a prime-time stage, over and over and over again.  I would be lying if I said I had uplifting feelings or words after all of these losses.  I suppose because of these feelings and reactions, I wouldn’t classify myself as the happiest BYU fan you might meet.  And i may even voice my displeasure.  Does this make me a negative fan?

BYU fans watch as BYU loses to Utah 20-13 at LaVell Edwards Stadium (9/21/13) Photo Credit: Daily Herald

Hide the children.  My negativity might be toxic.  More toxic than the freezing polluted air we breathe during this Utah winter inversion.

However, I have come to realize that there is a difference between being a negative fan and being a fan that is not content with losing.

On Saturday night, the BYU basketball team went on the road to Eugene, Oregon to play an undefeated Oregon Ducks basketball team that was ranked 13th in the nation.  BYU came in with a mediocre 8-4 record.  Naturally, nobody would have given BYU much of a chance in this game.  But like almost every game this season against a quality opponent on a prime-time stage, BYU dominated and led for almost the entire game, only to give up in the final seconds and give the game away.

“But man, it was such a fun game to watch!  At least they tried hard!”

I understand the notion that “you can’t win ‘em all.”  But how many times can I stay positive after so many heartbreaking losses?  Should I brainwash my mind into just being content and bubbly after every result?

This basketball season has been more frustrating than any other season that I can remember.  Sometimes I feel like I would rather just get blown out by some of these good teams, rather than give the game away after dominating for the majority of regulation.  It would probably be easier on my heart.  It’s like BYU tricks us for 38 minutes and keeps us emotionally invested, only to punch us in the stomach in the final minutes.  We saw it against Iowa State, Wichita State, and now Oregon.

BYU Tyler Haws battles for a loose ball vs Iowa State. Photo Credit: Salt Lake Tribune

Up until the game against Oregon, BYU had won 212 consecutive games in the Dave Rose era when leading with only a minute left in regulation.  BYU led by 4 with a minute left against Oregon.  The Ducks would eventually walk away with the victory in overtime.  BYU would walk away with the moral victory.

And then the fans keep coming back for more.  The emotional abuse never ends.

During these difficult times, I turn to the words of Vince Lombardi for comfort and wisdom.

“Winning is not a sometime thing, it is an all the time thing.  You don’t do things right once in a while…you do them right all the time.”

“The spirit, the will to win and the will to excel – these are the things that endure and these are the qualities that are so much more important than any of the events that occasion them.”

“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather in a lack of will.”

BYU Head Basketball Coach Dave Rose – Photo Credit: Salt Lake Tribune

It is time to face reality.  BYU has become a program that is content with losing.  The University, the players, and a majority of the fans live and breathe off moral victories.  Winning games has dropped several measures on the list of importance.

Is winning still important to BYU?  Yes, as long as we beat the teams that we are expected to beat.  But dropping games against the “good” teams is okay, because we have all accepted the notion that we are the universal underdog.  Am I cheering for Brigham Young University, or Walt Disney University?

It doesn’t help that our football team seems to have the exact same mindset.  Sometimes I feel like I was the only fan in Camp Randall Stadium that was ripping the hair out of my head when we ran a draw play with under a minute left, on the 35 yard line, with no timeouts left, down 2 scores to Wisconsin.  It was difficult for me to handle that this football team—that I flew across the country to see—that I invested time and money in—was just going to shut it down and give up.

BYU Quarterback Taysom Hill scrambles against Wisconsin – Photo Credit: Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

Two weeks later, BYU laid down and allowed a mediocre Notre Dame team to have their way with us.  Late in the game, BYU had plenty of chances to win.  But it was evident that the desire and the urgency was missing.  The play calling was conservative.  The execution was sloppy.  The weather was too cold.   “But we gave a good effort, and hey, it is Notre Dame after all.  They have so much tradition and prestige!  It was just fun being there!  We are just so grateful for the opportunity!  Win or lose!”

Once upon a time, LaVell Edwards and his football team was on the verge of losing their 5th straight bowl game.  The year was 1980.  BYU trailed a very good SMU team 45-25 with under 4 minutes remaining.  BYU faced a fourth down, and Doug Scovil indicated to Coach Edwards to shut it down and punt the ball away.  I mean, BYU was down by 20 points to SMU.  The Cougars had lost every bowl game they ever played in.  We had become content with losing these games.  We expected it.  The only factor that would change that would be the heart and the will of a winner, as Vince Lombardi describes.

That factor would be a frustrated quarterback named Jim McMahon.

McMahon vocally expressed his frustration to Coach Edwards and Scovil by slamming his helmet down and yelling, “Let’s just give up!”  (Figuratively speaking)

Jim McMahon and Clay Brown during the 1980 Holiday Bowl – Photo Credit: Daily Herald

McMahon’s frustration struck the heart of LaVell Edwards.  It didn’t sit well with him.  He knew that this didn’t make sense.  He quickly acted on this stirring in his heart and called timeout.  McMahon was sent back on the field to convert the fourth down, and we all know the rest of the story.

That timeout would change the history of BYU football for decades.

What has happened to BYU athletics these days?  What has happened to the will to win?  Where is our McMahon?  Where is our champion?

Watching BYU sports nowadays makes me feel like I’m watching a Youth Rec soccer game, where nobody keeps score and no matter what, “everyone is a winner.”  What’s the point of playing the game if we know that no matter the outcome, “we gave a good effort,” or “this is such a fun team to watch, even if we lose!”

I asked Herm Edwards what the point of playing the game was.  This was his response:


Al Davis was the infamous owner of the Oakland Raiders NFL franchise.  In his career he won 5 AFC championships and 3 Super Bowls.  This was his motto that he and the organization lived by:

“Winning is everything.  Just win, baby!”

Being a BYU fan can be very frustrating, because these moral victories is what we seem to be content with now.  Until I learn to accept this, I suppose I will never find peace and fulfillment as a devoted fan.  Here’s to playing hard and having fun!

Go Cougars.