In the wake of the University of Utah football team’s 20-13 win over BYU Sept. 21, the rivalry — so intense and rooted in tradition that it has earned itself the title of “Holy War” — has spread to the Web like wildfire.
Maybe that isn’t the right metaphor.
If you’re like me and don’t really have a dog in this fight, seeing disrespectful, antagonistic tweets and statuses continue to crackle vehemently into cyber-existence long after the fat lady has sung can be a lot more like watching a very self-absorbed and delusional community of cinders sparkle impotently over a blackened patch of forest that all the other trees stopped caring about back when ice ages were still a thing.
Still, they sputter on, exhausting their precious inner fuel on soil that isn’t about to catch.
If this were just about a football game, I wouldn’t bother to waste the page space.
I’d just chalk it to the frenetic babblings of sports fans in another heated college rivalry and move on to more interesting reading material — like the 2013 edition of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, or Twilight.
But BYU is a Church-sponsored, latter-day-prophet-and-apostle-sanctioned university, so — like everything we Latter-day Saints do in the public eye — it will never be just about a football game.
And this “Holy War” is anything but holy.
The events following Saturday’s game offer a unique opportunity to analyze a reality that some seem unwilling to accept: that because we so boldly and so publicly profess and proclaim our higher standard, the communities that we participate within will happily hold us to it.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, as the game’s referees attempted to leave the stadium, scores of the BYU faithfuls in attendance who were within range launched plastic cs, paper airplanes and trash — pretty much whatever they had in their hands at the time — at the officials.
Such a display is shamefully disrespectful at best and mob-reminiscent irony at worst.
No level-headed gro of adults attempts to angrily harpoon complete strangers with a shower of paper airplanes and then expects their complaint to be taken seriously.
These fans were so beyond reason or understanding that I have to wonder just how much hot-blooded shame they felt for their actions after the tide of mass hysteria subsided.
The existence of social media ensured unlimited electronic real estate on which fans of both teams could respond with equally unproductive amounts of malice and contempt. As I scrolled through the comments section provided by the Tribune below the online article, I came across the following, courtesy of username Utnomo:
“BYU fans are brought to act that way. That’s how they treat no-mo (non-Mormon) kids in the neighborhood. You can’t really blame them for this type of behavior … they are raised that way.”
If that comment were directed at any other gro on Earth, I might be able to brush it off as ignorance or misunderstanding.
Because it was directed at my religion, I had to ask myself — and my Savior — what it is that I may have done in a time of competitive abandon or thoughtless flippancy to encourage in others such a view of the church I love.
When members of the Church involve themselves in such publicized events, when the nation’s eyes are as fixed on us as they were Sept. 21, we should bear in mind that everything that we do and say is capable of sending a message to the world, for good or for ill, about our religion and what we think of its Founder.
It’s both an opportunity to introduce others to the uncommonly gracious sportsmanship and professional dignity that accompanies Christlike living, and a burden: for if we fail to hold the standard Christ has set, the world and its mass media will gladly ensure that everyone hears about it.
We’ve all had the audacity to adhere to the claim that this church, this gospel, this way of righteous living we call a religion is the only one Christ will recognize as his own when he comes again — and because we’ve done that, we stand apart.
So, let’s stand, and if we’re ridiculed, let it be because we’ve chosen to live to our uncommon standards rather than stoop below them to wallow in the mire.