Thursday, December 3, 2009

"Classless", or Why I Don't Like Organized Sports

This last Saturday was "the big game" in Utah: the annual University of Utah vs. Brigham Young University football game. And here, it's a big deal. Epic. How epic? Think Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi epic. Or so you'd think.

I don't participate in organized sports, much less watch them. I used to; I think everyone probably does at some point. A lot of this changed for me around the time I was in intermediate or high school. And there is very much a reason for it: people take sports way too seriously. That's precisely why I've found this Max Hall controversy so funny, as well as a reminder of why I stay away from organized sports as much as possible.

In case you are reading this from outside of Utah or have somehow not heard about this, here is what Mr. Hall said:

I don't like Utah. In fact, I hate them. I hate everything about them. I hate their program, I hate their fans, I hate everything. So it felt really good to send those guys home. They didn't deserve it. It was our turn, and our turn to win. We deserved it. We played as hard as we could tonight. And it felt really good, again, to send them home, to get them out of here, and so it is a game I will always remember.


He was then asked to elaborate, responding, "You really want me to go into it?" He then stated:

I think the whole university, their fans and their organization is classless. They threw beer on my family and stuff last year, and they did a whole bunch of nasty things, and I don't respect them, and they deserved to lose.


And thus opened up the floodgates of negativity following the game. On Facebook, I've seen a lot of anti-Hall status updates and friends joining various "Max Hall is Classless" or "Max Hall Hates Me and Thinks I'm Classless" groups. Which led me to wonder: what if a Ute had said the exact same thing about BYU? There are Max Hall support groups on Facebook; undoubtedly there would be an opposite effect had it been a Ute making the same statement. Would all of those so outraged have been upset if the same thing had been said about BYU?

There are BYU fans who were appalled by what Mr. Hall said, and--might I add--rightfully so. What Mr. Hall said was one of the most unsportsmanlike things I've heard in a long time. Undoubtedly, there would be many Ute fans who would be appalled if one of their players said something similar to what Mr. Hall said. Unfortunately, this whole thing just digs a deeper whole, taking the rivalry to new lows, on both ends of the field, so to speak.

See, I would hope that this would bring out the best in Utah fans. Take the moral high ground, and prove Mr. Hall wrong by showing genuine class. Instead, in one of these Facebook groups, I've found equally, if not more abhorrent, bad behavior pop up. Things said about Mr. Hall and mockery of sacred beliefs of the LDS faith (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints--also known as the Mormons and frequently abbreviated as the LDS Church--owns BYU) are displayed and then commented on as being "hilarious" in the group's photo album.

I don't take that lightly; not simply due to the fact that I find the latter in particular offensive as a member of the LDS Church, but also because I firmly believe that things a religion finds sacred--be that religion LDS, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, or what have you--should be treated with respect, regardless of your beliefs or lack thereof. It's also a bit ironic considering that a considerable amount of the University of Utah's student body is composed of members of the LDS faith. Not only are these people mocking their rivals, they're mocking an entire religion, as well as fellow members of their own student body.

This behavior extends to the field, as well. In Utah, come October, you can never be sure if there will be snow on the ground; therefore, come game day there could be snow on the field. I recall watching a game several years ago where either a University of Utah cheerleader or fan (although I believe it was the former) threw a snowball at a BYU player, striking him in the helmet. This type of behavior is just as disrespectful and reprehensible, but how many "outraged" by Max Hall's statements would decry that action as well?

Of course, I want to make it clear that I'm not generalizing. I think the majority of Utah and BYU fans think that actions going as far as they have on either side take the rivalry away from what it should be: intense, but ultimately fun. There should be no ill feelings toward either school. No one should meet a supporter of the other team and seriously think "oh, one of those people."

But this is exactly what I dislike about organized sports: the intensity and absolutely horrible feelings that come with it when people get too involved with it. Sports should be about character building and teamwork, not hurling debris in Engery Solutions Arena, soccer stadium riots, or dedicating a Facebook page to how Max Hall thinks you're classless.

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