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Mendenhall should have known, but, like previous instances of indiscretion on his part — comparing BYU football players to scriptural characters, telling fans how stupid they are, coming up with slogans like "Quest for Perfection," starting two quarterbacks instead of one, insisting on playing a favored, plucky QB who’s unfit to play, among other goof-ups — common sense cruised in his blind spot.
A few years ago, he brought the same Tradition-Spirit-Honor idea to his players — and they rejected it by forthrightly voting it down.
The reason they blocked it was three-fold: 1) They saw it as pious; 2) They didn’t want to be laughed at; 3) They like having their names on the back of their jerseys, not for selfish reasons, rather because of the sense of satisfaction they felt in properly representing their families, without whom they never would have been playing football at BYU.
There are two ironies to Mendenhall attempting to slam this Spirit-Honor-Tradition idea down his players’ throats and onto their backs: First, he would be breaking tradition to do it. Through nearly all of its glory years, BYU has had its players’ names on the uniform. Second, in the very attempt to bring unity to his team, he was dividing it — against him.
Here are the lessons for Bronco to remember: Individuality doesn’t have to be obliterated to conjure togetherness. In this case, the players knew that, the coach did not. And a team can pursue and represent fine ideals without having them splashed on its uniform. It’s pompous overkill.
Still, it makes you wonder what’s rattling around inside the coach’s head. He’s paid to make good judgments, sound judgments that affect an entire football program. Sometimes, he flat out goes cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, his arrogance or lack of awareness blocks his view, and those good, sound judgments are nowhere in his line of sight.
Gordon Monson hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 and 960 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.
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