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An Open Letter to BYU Fans: 3-Step 12th Man Primer

An Open Letter to BYU Fans: 3-Step 12th Man Primer

Dear BYU Fans:

As Mormons we are taught that we want to be kind to everyone, for that is right, you see. I understand and generally concur. But, as we read in the scriptures, to every thing there is a season. And this, my gentle friends, is football season. So let me tell you a little story.

I began attending BYU football games when Gary Sheide was the quarterback. It was 1972, and while my parents sat in the adult seats, my brother and I sat in the “knothole” in the end zone. I attended faithfully through high school. In college, I got up at 0’dark hundred, stood in the long lines, entered the lotteries, and did whatever must be done to obtain student season tickets.

In 1991 we moved to Florida and were left to sit in the Young Women room at the church—with Ernie Sego and Doug Littlefield—to watch the games on the library TV through the satellite system. We donned our shirts and took our pom poms, but it wasn’t quite the same.

On August 26, 2000, Sam and I drove our five children (including a two-month-old baby boy) from our home in Boca Raton to Tallahassee to watch BYU take on Florida State. It was a rare chance to see our beloved cougars play in person. We were thrilled. But tucked away in the tiny visitor’s corner of the stadium, the Seminoles schooled us on true fandom. 

An Open Letter to BYU Fans: 3-Step 12th Man Primer

When FSU was on offense, a reverent hush fell over the crowd. When BYU had the ball—and I mean every single time they had the ball, on every down in every quarter—the crowd was utterly deafening. You couldn’t scream loud enough for the person whose ear was pressed on your mouth to understand what you wanted to say. When our offense lined up, no one could hear the audible calls from the quarterback, not even the center. Everything was chaotic and sloppy. They crushed us 29 to 3.

Fellow fans, this is what we call The 12th Man.

The 12th Man refers to an 11-player team that is benefited when the fans also play their part. BYU fans do not get it. Perhaps they think that cheering like a madman means you’re not general authority material. Perhaps they are right. But sometimes that doesn’t matter. Priorities, people. You can cheer wildly and still congratulate the opponent’s fan sitting next to you. You can pep up and voice your love of the game while representing for the gospel. You can do your part in the revelry and still be as nice as you need to be to reach celestial glory. (That’s not official doctrine, but I’m pretty sure it’s true.)

Through most of every game we sit passively and politely—perhaps while chatting excessively about ward event and snacking on kettle corn or Cup Bop. We might stand for the fight song. We might clap or even audibly (and civilly) cheer after an incredible gain. Sometimes—generally on a third down or when a score is probable—we raise the decibel level above a feisty family Thanksgiving dinner with extended family. But this is not pulling your weight.

The best example of correct fan spirit at BYU is demonstrated in our student section. This is the section of the stadium that is easily recognizable as having crappy seats but still making the most noise, creating the most movement, and looking like they actually want to be there. Theirs is the section that actually stands for the wave. They may also have face paint or other accouterments noting their loyalty and devotion.

FSU fans get it. BYU fans do not.

Below, please find my 3-step 12th Man Primer to help you become the true blue cougar you were meant to be.

Rule #1 – Even though you are nearing retirement age and sitting in the chair seats, you are still required to boisterously and exuberantly cheer (at the appropriate moments) your team on  to victory. If you do not understand what this means, imitate the student section to the best of your geriatric ability.

Rule #2 – Even though you are in premium viewing seats on the 50-year-line (thank you, Daddy), you are not allowed to plug your ears and give the stink-eye to the middle-aged woman behind you who is correctly following rule 1. You are also not allowed to tell the middle-aged woman in front of you, who is correctly following rule 1, to sit down. If I stand, you stand. That’s the way it works in the stadium universe.

Rule #3 – If you are unwilling to follow rules #1 and #2, please kindly view the game from the comfort of your own recliner, with the volume moderated to your vulnerable eardrums. This will not only allow an authentic fan to take her/his rightful place in the stadium, but will prevent me sincere and dedicated fans from offending your sensibilities.

In yesterday’s miraculous win over Boise State, we failed our team. Yes, there were a few crucial third downs and the final 75 seconds where we awoke from out caffeine-free diet coke induced collective slumber. But we could have done so much more.

Cougars, I beg you, rise and shout.

{ 20 comments… add one }
  • jennifer Beckstrand September 13, 2015, 9:09 pm

    Alison,
    I couldn’t agree more! If you don’t the like stadium experience, the recliner is very comfortable.

  • Alison Moore Smith September 13, 2015, 9:33 pm

    Boo to the yah, Jennifer. Your parents raised you well!
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  • Maltese September 13, 2015, 9:48 pm

    THANK YOU! This is ME. I sit on the west side, where the wave always DIES and everyone is ASLEEP. I cheer and yell and they look at me like I’m annoying them. GO HOME! GIVE YOUR TICKETS TO FANS.

  • Arthur Cutchen September 13, 2015, 11:20 pm

    Alison, as an avid FSU fan, I hope we didn’t hurt your ears back then!

  • Alison Moore Smith September 14, 2015, 8:57 am

    Arthur Cutchen, you did hurt my ears, but no one keyed my car. So there’s that. 😉
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  • Tayler Morrell September 14, 2015, 10:18 pm

    My husband and his best friend watched the two games this season so far at his best friend’s house….which is literally less than 10 feet from our front door (we live in a town home complex)…With both our doors and windows shut, I could still hear them shout and cheer and yelp with each good or exciting play. It was hilarious to sit on my couch, watching a chick flick, and see the silhouettes of my husband and his friend jump and down being filled with hope for this season of the Cougars.
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  • Alison Moore Smith September 15, 2015, 7:30 am

    Tayler Morrell, I’m so proud of your husband and his friend. My only question is: WHY WEREN’T YOU THERE!!! 😉
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  • Tayler Morrell September 15, 2015, 7:52 am

    Haha. We don’t have cable at our home, and our 1 year old was already in bed…someone has to stay home 😉
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  • Montserrat September 15, 2015, 1:02 pm

    When I was young we lived in Miami and my parents took us to watch BYU play the University of Miami. While the rest of the members sat in the small BYU cheering section proudly wearing their blue and white we sat with the sea of orange and green clad Hurricane fans wearing our blood red UofU shirts. 😀

    We’re not really football fans but rather FUTBOL fans over here. Although I admit to watching BYU football since #30 is my husband’s cousin and who doesn’t like to cheer family on?
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  • Heidi September 16, 2015, 10:10 am

    This totally made me laugh. It’s been so long since I’ve seen a game in person! I’ll definitely remember these tips if I’m ever find myself slipping into the recliner mentality! Those college years at the games were so fun!
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  • Norm Solomon September 16, 2015, 9:17 pm

    I started at BYU the same year LaVell Edwards was hired as an assistant coach. We lost to College of the Pacific and George Washington U, neither of which has a football team. A hundred years before Victor Hugo demonstrated prophetic insight by predicting the outcome of the Nebraska game. About three quarters the way through Les Miserables you will find the following couplet:
    “To be dressed in blue is glorious;
    To be dressed in red is disagreeable!

  • IdRatherNotSay September 16, 2015, 10:40 pm

    Hahahahaha this reminds me of a comment I once heard at a BYU/Utah game. I was in the MUSS at the U (I don’t hate BYU, my husband earned his undergrad there). The fans were playfully insulting one another. At one point, everything went quiet and a U fan yelled, “You live in PROVO” (as an insult). Everyone began laughing hysterically.

    Good times. You probably had to be there though…

  • Alison Moore Smith September 17, 2015, 9:27 am

    Maltese, I know who you are! For decades I have watched the wave swell…until it hits the “old fogey side.” It barely staggers through the seats and then picks up again with the north end zone. What is with you people??? haha
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  • Alison Moore Smith September 17, 2015, 9:29 am

    Excuses, excuses… heh
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  • Alison Moore Smith September 17, 2015, 9:33 am

    Montserrat, I’m not sure whether to laugh of punch you. 😉

    My dad was a BYU professor, but got his bachelor’s degree at U of U. On game days he would sometimes where his U of U tie to school. No one ever mugged, bashed, or even cursed at him.

    He lived with us until he died and we keep his half BYU- half U of U baseball cap on the dresser.

    In 2005 my dad was given the Honorary Alumni Award at BYU’s homecoming ceremony. He always joked after that how he had finally joined the rest of the family in being a real cougar. 🙂
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  • Alison Moore Smith September 17, 2015, 9:33 am

    Heidi, you’re never too old to learn new tricks. 🙂
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  • Alison Moore Smith September 17, 2015, 9:36 am

    Holy cow, how did I go my whole 51 years and never notice that lyric??? It’s a masterpiece! (I bought the original soundtrack when it was new. I’ve seen it on Broadway and had kids perform in it. I’ve seen it more times than I ever want to see any show.) Thanks for the tip, Norm Solomon!
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  • Alison Moore Smith September 17, 2015, 9:40 am

    heh The funny thing about the BYU vs UofU rivalry is that I think it’s mostly a media concoction. I admit that I have never attended a game at Rice-Eccles, but I’ve attended tons at Lavell Edwards. In all sincerity, I have never seen a nasty incident.

    I sat at the last Y v U home game amongst cougar fans with a handful of Utes smack dab in the middle. When the U made a great play, people CONGRATULATED the U fans and when they beat us, people told them “good game.” I know there are always a few bad apples, but I’ve never even heard cursing in those games after decades of attendance.

    Yes, we “hate” each other, but (as you said) in the playful way that rivals do. I’ve never seen anything hateful, mean-spirited, or nasty. Just good fun.
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  • Jeff O September 18, 2015, 1:18 pm

    The West stands are Brutal! I have been smacked, poked and yelled at to shut up and sit down so often. I am that fan who stands the whole time, loses his voice, and heckles opposing fans and players. The Wyoming fans were the most fun. I wish there was a way to “qualify” people for those west stands…
    I was at Rice Eccles the last time we lost (remember the multiple missed field goals) i collapsed in the fetal position right in the middle of some crimson clubbers…tbey picked me up and hugged me, patted me on the back, and expressed how sorry they were for me. The yewbies do have a heart.

  • Alison Moore Smith September 18, 2015, 1:33 pm

    Jeff O, you are my kind of fan. You should print a stack of URL addresses to this post and hand them to the idiotic smacker, pokers, and screechers. I’ve got your back!
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