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.