Friday, March 4, 2011

Sex and Basketball at BYU

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Matthew 7:13-14

As I ate my bagel at Panera this morning, the man at the next table was engaged in a loud and animated conversation. He gestured with his hands and waved his arms. It was even more entertaining because he was sitting alone, talking into the earpiece of his cell phone, which was not visible most of the time.

And across from him at the next table a man hunched over and talked in low tones into his cell phone. The only thing I heard was, “Next time, make sure he talks to me first.” He said it twice, looking worried and annoyed.

When I left, the animated talker was still going strong, excitedly describing the scene outside, where a tractor-trailer came close to crushing a car because the driver of the car did not want to wait for the truck to complete a wide turn.

The world, I thought to myself, is pretty crazy.

Then I got in my car just in time to hear one of the sports radio guys say, “Wouldn’t you want your daughter to go there? Wouldn’t you be happy to have your daughter go there? I mean, you can be sure they don’t have a ‘vagina club’ . . .” And I knew what was coming next, “. . . like Wesleyan.” It’s always good to have folks talk about my alma mater.

But the subject wasn’t Wesleyan. That was just for contrast. The subject was BYU.

Brigham Young University basketball star Brandon Davies has been suspended from the basketball team for breaking the honor code. He had sex with his girl-friend and that violates the honor code requirement to “live a chaste and virtuous life.”

The reaction has been interesting. In general, the sports folk seem to say, “HOW COULD THEY DO THIS? WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?” One guy said it just plain “creeps me out.”

There are lots of seasons in which people take little notice of BYU basketball. But not this year. Until Davies was suspended, they had a legitimate chance at a number one seed in the NCAA tournament, and a good shot at getting to the Final Four. A national championship was not out of the question. I watched the game against San Diego State, and they were impressive. And they were fun to watch. They have a guard, Jimmer Fredette (that really is his name), who leads the country in scoring. He is the best shooter to play at BYU since Danny Ainge.

And now it’s all gone.

For sports commentators, this defies reason. “Can you imagine,” asked one incredulous talk-show host, “they would rather maintain the purity of their religious ideals, than go the final four?”

How can religion be more important than sports? Is nothing sacred? When you think about it, what is more sacred in America than sex and sports? As one commentator put it, on most college teams that kind of disclosure would get Brandon Davies a round of high fives, not a dismissal.

Do not misunderstand. I am not lining up on the side of total abstinence before marriage. On the other hand, I’m also not comfortable with casual promiscuity. And then there is the issue of how the BYU officials found out. How does Davies’ girl-friend feel about all of this becoming public? Isn’t the embarrassment inflicted on the girl-friend actually a greater sin than having pre-marital sex?

But the thing that strikes me most is the way in which the punishment is seen as so extreme. Is basketball really that important?

We can argue about whether sexual abstinence, even in a committed relationship, is an important aspect of faithful living. Personally, I don’t think it is. But at some point and in some way we have to agree that faithful living is important. Even more important than basketball.

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