COMMENTARY – There is an ugly side to sports, a scary and vulgar counterculture that embarrasses the true sports fan, myself included.
Recent sports headlines include calling for the jobs of BYU’s football coaches (after an 8-5 bowl-winning season), criticizing the substitution patterns of BYU basketball coach Dave Rose and the latest, venomous and profanity-filled Tweets to Jabari Parker, the highly-touted basketball senior from Chicago who had considered BYU and Michigan State before choosing Duke as his future college basketball home.
“Fans are just now giving me a hard time,” Parker said on ESPN Radio’s Waddle and Silvy Show. “They sometimes just forget I’m a kid. Real hateful stuff.”
Parker, who is 17 and attends Chicago’s Simeon Career Academy, is a member of the LDS Church and reportedly had narrowed his decision to Duke, Michigan State and BYU before choosing the Blue Devils. He’s received thousands of Tweets in the days since his decision. Most of them have been either from Duke fans or well-wishing fans of the other schools he considered congratulating him on his decision.
But then there’s the counterculture. The Haters. The people who think it’s OK to Tweet swear words, pour beer on the other team’s fans, slash tires and just generally be idiots.
Parker received dozens, maybe even hundreds, of nasty Tweets. Someone put his email address out there and more venom was sent his way. To his credit, Parker is not responding to those people, except to say, “It’s no problem, though. I know it comes with the territory, and it’s just going to make me stronger.”
I hope he is telling the truth. After awhile, that stuff has got to get to you, whether you’re 17 or 77.
Parker won’t be playing at BYU, but he’s a very talented and mature kid who I will be rooting for at Duke and in the NBA.
One player who will be going to BYU is Nick Emery. The high-scoring prep senior from Alpine, Utah, has been on the BYU radar for years, since his brother Jackson played for the Cougars. But even though Nick Emery graduates from high school this Spring, he won’t be playing at BYU until 2015.
Emery, who is averaging 19 points and three steals a game for 10-1 Lone Peak, got his mission call yesterday to serve in Frankfurt, Germany.
The announcement by Emery and his family, which was posted on Vimeo, is significant because it is the first high-profile player to delay his college career for a mission since the LDS Church announced it was lowering the mission eligibility age from 19 to 18-years-old for male members of the religion.
In the past, many young players would go to Provo and “grayshirt,” which means they would basically go to BYU as a regular student for a year, then serve a mission and then take a redshirt as part of the team. That would put them four years out of high school before ever playing a minute for the Cougars.
Now Emery will miss the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 seasons, but be eligible and presumably ready to play by the winter of 2015.
There certainly were notable exceptions in the past. Some blue-chippers, like Steve Young, Danny Ainge and Jimmer Fredette, did not serve missions and it can be argued that they have done more for the LDS Church with their fame and high-profile careers than a two-year full-time mission could ever accomplish.
But I believe Emery’s decision is a sound one and also a recommendation I would make to Jabari Parker, BYU signee (and Emery’s Lone Peak teammate) Eric Mika and any other young man reaching that crossroads in their lives.
After all, building a career is important, but building a young man is critical.
One other note: Bronson Kaufusi, who is 6-foot-7, 260-pounds, has joined the BYU basketball team now that football has concluded. The defensive end, er, power forward, should add some toughness and grit to a team that has been a little soft this season.
Kaufusi, a freshman, will also add much-needed depth to the Cougars frontline after Chris Collinsworth was forced to quit with chronic injury problems.
BYU plays at home against Northern Arizona tonight and then battle Virginia Tech at the Energy Solutions Arena Saturday at noon.
West Coast Conference play begins next Thursday when the Cougars play host to Loyola Marymount.
Andy Griffin is a sports commentator. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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