I had a unique opportunity an hour or so ago to eat lunch with some of the high rollers in the BYU Cougar Club.
The Cougar Club hosts luncheons every month, and the program includes a catered lunch, all the Shasta and Costco cookies you can eat, and a presentation from BYU coaches.
Today's program featured coach Ed Eyestone of the BYU track and cross country teams, and coach Bronco Mendenhall of the mathematics department.
Just kidding. I actually think Bronco was an early education major.
Anyway, I'd like to cut to the chase a little bit here and just go right into Bronco's presentation.
He started by explaining to everyone what's been going on in team meetings. He said, roughly, that he's amazed by what lengths people will go to get information about team meetings. Apparently there have been some rumors floating around. He said rather than let people speculate, he'd show us what's going on in the meetings.
Bronco told us that there are portions of each meeting devoted to an inspirational message, and the players (not the coaches--he was very careful to stress that) come up with the content. He showed us a particular example of an inspirational message used in yesterday's team meeting. It was an address given by Bruce R. McConkie set to... let's say... religious pictures. I won't go into details because it was a very faith-based message, and this is not the proper forum.
Personally, I found it very nice. It was a very good message for anyone--even football players.
Whether it belongs in an actual football team meeting can be debated...
Bronco then took some questions, and this is where it got really interesting.
The first question was from a sweet old lady who asked about Justin Sorenson. She asked why no kicks went out of the endzone.
Bronco answered curtly by telling her that 4 of Sorenson's first 5 kicks were touchbacks "doubling last year's total," he said and the audience applauded. Then he went on to say that Sorenson has a pulled groin, and that before we go criticizing him any more we should remember that he's injured and he's doing his best.
Another sweet old lady explained that she was the mother of 6 boys and asked the coach how he regulates teaching his players about the Spirit, but also controlling their emotions on the football field.
The answer from Bronco is that it's very difficult and they're doing their best.
(At this point some old guy's phone went off in the back and he answered and started talking loudly--like only old people can do--right while Bronco was talking. It was a funny moment: While Bronco was speaking there was just this old guy in the back of the room saying "I'LL BE HOME IN A HALF AN HOUR, HONEY.")
Bronco finished his answer and announced "One more question." For those of you keeping score at home that makes three--three total questions.
The honor went to a guy on the front row who made a comment about the players lining around the stadium to shake hands with the fans. Bronco answered by saying, and I kid you not, "It's completely the players' idea, and that's the kind of program we're trying to build. Thank you."
And with that, Bronco darted out of the room.
I know most of you reading this probably didn't see this meeting, so I want to convey to you that it was a very strange event. When Bronco addressed the crowd, it was almost like he was ripping a neighbor who let his dog crap on Bronco's lawn. He seemed annoyed, frustrated and genuinely upset.
My dad, who attended the luncheon along with me, and I left the Cougar Room a little confused. His remark was "Well I can go anywhere and get chewed out."
And that's how we felt. We felt like Bronco chewed us out and left with a chip on his shoulder. Coach Mendenhall certainly didn't do much to engender any warm feelings among the Cougar Club faithful.
The whole situation was very interesting, and it got me thinking about the life of a coach. Today's football coaches aren't just coaches. They're PR guys, ambassadors, spokesmen, broadcasters, punching bags, butt-kissers etc. Some handle these auxiliary duties a little better than others, but increasingly each duty is becoming more and more important.
Bronco, for instance, probably didn't realize (or maybe he just doesn't care) that the people in that room were the same people paying his salary.
He also didn't seem to realize that we are proponents. Not only do we appreciate what he's doing, but we support it. We're not the media, which Bronco seems to loathe so much. We're not opponents. We're not players, and we're not coaches. We are the true blue, dyed in the wool supporters of all things BYU. You don't need to bark at us like we're going to dig up your favorite bone.
I'm sorry to harp on this but you just don't address your own constituents like they're misbehaving children who need a good spankin'. After all, coach, we're on your side.
Look--I like Bronco. I think he's doing a fine job with the program, and he has transformed the football team from a simple athletic program into a beacon of good in the world. I support him 100%, but at the same time he is by no means perfect. One suggestion I would give him is this: Lighten up, coach. Don't be so ticked off all the time, especially in front of your friends.
Anyway, I hate being an iconoclast, but I had to get it off my chest. Go Cougs!