The Brandon Davies story is emblematic of the experience of being a fan of BYU Athletics. Obviously, the outcome of a meaningless game pales in comparison to the eternal nature of man. But the grander story is one that resonates at the very foundation of my fandom.
It has been nearly two years since it all went down. Adam Olsen and I got on the subject of Brandon's suspension from school and how we carry the memory of it with us to this day. Let us set the stage, or, as Adam put it yesterday: "travail the long road."
The Cougars were in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime run during the 2010-2011 season. Fresh off a second-consecutive win over fellow Top 10 and Mountain West rival San Diego State, this time nationally-televised on CBS, the Cougars rose to #3 in the AP Poll and #1 in the RPI. Talk of BYU landing a number 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament was discussed in the Wall Street Journal and ESPN.
Then... March 1, 2011 happened.
Brandon Davies was suspended indefinitely for violation of the school's honor code.
I read the tweet that fateful Tuesday evening and responded in this way: (Mouse over the gifs to play)
Then I informed my Dad, brother, and brother-in-law sitting in the same living room. They reacted like...
This is how you reacted:
@zbloxham I broke the news to my dad too. Over the phone. I told him, and then it was dead silent for at least three awful minutes.— Adam Olsen (@aolsen) February 19, 2013
BYU lost its next game at home to New Mexico by 18. I took a picture of the on-screen mtn scoreboard because I knew I would never see "#3" and "BYU" together ever again. The dream of a national championship had ended.
(mtnHD camera not included)
The media jumped on BYU with accusations of racism, draconian morality, and unrealistic expectations. Brandon Davies' personal life became front-page news all over the nation. And the wolves were out to make their political statement a part of the discussion. Now, basketball really took a backseat. The very institution and the Church that owns it were now at the heart of the controversy.
Then, quietly, BYU beat Wyoming to clinch the MWC regular season title and Brandon Davies, dressed in a white shirt and tie, cut down the net in celebration. Few, if any, major news organizations reported this happening as it did not progress the narrative they so desperately wanted to move forward.
As I took the video, I was overcome with emotion. This is what BYU should represent. No hostility but a proper perspective on what is important in life. Fast forward a few years and BD is finishing up his senior year in Provo, getting ready to graduate, and going about the business of making basketball his profession. The story of Brandon Davies is a type-and-shadow of the institution that Brigham Young University strives to be. We are all make mistakes and the athletic program at BYU will always take a backseat to the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The natural man in me was and sometimes still is disappointed because BYU had a chance to go to its first Final Four. The road was set, and despite Brandon Davies' absence, the Cougars were an overtime away from advancing to the Elite Eight anyway. If they had, Butler in the Elite Eight? VCU in the Final Four? Connecticut in the National Title? What could have been. What could have been.
To me, the Davies saga is what being a BYU fan is all about. The Honor Code will always be in effect. And I support the principles it instills in young students. The Honor Code will also always be in the back of BYU fans' head whenever the football or basketball team is set to do something special. It can all disappear quickly. It helps me enjoy the moment and keep the sport in perspective. I cheer for a school that tries to embody the principles I believe with all my heart and soul. I cheer for BYU because of the Honor Code not in spite of it.
The story of Brandon Davies is not a tragedy but tremendous success.