By Rich Levine
When BYU dropped the hammer on Brandon Davies season, and spoiled sweet Jimmers Final Four dreams, the consensus outside of Provo hovered somewhere between "Oh my God!" and "What the hell?!?"
The Cougars were shocked, too. Their team was third in the polls, with the best player in the nation, and a supporting cast that was just good enough to make you wonder: "Hmm, with a little luck, these guys might actually have a chance . . . "
And then, just like that, thanks to one extraordinarily good swimmer, those championship aspirations were gone.
But while the BYU community was more troubled by the sudden collapse of their basketball team, the rest of the country was merely trying to comprehend the events that triggered it.
Essentially: Did they really just kill their season because a kid accidentally impregnated his girlfriend?
In a world where you pretty much just assume every player on every Division 1 team is somehow sexually involved, that was a question that initially made no sense.
Come on . . . youre suspending him for that? In 2011?! What about the season?
And what about JIMMER?!?!!!
It was tough, because on one side, you couldnt deny that the school had every right to suspend him. The code of conduct is real, and not something they mess around with.
Google "BYU suspends football" (the basketball version is all Davies results) and youll see pages of players who were penalized over the years due to violating the honor code. Its not like this is some rule that they dusted off special for Davies. This has been happening for a while, and athletes know the deal. They know the risk.
Something tells me the players probably get away with a little more than the honor code allows. If I had to bet, Im guessing Davies isnt the only one in that locker room whos hopped off the abstinence train. I wouldnt even be shocked if some of them have had a beer or two since coming to college. But they do it with the knowledge that theres a chance things could go real bad.
On a completely random note: Its like double parking. Everyone double parks. Its out of control. At this point were about six months away from triple parkers. Anyway, we all know double parking is illegal but it doesnt matter, because most of the time you can get away with it. If youre careful, its a pretty low-risk strategy.
But you know theres still that small risk. The meter maid could be having a bad day. Or the person youre blocking could return right away and call the cops. Whatever it is, theres the chance you could come back to a 40 ticket, or to find your car on a flat bed headed for East Boston. And at that point you can go nuts, and everyone will be like, Wow! I cant believe theyd tow you just for double parking!, but at the end of the day theres nothing you can say. The punishment might feel excessive but you took a chance and it backfired.
And it seems like thats what happened with Davies. I dont think hes the rogue fornicater. He just got caught. He was careless. And once that happened, the school had to react. They have a pretty consistent track record of doing so. So with all that, you can understand why BYU ruled the way they did.
But at the same time, three days later, it still doesnt feel right.
Im still left with a sort-of-uncomfortable, messed-about feeling about the fact that this 19-year-old kid is now missing out on an opportunity of a lifetime and might be costing his teammates the same because he accidentally slipped one passed the goalie. With a girlfriend. Even more, with a girlfriend who doesnt even go to that school. Can you imagine how crazy life becomes when youre 19 and realize your girlfriends pregnant? Now, on top of that, imagine this pregnancy is a nationwide story and destroys something youve been waiting your whole life to accomplish. Who knows when BYU will have another player like Jimmer, or another legitimate chance to make a significant postseason run? Who knows how long everyone around there will remember what happened with Davies and wonder what could have been?
Like I said, I know the rules. I know what he signed up for. Hes also a Mormon; its not like these rules were a complete lifestyle shock. I also dont know a thing about Davies outside of this story. I dont know if hes a great kid or if hes maybe not. But I do know that if theres anything negative about him, its not that he impregnated his girlfriend. That happens all the time. To every day, non-evil people. And the punishment just feels harsh.
Obviously, this couldnt be any less of my business, and for the people living in that world, my opinion means less than zero. Its not like Im the first person whos ever failed to relate to the Mormon way. Its not like a Mormon would read this and think, Hmm, now that you mention it, I guess we do do things a little differently around here . . .
This has all been said before. And it will be said forever. When youre talking religion, nothing makes complete sense to anyone else. There are some things you just cant understand. And thats fine.
Were just not used it having that kind of effect sports.
And while we all like to talk about sports as religion, I guess this is just a reminder that sometimes theres still nothing more powerful than the real thing.