by Bill Watkins, Gaucho ‘94
Watching UCSB play BYU in Men’s Volleyball last night on my computer reminded me of my own playing days, and also of some great matches I’ve been a part of as a fan. As usual, the crowd at BYU was amazing! Spirited, a full house, generally pretty wholesome… Except, it seemed, when you got close-ups of a UCSB Gaucho going back to serve the ball, and behind them you could swear there was a good amount of venomous, mean-spirited heckling.
Could have been an illusion, and without knowing what the fans were yelling, I cannot prove to certainty that a bad spirit had invaded the Smith Fieldhouse there in Provo—but nothing would surprise me less. Heckling and rooting for bad things to happen to opposing teams is unfortunately acceptable fan behavior in every college sports arena not ruled by an iron Christian fist.
I myself, over the years, have engaged in many heckling fests, hear hecklers around me at most sporting events I attend. CSUN in the San Fernando Valley used to be bad, Hawaii can bring it good and bad, and BYU has for me the most spirit in NCAA men’s volleyball. It just all needs checking, administrating, and… shall I say it? Prayer. Meditation. Sports like all other areas of life made better by appealing to Higher Power, “Good Orderly Direction” (G.O.D.), and anything else that leads to Peace of Mind.
John Wooden was the best coach that ever lived. Not because he was great, but because the power unto which he prayed was, his philosophies and execution of them guided by goodness, humility and hard work. A spiritual man… We could all be so, ascend toward the straight and narrow, to in sports that grand second title, one the NCAA and other leagues should always celebrate as much as any other trophy: one for… Sportsmanship. Respecting your opponent as fellow travelers on this ship, “Hail, friend, well met! Good luck today, we’re aiming to crush you on the court. But that’s our spiritual challenge, and I’d like to shake your hand after the match win or lose, revel in one more day we got to live here!”
That’s right, as you live you realize how precious life is, and how many people (and dogs) we’ve loved who are not with us anymore. In that context, adding to common sense and decency, I root for all competitors to have peace of mind, to succeed at their sport in the John Wooden sense. I root for the UCSB Gauchos a lot because I attended that school and played volleyball for the team, and when we compete against you, I’ll be rooting and hoping we win. Then I check myself, knowing the power is in us to win every single match we play! If we play right, root right, have a mix of fun and respect, and if heckle we must, may we do it somehow light-hearted and with cheer.
The ultimate victory is still heaven, isn’t it?