The leaves have yet to change, the apples are still in the tree and Linus is hunting for a sincere pumpkin patch, but the first sign of fall is here — football has returned and with it, the spirit of optimism that fuels ticket sales, television ratings and occupies our time.
Time is a revealer of our personal constitutions. It shows where we stand, what we believe and what we love. A 2023 American Sports Fanship Study determined 72% of all Americans identify as football fans (my wife excluded).
According to Nielsen, Americans watched 437 billion minutes of NFL and college football games during the 2018 regular seasons.
We are five years down the road from that study, and America’s love for the game is only growing. It’s almost as if somebody, years ago, knew this was going to happen.
Who we choose to cheer for and how we choose to do it are at the core of the United States Constitution. Assuredly, the Founding Fathers had weightier issues at hand, but through their efforts and those who fought for the cause, the blueprint for fandom was born, albeit with some adjusted context.
I doubt when Patrick Henry claimed “Give me liberty or give me death” to the Virginia Convention in 1775, he was thinking about college football, but I know a BYU freshman named John Henry Daley who is going to give everything he has for his team this year.
When Samuel Adams said, “The freedom of our civil Constitution (is) worth defending against all hazards, and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks” he wasn’t speaking about stopping a spread offense. But to the Cougars new defensive coordinator Jay Hill, he could have been.
Thomas Paine might have been thinking about Kalani Sitake’s relationship with his coaching staff when he said, “All delegated power is trust, and all assumed power is usurpation.”
Sitake marches into Saturday’s season opener against Sam Houston (8:15 p.m., FS1) with four new defensive coaches — Hill, Justin Ena, Kelly Poppinga and Sione Po’uha. To each one, the head coach has delegated his power and his trust.
As Sen. Edward Kennedy reflected on the Constitution, could he have been inferring to how some BYU and Utah fans interact both in person and online when he said, “The Constitution does not just protect those whose views we share; it also protects those with whose views we disagree?”
Probably not, but it certainly applies.
George Washington’s loyalty to the document isn’t a lot different from BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe’s unwavering effort to get the Cougars into a Power Five conference. Washington said, “The Constitution is a guide which I will never abandon.” Holmoe directed BYU through 12 years of football independence without ever giving up.
The United States Constitution, which will be honored Sept. 17-23 as part of “American Founders and Constitution Week,” is the glue that holds the nation together. When groups cast their lot with other ideologies, they can often become unglued.
When Queen Elizabeth II said, “The British Constitution has always been puzzling and always will be,” was she talking about England or the Pac-12 who preferred to live in their own kingdom that turned out to be not-so-united.
The Pac-12’s governing decisions were puzzling too, as they did nothing while watching other principalities (conferences) expand their borders.
Their fatal scoff mirrors British historian Thomas B. Macaulay who criticized the advanced thinking of the Founding Fathers when he wrote in 1860, “Your Constitution is all sail and no anchor.”
He was wrong. So was the Pac-12. As a result of limited thinking and failure to act, USC, UCLA, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Colorado all set sail to set their anchor in other places, putting a once mighty empire on the road to irrelevance.
History is to be learned from. The present is to be lived in and a bright future is to be hoped for.
BYU’s football history has shaped its present, and the Cougars look to a future that is free from the restrictive barriers of being a football independent whose name is not Notre Dame.
Those days are over. BYU is now playing with a new bill of rights, with Big 12 access to everything — so long as they earn it.
It won’t be easy and when Ben Franklin said, “The Constitution doesn’t guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it” he could have also been talking to a naive CougarNation who can’t wait to start the unprecedented journey with no real idea of how it will end.
Yes, the first sign of fall is here. We will keep waiting for the leaves, the apples and the pumpkin patch. But it’s all systems go for football.
At BYU, the game plan is being processed, the fireworks have been purchased and the Cougartails have been ordered.
All that remains is the painting of the Big 12 logo on the field and the bang from the bell tower signaling 6 p.m. on Saturday night. That’s when BYUtv’s “Game Day” will open its two-hour broadcast with the Cougar Walk as the team returns to LaVell Edwards Stadium to make history.
College football. It’s part of our personal constitution, celebrated in a land shaped by a Constitution that is no respecter of a certain season.
We just happen to really like this one.
Dave McCann is a contributor to the Deseret News and is the studio host for “BYU Sports Nation Game Day,” “The Post Game Show,” “After Further Review,” and play-by-play announcer for BYUtv. He is also co-host of “Y’s Guys” at ysguys.com.