They're frustrated, eager, anxious, hungry and lectured to.

These are BYU fans in the first year of the occupation of Iraq when 401(k)s made a rebound, housing prices and interest rates dropped and the Cougar football team finished with a losing season for the second straight year.

It's understandable the Cougar faithful are itchy, even a little ornery.

So, heaven forbid, I'm going to judge them at all.

But after a significant BYU segment of the largest crowd to ever witness a college basketball game in Salt Lake City booed former Cougar Daniel Bobik in the Delta Center every time the Oklahoma State sophomore touched the ball, there were plenty of tsk-tsk-tsks to go around.

Bobik, you may remember, joined Mark Bigelow as Steve Cleveland's first recruits to sign back in 1997. Bobik went on an LDS mission to New York and Bigelow came to Provo to play before doing his church duty. Upon returning from his mission, Bobik spent a frustrating year at BYU, as Travis Hansen, Terrell Lyday and Trent Whiting did all the shooting on a decent Cougar team. In the end, Bobik decided to transfer.

I remember seeing Bobik and his fiancee, Natalie, right after the decision.

They were getting one of those frozen smoothie drinks next door to where Daniel bought Natalie an engagement ring. We had a short visit. I wished them well. Decent guy, wrong fit.

Well, last Saturday, a partisan BYU crowd had a good chunk of itself booing every Bobik possession in an NBA playoff game atmosphere at Larry's place.

The game wasn't televised in Utah, but it was in Oklahoma — commercial free.

And during the breaks, folks back in America's Plains supposedly heard rude fan comments aimed at Bobik. They floated over the OSU play-by-play microphones.

A number of viewers became alarmed. Their posture was reported to BYU's campus newspaper, The Daily Universe. BYU's image suffered a black eye.

Enter BYU's behavior police. You know the routine: We're better than that, shame on you for poor sportsmanship.

BYU President Cecil Samuelson told a campus devotional audience on Tuesday: "For the first time I have felt some sadness in my association with this great university, or more correctly, with a few of the vocal minority who consider themselves BYU fans but obviously give no value to good sportsmanship."

It was a gold-plated rebuke.

Samuelson said what was expected. He may be a rookie president at that school down south, but he is an LDS Church leader, representing the sponsoring institution. Samuelson wasn't at the Delta Center. If he had been and had seen the officiating in the first half, he may have understood some of the emotional atmosphere. Still, Samuelson was on target: BYU fans live in a glass house; they should practice what they preach.

Next came athletic director Val Hale. He reminded Cougar faithful they don't have to give up a homecourt advantage but should take a lesson in hospitality from fans at Notre Dame and show some class to visitors. Another solid salvo. Obviously, this wouldn't go over well if Hale spoke at Wyoming. And Samuelson, a charter member of the Crimson Club, may not sell his speech to a Huntsman Center crowd.

But that's all right. At those places, administrators aren't pounding moral drums from stone tablets almost daily. At BYU, the snare, bass and bongos are a loud and constant tattoo, much to the chagrin of opponents who love to hate the piety. But in Provo, if you sign on to listen to that music, you pay the band.

Memo to BYU fans: Make purified noise. Filter your disgust. Sterilize your dismay. And have fun.

Reflecting back on that night, I was surprised at the loud and consistent negative reaction — booing every time Bobik had the ball. It seemed, well, kind of oily.

On the other hand, this is college basketball. Fans are fanatics. Emotions rise and can boil over. It's all part of the game. Go to Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke. They call them the "Cameron Crazies," and booing a player, coach, ref, mascot, cheerleader or even ball boy is mild. In Laramie, a sports ticket is a license to verbally abuse, and it gets creative.

Back in the 1960s, BYU fans used to kill with kindness, almost syrup. When a player was introduced as, say, "Chuck Peterson," fans would yell: "Hi Chuck!" And when a foe would foul out, almost every member of the BYU team would follow the poor guy to the bench and shake his hand.

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It reminds me of a quote by Herm Albright: "A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort."

Of course, back then everyone dressed like Wally Cleaver and professional wrestling and cable TV were decades away; we didn't have video games featuring hallway machine-gun sprays and head-splitting hatchets and fans didn't come out of the bleachers and assault major league baseball coaches.

Samuelson and Hale walk a fine line between floating words of righteous counsel and flipping off fan emotion that makes sports electric and spontaneous. But in truth, Bobik deserved better last Saturday night when the drumbeat got lost in loud silence.


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