Of Mormons and the Utah-BYU rivalry

Tuesday , December 09, 2014 - 12:00 AM

Some are calling him an outright nutcase. Others, a well-meaning but misguided soul.

Me? I think the guy’s a freakin’ genius, and I see his potential as The Man Who Saved the Newspaper Industry and Thus My Job.

Recently, an anonymous, middle-aged man in the Salt Lake City area took out a full-page newspaper advertisement called “a message to LDS Ute fans who dislike BYU.” The basic gist of the ad was a call to repentance for a certain subset of Mormons — that those members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are University of Utah fans should also be cheering for Brigham Young University teams.

This newspaper ad is of particular interest to me, seeing as how I’m both a Ute (Class of ’84) and a Mormon (Class of ’71).

While recognizing my inalienable rights pursuant to the church’s 11th Article of Faith (worship “according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege”), the advertisement also seems to attempt to invoke a portion of the 13th Article of Faith (“If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things”). Fortunately, I’m fairly certain this year’s BYU football program provides Mormon Utes with a legal loophole regarding that whole virtuous/lovely/good report/praiseworthy requirement.

So, here’s the take-home lesson from this recent newspaper ad: Except when BYU and Utah are in direct competition, people like me should set aside the rivalry and cheer for the church’s flagship school. No word yet on whether this will eventually become a worthiness question in church interviews (“Do you sympathize with any apostate groups, including but not limited to the U of U Alumni Association and any retail stores not specifically named Deseret Book?”), or if we’ll have to start rooting for BYU-Idaho and BYU-Hawaii, too.

Of course, newspapers — not particularly adept at recognizing vast sums of potential profit when they see it — immediately went out and shot themselves in the foot by writing stories about the ad and the teapot-sized tempest it created.

D’oh!

What newspapers should have done was completely ignore the ad, and wait for a few incensed Mormon Utes to get just riled up enough to run a counter ad of their own.

Because I predict that’s where the newspaper industry’s real growth potential is for the future — advocacy advertising. For far too long, newspaper advertising has been the realm of those selling retail products and services. But what about those who are selling their thoughts and ideas, who simply want their voices heard? What about those folks?

Certainly, there’s the letter to the editor, but that doesn’t quite have the same impact as a full-page ad. And there are stories and columns — if you can interest a writer or editor in your cause — but then the results are often filtered through that pesky notion of journalistic fairness and telling both sides of a story.

With a full-page ad, YOU pay for the space. YOU get to decide what goes in that space. And, what doesn’t go there.

Consider the recent advertisements taken out in Minnesota newspapers regarding a policy to allow transgender high school student athletes to play on teams that correspond to their gender identity. A group called the Minnesota Child Protection League ran ads warning parents that if the new policy passed, your 14-year-old daughter may be forced to shower with a male after the game. I know, right?

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality groups have demanded an apology from the newspaper, when what they really should be doing is taking out their own ad.

Got an opinion about the Obama presidency? Take out a full-page ad. Tired of Utah’s restrictive liquor laws? Buy an ad. Want a certain columnist to stop bloviating week after week? What you really want is an ad in that very same newspaper.

Sports-related topics like this BYU fan’s recent advertisement are a huge, untapped market. Consider the high school rivalry, for instance. I envision some wealthy booster taking out a full-page ad in the Standard-Examiner just before next year’s Iron Horse football game between Ogden and Ben Lomond high schools, accusing the Ogden Tigers of being inner-city thugs. Someone then responds with an eight-page special advertising section calling the Ben Lomond Scots a bunch of Celtic cross-dressers. Suddenly — before you can say, “For the millionth time, it’s a kilt, not a dress!” — the Minnesota Child Protection League is pumping hundreds of thousands of advertising dollars into the state to warn about guys in skirts showering with your 14-year-old daughter.

And the best part? Job security for a certain bloviating columnist.

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SEMarkSaal. Or better yet, take out an ad.

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