He laughed, but Bronco Mendenhall could’ve just as easily clenched his teeth and given the ol’ stink eye.
Clearly, the BYU football coach isn’t a big fan of social media.
Sure, somewhere inside his head he sees the potential benefits of directly driving the message, but during his weekly press conference Monday, on the heels of a troublesome home loss to Nevada, he offered only derisive laughter when asked about the grumblings and rumblings of “CougarNation.”
“Are there grumblings and rumblings,” he chuckled, shaking his head dismissively. “What a surprise.”
Bronco continued, saying that the way “this generation loves social media” there are all sorts of negative outside influences being hurled at his team from seemingly well-meaning fans.
The temptation here is to take the man to task for not only what he said, but how he said it. And surely he has already taken his share of criticism, after all the way this generation loves social media, his message has already made the rounds.
He gets a bad rap for the way he speaks, the tone and indeed the very cadence of his voice. Like so many of today’s college coaches, his words are buttoned up and he says a lot without saying much of anything.
Because people around here always keep score, even when BYU and Utah don’t play each other, the very same can be said of Utes’ coach Kyle Whittingham.
The days of LaVell Edwards and Ron McBride are long gone and they’re never coming back.
But aside from that, Bronco’s words seemed to directly target BYU’s fanbase, a passionate lot if there ever was one. And it’s not the first time he’s done it, either. He’s made digs in the past, some subtle and some more snarky.
Whether or not he regrets them, well, that’s unclear. But as much as I believe he genuinely appreciates the support, I’m pretty sure he really does believe there are some among the faithful who have no idea what they’re talking about when it comes to their opinions on decision making, management and of course Xs and Os.
And he’s right, 100 percent.
Fans are fans. They’re entitled to their opinions, rightly or wrongly. But the reality of it is, he’s forgotten more about the game than most of them will ever know.
The same is true of coaches and managers all across the sporting landscape. They’re professionals and, quite simply, they know more about the inner workings of their teams than anyone who buys a ticket and sits in the stands.
Of course when it comes to BYU, it’s not just about buying a ticket and sitting in the stands. If it were, he could reinforce to his players the importance of ignoring uneducated opinions. He could try his best to isolate them from the grumblings and rumblings.
But with BYU, it’s different.
When he stopped laughing Monday, Mendenhall said this: “The players looked tired today and they looked resolved and maybe that was because of some of the things that were said to them over the weekend, I didn’t ask them.”
And therein lies the difference.
Oh sure, players and coaches and fans will always come face to face; they’ll always interact in one way or another. But when it comes to “CougarNation” and the culture that encapsulates it, there will always be another level, which is exactly what Bronco was getting at.
Nevermind the fans in the stands, how about the ones in the pews? Or the foyers, or out in the hallway between classes?
Nevermind social media, how about the social aspect of Sunday service?
The only way to avoid that scene is to stay home and, c’mon, Bronco would never advise that.
Maybe he should just tell his guys to clench their teeth and give the ol’ stink eye.
Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @StandardExJimbo