With Brigham Young University still alive in March Madness, the news ripples continue to expand from the earlier coverage of the suspension of hoops star Brandon Davies for violating the school’s moral code. It isn’t surprising, in other words, that editors still have Mormon moral dilemmas on their minds.
On top of that, the Washington Post sports-section story about BYU fans setting up camp in New Orleans for the Sweet 16 was an easy variation on a predictable story that many journalists find irresistible. I am referring, of course, to the “strange religious people visit sinful city for a convention” template that has been around for decades. Think Southern Baptists holding one of their national conventions in Las Vegas, etc., etc.
Thus, here is the top of the story:
NEW ORLEANS – Jeff Kimball and his father, Cy, both live in Provo, Utah, and have been following the Brigham Young men’s basketball team throughout this season, a journey that now finds the Cougars in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1981. Cy says he’s maybe missed four BYU games — home or away — over the past 30 years.
Upon arriving in New Orleans on Tuesday for the Cougars’ matchup with Florida on Thursday night in the Southeast Region semifinals, Jeff Kimball realized he had yet to purchase a copy of Sports Illustrated, which features Cougars star Jimmer Fredette on the cover this week.
That, though, is harder than it sounds in this town.
“All I could find were Playboys and Hustlers,” Jeff Kimball said with a grin as he watched BYU’s open practice at New Orleans Arena on Wednesday afternoon.
(cue: rim shot and cymbal splash)
The surprise is that this is a rather restrained “Mormons do Bourbon Street” story, if one can imagine such a thing. There are a few inky smirks, of course. But some punches were pulled, or the logical connections were missed. Consider, for example, the doctrinal implications of this passage:
For some, like 27-year-old BYU graduate and lifelong Provo native Alex Grow, this week has been his first taste of New Orleans. He and his friend Trent Tueller have followed the Cougars since they won the Mountain West tournament two weeks ago in Las Vegas. Tueller joked that the college basketball gods “have been sending us to the cities of sin.”
But when the two touched down in New Orleans, they made it a point to visit Bourbon Street before they did anything else. They grabbed some beignets, deep-fried doughnut-like pastries that have long been a staple of the city’s cuisine.
OK, if you have spent much time in Nawlins — I grew up in Cajun country on the Texas-Louisiana border — you KNOW what beignets are all about. What does one eat beignets with? Coffee, of course. And, as everyone knows, who abstains from coffee? Mormons, of course.
All needling aside, the story does seek out some interesting people — such as the leader of the only Mormon ward inside New Orleans, proper — to discuss the realities of life in the Crescent City. Like I said, this is a better than average winking-at-Mormons news story.
But here is the missed connection that disappointed me. Think logically. Young people in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are justifiably famous for the discipline and dedication that they show as they conduct their two-year missions to nations around the world, which one reason that so many Mormons know one or more foreign languages (a valuable skill, in this age of globalization).
Yet, this commitment to evangelism also places waves of young Mormons in some of the world’s most exciting, and tempting, cities. Once again, think logically. Is New Orleans really a tougher moral environment than, let’s say, Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro, Amsterdam or Johannesburg? Something tells me that these folks are used to talking about temptations.
In fact, did anyone at the Post think to talk to some of the young Mormons who are currently serving as missionaries in — wait for it — New Orleans?