No matter what career path a person has decided to launch themselves down, there are three things that happen every day to every working American: No. 1—they show up to work, No. 2—they leave work, and No. 3—somewhere in between those events, an over-eager, resident Warren Buffett will corner them and inundate them with the latest stock tips.
He will tell you what stocks to buy. He will tell you what stocks to sell. He will spell out the IRS tax code in its entirety. He will plan your retirement. He will lecture on college funding. He will inform you how to cook a steak. He will re-engineer your golf swing.
Second only to money, sports is the topic people talk about the most, while in reality, knowing the least. On any given autumn weekend, every American male suddenly turns into the offensive coordinator genius that would put Bill Belichick out on the streets.
The Olympics are a special time for this same transformation, where all citizens everywhere suddenly know everything there is to know about Scandinavian success in the javelin.
For every flash-in-the-pan stock, there are approximately 100 million uninformed day traders buying furiously, and for every flash-in-the-pan sports team, there 100 million people snatching up a closet full of team apparel for one season of use.
Peter Lynch, one of the greatest Wall Street money managers, said that “the trick is not to learn to trust your gut feelings, but to discipline yourself to ignore them. Stand by your stocks as long as the fundamental story of the company hasn’t changed.”
Little did Mr. Lynch realize he was providing the best advice for scouting out the best sports teams.
For a few seasons following the retirement of LaVell Edwards, BYU became a team who had lost its fundamental story, as Mr. Lynch would put it. The very next season after Edwards’ retirement, BYU ripped off 11 straight wins, which had plenty of people jumping on the bandwagon.
Much to my chagrin, the bandwagoners somehow all went to my high school. As if English class wasn’t bad enough, suddenly it was the ultimate breeding ground for fair-weather fans.
However, by the time the bandwagon was full, BYU was already spiraling downward, becoming the Enron of football for the next two years. What had looked so good and so promising suddenly had sputtered out and died. The tradition was lost and the fundamental story was all but gone.
When Bronco Mendenhall stepped in as head coach in 2005, he took over a team that had truly fallen from grace. Doubtfully he knew it, but Mendenhall started the re-building by adhering to that financial advice of Lynch, and immediately worked to restore the fundamental story of BYU football.
Without going into much detail, it is safe to say Mendenhall’s approach has worked. The Cougars have gone 22-4 during the last two seasons, with back-to-back outright Mountain West Conference championships and two straight seasons of perfect home records.
Questions arose from critics after the first of those two championship seasons, after BYU lost the majority of its offensive weapons to graduation. The answer? Another 11-2 record and a second straight MWC championship trophy to add to the shelf.
Since Bronco Mendenhall took on the position, he has led the head coaching class of 2005 with a record of 28-10, and with the fundamentals in place, is looking to add to that another string of W’s. If the season’s motto “Quest for Perfection” is any indicator, this team has its sights set on a 12-0 record and trip to its first BCS bowl.
BYU returns 10 starters on offense, including QB Max Hall, who passed for 3,848 yards and 26 TDs, RB Harvey Unga, who ran for 1,227 yards, 17 touchdowns, and tallied an MWC record 1,840 all-purpose yards, as well as TE Dennis Pitta and WR Austin Collie, each of which put up huge numbers for the Cougars in 2007 en route to a conference championship.
While some key defensive starters were lost to graduation, including LB Bryan Kehl who was drafted by the NY Giants, coaches and players feel like this defense may be faster than last year’s.
Is the thought of BYU in a BCS bowl overly ambitious? Not to those who see that the fundamentals are back in place at BYU, and to the rest of you, don’t be surprised to see the Cougars playing in January.
That said, I’ll avoid becoming that dreaded co-worker and leave your picks up to you, but as for me, I’m sticking with Mr. Lynch. I’m standing by my stocks.