Paul Rolly: Lawmakers just can’t make things up.

First Published Feb 10 2017 06:03PM    •    Last Updated Feb 10 2017 07:36 pm

During a legislative review Monday of an audit released earlier of the University of Utah athletic department, Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, blasted his colleagues for the unnecessary burden the audit placed on the U. and its needless $200,000 price tag.

Dabakis said out loud what most observers already knew.

The audit was ordered by leaders of the Legislature because Utah canceled its scheduled basketball game with Brigham Young University this season after a BYU player sucker punched a Ute during the last game the two schools played, and the U. felt BYU's response to that was lackadaisical.

Legislative auditors found the U. athletic department conducts itself pretty well, highlighting just minor problems that needed some adjustments. And never mind that the state auditor's office had conducted an audit of the U.'s athletic department not too long ago and found little wrong with its practices.

That's what got Dabakis' ire about the decision for the audit in the first place.

The motives had nothing to do with making sure taxpayer money was being wisely spent. They were to punish the U. for canceling the in-state rivalry game.

A good portion of the Utah Legislature went to BYU and are avid BYU fans.

So when some senators tried to put lipstick on the call for an audit by saying it provided valuable information that could benefit all of Utah's academic institutions, it was hard to ignore the elephant in the room.

But here's an interesting twist to the idea that legislators wasted taxpayer money by calling for an unnecessary audit to punish a state institution for slighting their beloved Cougars.

They couldn't help themselves. And they didn't even know that their motives were as diabolical as they were.

The New York Times published a story last Sunday about a psychological study explaining why New England Patriots fans believe their team can do no wrong while the rest of the country views the Patriots as the ultimate cheaters.

Even when the Patriots have been caught cheating and been punished for it, their fans blame the enforcers of the rules rather than their team that broke those rules.

Humans are hardwired to believe their group is right. They are on the good side, and it is in their nature to ignore negative aspects of their group and to highlight the negatives of the rival group.

"It's not about the true facts, or about how honest you believe a group is, or what the group's past behavior is. It doesn't matter what sport it is, or what team it is, or even if it's sports at all," said DavidDeSteno, a psychology professor at Northeastern University, who conducted the study.

"Just being part of a group, any group, is enough to excuse moral transgressions because in some way, you're benefiting from it. Your moral compass shifts," he said.

You could apply that to BYU and Utah fans, and there is plenty of evidence to back that up.

Regarding the sucker punch incident last season. The majority of the folks on BYU fan boards blamed the Ute player for being too aggressive, and the BYU player was just defending himself. Or, they believed the punch wasn't so bad and the U. overreacted.

The Ute fans saw the BYU player as a thug, and the school itself creating a dangerous environment where someone could be seriously hurt because of it soft approach to what the punishment should be for the punch.

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