4 min read

Burn The Ships

Burn The Ships

A Trip To Mesoamerica

In the year 2022, Christopher Columbus has become a polarizing figure. Generally speaking, if you align with an elephant than you think Columbus is a world hero for discovering the Americas but if you align with a donkey then you believe he's a mass murderer, sexual predator, and overall pretty crappy human being.

This article is not about Christopher Columbus.

But, the debates about whether Columbus should be celebrated or cancelled has, unfortunately, caused many of us to overlook some of the baddest dudes in the history of the world - The Spanish Conquistadores.

Today, we are going to talk about one specific conquistador, Hernan Cortes.

This Spanish dude was part of the leadership in Cuba after the Spanish settled the island. But, after defying the orders of the Cuban governor Diego Velazquez, Cortes faced a really crappy situation. He had been ordered to take a platoon of about 11 ships from Cuba to Mexico to explore the coastline, but ultimately decided that he would invade Mexico in search of the city of Tenochtitlan.

After making that decision, Cortes was facing death he was ever going to return to Cuba. So, clearly, that was not something that he was really keen on doing.

So, in order to survive, he had no choice but to try and occupy Mexico. And while there, the dude figured that he might as well overthrow the Aztec empire.

(Ethically speaking, the Aztecs were pretty shady people too. They conquered other tribes, forced them to be slaves, and showed enough restraints in their battles that they would let other tribes survive just enough that future Aztec armies could invade these depleted villages for training exercises. So, Cortes decided to invade and overthrow the Aztec empire, which seems pretty crappy, but really, it was the 1500s and everyone was doing crappy things. Back to our tale.)

There were roughly 600 soldiers in the army that travelled with Cortes from Cuba. Some of those soldiers were still loyal to Velazquez and were willing to mutiny against Cortes and return to Cuba.

Cortes sensed the potential trouble and knew that he had to nip in the bud while simultaneously inspiring his troops to overthrow a mega army in a foreign land. So, what did he do? He burned his own ships.

History disputes whether he actually burned his ships or not, but it sounds way cooler to say he did and does it really matter how he sank his ships at this point? No. So for our purposes, he ordered his troops to burn the ships.

Why would he do this?

Well, to prevent mutiny. But also, to prevent his troops from looking back. The only chance that they had at survival was to win. There was no moving backwards. There was no retreat. There was only winning.

A few years later and some ups and downs in the battles, Cortes took over Tenochtitlan. The Aztec empire was gone after nearly centuries of power. And it all started with a ragtag group of 600 soldiers.

(Sidenote: There are about a million dope stories about Mesoamerica and the Conquistadores that will captivate your mind for hours if you search them out.)

It all started with a simple order: Burn The Ships.

A Trip To The Big 12

At the risk of crossing about a million lines of human decency that modern society doesn't want me to cross, I'm going to attempt to make a comparison between BYU football and a Spanish Conquistador. Brace yourselves.

It's time for BYU to burn the ships.

Cougar fans love their history, and we should. LaVell Edwards is a legend. Jim McMahon and Steve Young are incredible. Ty Detmer's Heisman Trophy is still real and 1984 happened.

But none of that is going to help BYU win in the Big 12 Conference.

For nearly a century, BYU has been one of the 'have nots' of college football. After the Cougs officially move into the Big 12, they will be one of the 'haves' for the first time in program history.

The Cougars aren't just changing conferences. They aren't just adding a tough opponent or two to their schedule. BYU is truly entering an unprecedented era of BYU football.

The things that BYU has done that has made them successful in the past might not make them successful in the future. The way BYU recruits has to change. The way BYU prepares for opponents will have to change. The way BYU gathers donations from donors has to change.

BYU has to adapt. They have to change.

They have to burn the ships.

That doesn't mean that BYU has to forsake everything in their history, not by a long shot. The history of BYU IS BYU. Kalani Sitake is seeing how important history is by inviting alumni into the program. Celebrating their history is something that is important.

But BYU has to be willing to adapt to their future. That might mean their defensive scheme. That might mean throwing a little more money around and investing in some lavish resources and facilities. It might mean paying coaches a little more than BYU typically likes to pay coaches.

BYU needs to burn the ships. There is no turning back now. There is no retreat. There is only the future and the only way to survive in the future is to win. Winning is survival and winning is essential.