Sometimes — if you’re lucky, maybe once or twice in a lifetime — an opportunity comes along that is so exciting, so rife with hope and potential, so full of magic and wonderment, that it makes your head swim with all the possibilities. The unmarried women on this campus were privy to such an opportunity this week, when BYUSA announced that one of the prizes to its essay contest was a date with Brian Bowers.

If you’re the type of person who doesn’t know who Brian Bowers is — for example, if you’re a BYU student — Brian Bowers is the BYUSA president. So you can imagine the shudder of excitement that must have run up and down the collective spine of BYU females when the possible date was announced. And lest you think the men have been denied an opportunity for a free date with a quasi-political quasi-celebrity, Vice President Karen Duffin has agreed to go out with the winner if the winner should turn out to be male.

The whole thing seemed a little odd to us in the quasi-news business. After all, the essay contest was supposed to be taken seriously. The theme, according to a BYUSA flier, was, “Write a 50-word story about a student that is building tomorrow’s future, capturing the spirit of BYU.” Never mind that it should say “a student who,” not “a student that”; the important thing is, it’s a reasonably serious thing to write about. So doesn’t attaching a goofy prize like a date with a student council representative diminish the potential good that could come from it?

Brian and Karen both say yes. They told me a few days ago that the dates were supposed to be just one of several prizes offered. At some point, someone took it upon himself or herself to make the dates the MAIN prize, and posters heralding that fact were displayed outside the library and near the Cougareat on Monday and Tuesday. “Win a date with Brian Bowers!” they said in big letters.

“It wasn’t ever supposed to be a big deal,” Brian said. “I was on the list of little prizes. Someone got the idea to make a big deal out of it.”

Karen put it more succinctly: “I’m so humiliated.” Both she and Brian have been auctioned off before in “Dating Game”-style activities, and they’ve had to sit in a dunk tank, too. (And you thought BYUSA representatives never did anything!) Agreeing to go on a date with the winner — mind you, it’s only if the winner WANTS to go out with them — just seemed like another embarrassing thing they needed to do in order to help the BYUSA cause. It certainly wasn’t their idea, and they certainly didn’t think such a big deal should be made of it.

Sharon Varga, public relations director for BYUSA, was surprised Tuesday to hear that the “Win a date with Brian Bowers” posters were even up. “It shouldn’t be the focus,” she said. “I didn’t know that poster was up there.” The original contest poster just had a list of prizes — $30 gift certificate, T-shirt, tickets, and an “optional date with Brian Bowers or Karen Duffin,” it said.

The essay contest, by the way, is part of BYUSA’s ongoing, comma-spliced theme: “We are built on yesterday’s heritage, we are building tomorrow’s future, we are one student serving the next, we are BYU.” Previous posters, which focused on the “yesterday’s heritage” part, featured a story about a dropout named Alma Richards who picked himself up by the bootstraps, went to Brigham Young Academy, and wound up winning a gold medal for track in the 1911 Olympics. Of course, he was almost disqualified when the judges found out his name was “Alma” and assumed he was a woman, but everything got straightened out eventually.

Touching, no? Anyway, the new essay contest is focusing on the “building tomorrow’s future” part of the theme, and the winning essay will be slapped onto posters and plastered all over campus. (Perhaps someone should write an essay about the over-use of posters and fliers at BYU.)

Brian and Karen are both great people, and they’ve been good sports about this rather embarrassing turn of events. Brian, despite being from Parma, Idaho, and a statistics major, seems well-rounded and personable, and Karen is as nice as they come. So you should not only enter the essay contest — take entries to 3400 ELWC, or e-mail them to; the deadline is next Thursday — but if you win, you should definitely go out with Karen or Brian, whomever you prefer.

Oh, and here’s my entry, focusing on someone who (“that”) is building tomorrow’s future, capturing the spirit of BYU:

“As the BYU sophomore walked across campus one vibrant fall afternoon, he was startled when a girl he didn’t know approached him and asked him out. He recognized her from his ‘Dating and Marriage in the Fulness of Times’ religion class, and he knew her name was something along the lines of Rebecca or Jennifer, but he did not know her any better than that. But this being BYU, where dating is the object and design of everyone’s existence, he happily agreed to the date. He and the young woman were engaged a week later, and married several hours after that. That courageous, date-happy young woman truly captures the spirit of BYU.”

This column, partly funny and partly not, was written at the request of the Daily Universe campus editor, among others. Everyone thought the whole "Win a date with Brian Bowers" thing was silly, but they didn't want to do an actual news story about it. So they had me mock it instead. I was happy to oblige. It ran on a Friday on the campus page, instead of in the usual Monday lifestyle page slot.

I wrote three different "essays" to put at the end, and I couldn't decide which one to use. So I had several people around the newsroom read them and choose their favorite. This one was the winner -- and it's the one I wrote first, suggesting mabye I should go with my first instincts.

BYUSA stands for Brigham Young University Student Association, by the way. And the crack about no one knowing who Brian Bowers is stems from the fact that, well, no one knew who he was. We at The Daily Universe knew because we covered BYUSA-related news. But the student body in general seemed not to know or care who their student body president is. I don't know how Brian felt about this; I should have asked.