The Cougars were down 14-0 in the sixth inning against Gonzaga May 26, but one fan remained standing, shouting, “Let’s go Cougars!”
Ron Roberts has been one of BYU’s most loyal fans since moving to Provo in August of 1998. He has been faithfully attending BYU volleyball, basketball and baseball games. Through wins and losses, Roberts has supported the Cougars consistently for 14 years. But there’s one thing that makes Roberts different among Cougar fans: He’s partially blind.
Ron Roberts was born blind, with a small pie shaped amount of vision in his right eye. Growing up in Richcrest, Calif., he attended the California School for the Blind, until moving to Utah. With both parents as BYU alumni, Roberts grew up supporting the Cougars and was excited to attend BYU events once moving to Utah.
The radio becomes Roberts’ eyes as he listens to a play-by-play report from radio announcer Brent Norton. Roberts also uses an eye piece similar to a telescope to see the action and asks others for an update on the game. But Roberts doesn’t only come for the games, he comes for the people.
“I love the atmosphere of baseball games and meeting new people among the crowd,” Roberts said. “Baseball is a blessing in my life.”
Living kitty corner to the stadium with his parents, Roberts has easy access to all the sporting events at Brigham Young University.
“Basketball is my number one sport, with volleyball as my second,” Roberts said wide eyed, with a smile on his face.
Preston Darger, a junior from Boise, Idaho, majoring in advertising, met Roberts three years ago at a basketball game. Roberts would sit in the front row in the Marriott Center and ask Darger, and other fans, for an update on the game.
“Ron is known to have the loudest clap and cheer of anyone at Miller Park and the Marriott Center,” said Darger.
According to Darger, Roberts’ signature clap can be heard by all fans and helps keep the crowd to continue cheering for the Cougars.
“Ron is such a loyal fan and always has a positive attitude,” Darger said. “He is always standing and clapping even when everyone else is sitting down. He is the best example of what a BYU fan should be.”
Roberts is dedicated and keeps track of players throughout their career at BYU.
“He is very committed and knows the players names and the positions they play,” said Mary Jo Roberts, Ron’s stepmother.
As well as supporting the Cougars, Roberts is a season ticket holder for the Orem Owlz baseball team. To get to and from all the games Roberts has memorized the bus schedules.
“Ron loves meeting people, all of the bus drivers know him due to his friendliness” Mary Jo said.
Not only is Roberts an avid BYU fan, he is also a concert pianist. Roberts grew up taking lessons in Richcrest, Calif., where he attended the California School for the Blind. There he realized that instead of trying to read the music with the small amount of vision he had, he could play by ear. He would listen to a song on repeat, memorize the notes, and then play the piece perfectly.
“I can see some things,” Roberts said, putting his cell phone up to his right eye. “I can see stripes, colors and things when I’m up close.”
After moving to Provo in 1998 with his parents, Roberts started working at Deseret Industries where he hung clothes. There he started playing their grand piano, which was eventually sold. After that Roberts quit Deseret Industries and was hired to play the piano at Nordstrom in the University Mall. He would hang clothes in the morning and play music in the afternoon. After working at Nordstrom for 10 years, the store eventually closed and he turned to other venues to share his talent.
“I have perfect pitch,” Roberts said. “I play for weddings, rest homes and many other places.”
Roberts plays the piano for the Provo Rotary Club every Thursday, as well as at the Hinkley Center at BYU and the Conference Center and Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City. He also works in the Provo LDS temple three days a week playing the organ.
Roberts could tell you the date and time of any event that took place in his life without thinking about it. He processes information quickly and others say he rarely forgets anything, especially when it comes to numbers. One day his mother came into the living room and asked him what he was doing.
He simply replied, “I’m reading the dictionary.”
Despite his lack of sight, Roberts’ great memory and attention to detail helps him to remember people’s voices and create strong relationships with those around him. By coming to BYU athletic events he is able to surround himself with fans that also share a love for the Cougars.
“I just love people,” Roberts said with a big smile on his face.
Next season you can find Roberts on the front row, cheering for the Cougars the entire game.