Friday, November 5, 2010

Utah-byu - Analysis of a Rivalry

Just got my weekly issue of Sports Illustrated, which brings mucho happiness to a Friday so marked with miscues and pessimism (beginning with a power blip that rendered my alarm clock impotent and put me twenty minutes late for work).  The cover was all about San Francisco winning the World Series, which I don't care too much about that, but I flip through each issue anyway and this week, I was glad I did.

In the middle of World Series coverage and football analysts scratching their heads over the weirdness that is the 2010 NFL season, there was a very nice and very comprehensive (for being a filler) article about Kyle Whittingham and the #5 ranked Utes, who are set to take on the #3 ranked TCU this Saturday.  Now, for all the hoopla and attention Boise State and TCU have gathered, you'd think they were the only non-AQ teams with the BCS in their sights.  But Utah's right up there with 'em and it's fantastic.  I can even forgive the lack of attention the media has given Utah lately (Imma lookin' at you, ESPN BCS Countdown - every week I've watched them make predictions of who will be ranked, they give Boise and TCU spots, but never Utah).

(And Heaven Be Praised that this was not the cover story.  I've endured waaaay too many SI cover jinxes for my liking).

Here is a link to the article.   Read that first, then come back for my analysis.

First, it talks about how Coach Whittingham was offered head coaching jobs at both BYU and Utah and he chose Utah despite having played for BYU and having family in the Provo area.  Then, the article goes on to talk about Utah being ranked and the TCU matchup this weekend and Utah's been in bowl games before and we scraped by Air Force (but they've always been a pain to play)... and here's where it get interesting - quoting from the article now:

"The BYU-Utah rivalry... is often described as a clash between church and state: the devoutly Mormon Cougars versus the secular Utes. (Certainly there are plenty of BYU fans who choose to see it that way.)  The fact is, roughly half the players on Utah's roster are LDS." (emphasis added)

Wow.  Speaking from a standpoint of an LDS Ute fan, this is huge.  Speaking as an LDS Ute fan who went on a mission to the land of college football blue bloods (Florida), it's about stinking time that a proverbial outsider figured this out.  Just because you're LDS doesn't automatically mean you must attend and cheer for byu (my blog's style guide dictates that byu be put in lowercase unless it's being quoted because capital letters are reserved for classy people.  Like Jesus).

I get that, for LDS people outside of Utah, attending byu is a chance to go to college somewhere that you don't have to answer to every Baptist Bob and Pastor Pete that thinks you're on a one-way street to hell and your best buds with Beelzebub himself because you supposedly don't believe the "same Bible" and the "same Jesus" that they do (To be fair to my non-LDS Christian brothers and sisters - this doesn't happen that often, but it does happen - it is not my intent to stir whatever "Mormon vs. Non-Mormon" pot you may have here).  I can respect people going to byu for those reasons (after 18 months in the Bible Belt, heaven knows I respect that).  When you finally have the choice of which school to attend, you should be able to make that choice as you see fit.

However - that being said - I also like what Murphy says here (again, quoting from the article, which also quotes current Utah players):

"[T]his is the attitude that drives Utes (LDS Utes in particular) around the bend - is the belief that the Cougars and their fans are literally holier than thou...

"But wait a minute.  If Utah's coach is Mormon, if half his players are Mormon, doesn't that give them common cause with their rivals?  Wouldn't that turn down the heat on the rivalry?  'It cranks it up, actually,' says [Utah senior center Zane] Taylor, who isn't Mormon.  Speaking for his LDS teammates, he explains that 'it offends them that someone would think they're a better Mormon just because they go to a religious school.' "

When all is said and done, though, this is the best line out of all of it - by Shaky Smithson, who I've come to love after that initial scare during the Pitt game: "That's how you want a rivalry - you want it nasty."

And then there's my dad's take on it - "If the your rival is named after the same guy that founded your school and you were founded first - that's a rivalry!"

So, there you go - for all you people that complain how mean, nasty and un-Christlike we football fans are - the Utah-byu rivalry in a nutshell.

And it's not even Rivalry Week - that's what gets me here.  The Utes have to take care of TCU tomorrow.  And then Notre Dame, then San Diego and then we can get to the business of eating byu's lunch.

Anyway - here's to a Utah victory tomorrow!!

(pretty, pretty please with sugar on top?  I've been a good girl!!)

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