Sunday, November 29, 2009
I hate Utah, too!
Another year, another Holy War.
This year's annual BYU-Utah rivalry game didn't come attached with a BCS Bowl bid, nor a Mountain West Conference championship; TCU had already taken care of both of those.
But it did come with plenty of in-state bragging rights, and a chance for BYU quarterback Max Hall to avenge himself after throwing five interceptions and losing a fumble in last year's loss at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
And in 2009, Hall did just that. The senior QB had a fairly quiet night, but tossed a game-winning pass to tight end Andrew George in OT to give the home team a 26-23 victory and 2nd-place MWC finish.
But that's not the story.
By now you've already heard it; if not, Hall infuriated half of the state with a few comments made during the post-game press conference.
And why shouldn't he?
The senior had just beat the Utes for the second time in his career, making him 3-for-4 against the School Up North during his time at BYU. And all this despite a few bone-headed coaching decisions from none-other-than Robert Anae.
Hall's comments were not unjustified.
"I don't like Utah. In fact, I hate them. I hate everything about them. I hate their program, their fans. I hate everything," Hall said. "It felt really good to send those guys home."
And why wouldn't he?
The previous year, Hall's wife, Mckinzi, and his immediate family were at Rice-Eccles Stadium, sitting in the visitor's section for another Holy War game. As anyone who follows State of Utah sports knows, that was the same Utah team led by Brian Johnson that eventually knocked off Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
Hall threw 5 interceptions and had another fumble on the night, including a pair of embarrassing picks to Utah County-native and "Ute fan since I was born" Paul Kruger.
Furthermore, Hall's wife had beer thrown at her multiple times during the game. When his family tried to get out of the RES and back to their car, there were so many Ute fans harassing them, they had to find a security guard (an on-duty police officer, or so the rumor continues) to escort them to the parking lot.
And then there's the egregious sin:
A few smart-aleck students in the MUSS (that's "Mighty (Pathetic) Utah Student Section") brought a blow-up doll into the stadium, wrote "Max Hall's mom" on it, then proceeded to pass it around the section, with many drunk, immature college students... well, doing what drunk immature college students tend to do with blow-up dolls.
The day after offending the "Yewts," Max Hall issued a statement, clarifying his comments and name-calling tirade. But the damage had been done. Ute fans hated him, and Utah players, coaches and personnel won't respond to anything he said.
So, why does it matter?
If this were any other state, and any other conference, it wouldn't.
But the argument is that BYU, as the "flagship school of the Mountain West Conference" and "face of the LDS church," needs to represent themselves "better than that."
BYU football is, first and foremost, a football team. Bronco Mendenhall has said it before; his players represent the institution (school), but they are also just football players. The Cougars do not get involved in doctrinal discussions within the church (except for my weekly Sunday School class, "Doctrine of BYU Football by Elder Austin F. Collie"), and I don't recall Bronco ever making a statement about the church's campaign against Proposition 8 (hopefully, one of my three readers will correct me if I'm wrong).
But this is a rivalry game!
Rivalry's get bitter; they get bloody; they get nasty and full of hate. That's what makes games such as Florida-Florida State, Oklahoma-Texas, Kansas-Mizzou, or USC-UCLA so interesting for the casual fan to watch.
There is genial animosity between schools with long-standing traditions and consistent playing abilities. And ever since the Urban Meyer days, BYU-Utah has been no different. Sure, LaVell Edwards and Ron McBride were great friends off the field. But ever since McBride's successor showed up in SLC, there's been a different Ute attitude toward "The School Down South" (classy title, Urrrrban!).
Hall's comments were simply a statement of what most fans already think, on both sides of the Point of the Mountain. My neighbor was a Ute fan growing up in Provo (I even visited him and his family with my first home teaching assignment), and we would always try to poke fun at the other school's expense. Sure, we liked each other, and still took the sacrament in the same congregation on Sunday, but ever Saturday, it was a who-beats-who (no matter the game).
I know BYU fans have had numerous run-ins with Utah fans that I am not proud to hear. But the level of raucous boasting and "fun" that Ute supporters exhibit has been ratcheted up a notch from what I've seen BYU fans exhibit. And I've seen my fair-share of jaunting, jeering, spitting and even slapping Utah fans, especially when they try to wander into the student section at the Marriott Center (kick him out! kick him out!).
But when a friend gets in his BYU-licensed/stickered car to drive from South Jordan, Utah to downtown Salt Lake City, and receives no fewer than FOUR middle-fingered salutes, you know the rivalry is getting crazy. And I can GUARANTEE NO BYU FAN HAS EVER TOSSED AROUND A BLOW-UP DOLL with Brian Johnson or Jordan Wynn's "mom" on it.
As for the supposed BYU-supporter who "struck" Sister Whittingham spouted off some inane comment in the mass exodus to rush the field: Kick. Him. Out. No woman deserves to be belittled, taunted, jeered, struck or doused in beer — no matter if her last name is Hall or Whittingham. THAT is classless — if you're a "Coog" or a "Yewt."
So, Utah fans, take Hall's remarks for what they are: simple rivalry salutes. Sure, they are similar to Austin Collie and his "magic happens" postures. But they are also similar to Paul Kruger ("I've hated BYU since the day I was born"), Steve Tate ("I hate BYU... I hate BYU... *wah wah wah*"), former center Kyle Gunther ("I learned from guys who played before me like Jesse Boone to hate BYU and some of the younger guys are going to learn from me."), or this tirade on national television, courtesy of Morgan Scalley.
The Holy War is here to stay. And even in a year where the actual game means nothing in the standings, Max Hall has shown us just that.