Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Rivalry Week...For Me, A Paradox

In many ways, I really hate Rivalry Week.

Many University of Utah football fans and Brigham Young University football fans LOVE this week. It's something that, up until a few years ago, was as annual an event as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. And the die-hard fans of each institution reveled in its glory.

So, what's to hate?

Lots, actually.

Of course we don't always remember how things "used to be," but the general consensus is that over the past few years, the rivalry's gotten mean and nasty. There's as many opinions about why the rivalry has gotten so bad as there are armchair commentators to let you know. I have my own opinions. I believe there are many reasons the Holy War has gotten so intense, but personally, I'd say the main reason is based on one big fact:

The Utah Utes got good.

They got so good, they've dominated the series as of late. I know some BYU fans might not agree, because many of the contests have been very close with several overtime games. But if we talk wins vs losses, it's not been close. Since 2002 Utah has beat BYU ten times and lost three. The last time BYU beat Utah was 2009. In fact, for seven decades Utah owned BYU, and by "owned" I mean from 1896 to 1971, BYU beat the Utes a total of eight times. As of now, Utah leads the all-time series 58-34-4 (all stats courtesy of Wikipedia--though not "official," they're probably pretty close...).

But then BYU hired Coach LaVell Edwards and that changed everything. For anyone born between, say, 1960 and 1985, you almost never saw the BYU Cougars lose to Utah, and not lose much to anyone else. They had some of the best teams in the country and they even won the big enchilada--the National Championship in 1984.

So, as long as Utah wasn't good, the Holy War was pretty much another excuse for BYU fans to enjoy another dominating win. And all was well in Happy Valley.

But, as I said before, Utah decided not to remain a Cougar doormat. Over time the names of McBride, Meyer, and Whittingham slowly built a team, a team that hasn't done to the Cougars what they did to Utah (go 19-2 from 1971 to 1992...), but has made their mark. And as far as going undefeated, Utah did what BYU did in 1984 twice in four years. They were the first BCS buster (BYU never made it to a BCS bowl--Utah went twice...). Utah moved from the Mountain West Conference to a Big 5 conference, and have gotten the kind of national attention BYU used to get all the time.

So, why is Rivalry Week a paradox for me. It's simple, actually. I was one of those born between 1960 and 1985, and I went to the U of U. I watched time after time the boys in blue totally pound my Utes. It was not pretty. It did not feel good. But as I became a bigger Ute fan, losing to the Y hurt more and more--brought back the memories, I suppose.

I know Rivalry Week is supposed to be fun, a time to celebrate two good teams as they show what they can do on the field. It's supposed to be a time for their fans to enjoy one-upping each other and making silly bets. I should be excited for the week and having a good time this week. So--for me--in order to do this, I actually have to care less about the game, dismiss those deep-seated issues that swim in my subconscious. If I care less, I'll enjoy it more.

Next Sunday I'll go to church. If Utah wins I'll think about wearing my U of U football tie, but I'll probably not because I have so many friends who will be hurting. Some Utah fans will wear theirs, though. And if BYU wins many will be wearing something blue and smiling more than normal. They'll get to feel something they haven't felt since 2009.

I have no idea how it will end up, who will win and who will not. Of course, it's only a few months until college basketball season and we'll be doing the whole thing all over again.

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