Tonight BYU earned a close victory over the Utah Utes in an OT touchdown, but more significantly this win represents a loss of respect for football fans of the Utah Holy War. Watching the news tonight post-BYU victory, I was appalled by the story of a BYU fan elbowing Coach Wittingham's wife in the face. Apparently this man elbowed her in the face, and when Mrs. Wittingham protested, simply told her to "Shut Up." (This story was on the KUTV Channel 2 nightly news.)
There is an acceptable amount of enthusiastic dislike for another team; this is what makes a rivalry fun. This action, however, is so far beyond the realm of "acceptable" that I am seriously reconsidering my own allegiance to the Cougars. The gridiron Holy War of Utah has taken a turn for the worst, and "unholy" seems almost more appropriate as fans become fanatics, and extreme fun becomes an extremist, unapologetic, riotous form of loyalty. Where has our class gone as Utahns?
Here are some stories from both sides of the spectrum:
On the importance of the rivalry:
What does this have to do with the rivalry game this year? It means that two top 25 rivals are playing in one of the premier games in the nation. It means that the winner will stay in the polls and the loser, since they aren't USC, will likely drop out. It means that the loser will have to bow to the almighty SCOREBOARD smack at work, school, church, the grocery store, Disneyland, etc. It also means that all objectivity will go out the window and new legends will be carefully crafted and told as folklore amongst each other. These stories will be passed onto other generations , modern day stories of adversity and oppression, our pioneer stories.
Here is a post game blog about an interview with Max Hall, and some classless fans:
“I don’t like Utah,” the senior [Max Hall] said. “In fact, I hate them. I hate everything about them.”
When I pressed him as to why, he asked if I really wanted to know. Guess my response.
“The whole university and their fans and the organization is classless. They threw beer on my family and stuff and did a bunch of nasty stuff. I don’t respect them.”
--PK blog comment, KSL
Pretty controversial to say the least. There should be flags flying rampantly for "Unsportsmanlike Conduct" on behalf of fans of both sides. There is no excusing this sort of behavior, especially over a football rivalry.
As an aside, (I unsuccessfully attempted to post an audio discussion about this) I want to explore the motivations behind why people choose which team to support. Regarding the Utah vs. BYU schism, this division has particularly interesting possible reasons. I came up with the following ideas:
1. Religion: LDS vs NonLDS
As BYU is a religious school, many people supporting the Mormon faith also support the team; there are also a higher concentration of LDS faith members in Provo than Salt Lake. Many nonLDS fans support Utah simply for the reason they don't agree with the Mormon faith. There is also, however, a higher concentration of nonLDS people in Salt Lake than Provo.
2. Alma Mater: Support your school
Many people supprt where they graduated from, like my mother and stepfather. However, my father is a BYU fan although he graduated from the U. He grew up Provo as a child, which brings us to the next category.
As in the case of my father, he simply grew up with the Cougars, and has stayed a fan ever since. I have as well, watching most of the football games with my dad and his has been the number one influence on my team choice. My siblings are Utah fans like their parents, and as such this is another example of tradition/family motivation.
This is somewhat a crossover of all three, but there are many more BYU fans in Provo and many more Utah fans in Salt Lake City, showing a locale trend in siding with one team versus the other.
But ultimately, this is football. Why, then, is there so much "politics" involved? Liking a team because they win often, have cool uniforms, are an offensive or defensive powerhouse, or simply because they play good football now and again is one thing. I thought this was what being a fan was about - supporting a team for the quality of their play and the excitement of watching them. With the Holy War, there is too much emphasis on what each team 'represents,' and not enough about simply being a fan of the sport. The fanaticism, whatever reason behind it, is centering too much around symbolism and ideology versus the simplicity of the game of football, and is causing trouble like the story mentioned above. There must be a call to reason and an arguement for entertainment pleasure as opposed to viscious political allegiances when it comes to the Utah vs. BYU rivalry.