When you attend any particular college or university, you tend to root for your school's sports teams. I'm no different, and as such, I cheer on the Salt Lake Community College Bruins, The University of Utah Utes and the Utah State University Aggies. I was also raised in Utah County, which by default makes me a Brigham Young University Cougar.
While I'm comfortable cheering on the Bruins, Utes, Aggies and Cougars simultaneously, several friends, co-workers and family members who are a little more fanatic about their respective schools are not.
Take my immediate family.
I live in what most people would call a mixed marriage. My wife is a Ute, red to the core, and so is her family. We're not talking about people who especially care about Ute sports in general; what matters most to them is that BYU fails embarrassingly at everything athletic. It would be safe to say that their hatred for BYU far exceeds their love for the Utes.
I was raised a Cougar, and I have been attending BYU games since the Steve Young days. My loyalties toward BYU have been ingrained in me, and it's been difficult to overcome any other external conditioning, even attending and graduating from Utah and Utah State University. As such, I've learned to root for both teams, even when they play each other. It would be safe to say that when it comes to the BYU-Utah debate, I'd say I'm a fan of the rivalry, and it's a good thing no matter who wins.
Such sentimentality (or lack thereof) toward both schools often causes a lot of hate from people who are a little less divided. One such Ute fan once called me a traitor and a very bad name for every cheering on BYU. One BYU fan called me something akin to a Democrat (which may be worse than being called a Ute in Provo) for cheering on the Utes. Keep in mind, I wasn't cheering for either side as the two teams played each other; I was cheering for them as they played other schools. I guess I'm one of rare people who doesn't cheer for (insert school name here) and anyone who plays against (insert the name of your hated rival here).
I have to admit, however, that if any Ute or Cougar ever tries to pin me down and force me to choose between the two Utah super-powers, I just shrug and tell them I'm an Aggie, which usually elicits looks of sympathy more than hate.
Why can't all sports fans from the Beehive State be happy for their rivals when they succeed?
Take last weekend.
Utah, BYU, and USU were all in action against schools from automatic-qualifying BCS conferences. Utah and BYU just barely squeaked by, while the Aggies came up short by a small margin against the #7-ranked team in the country, Other than just missing an Aggie miracle, I'd say that's a pretty good week for the state, far as I'm concerned. Some Ute fans I know were disappointed that BYU won. Some BYU fans were disgusted that Pitt couldn't put those Utes back in their place. Some Aggies I know were more pleased with the close Oklahoma score than they were with BYU's win over Washington (led by Logan native Riley ("Traitor!") Nelson).
I was on the field working after the BYU game in Provo on Saturday. As a joke, a friend took a picture of me displaying the "U" sign with my hands while standing in the middle of the field at LaVell Edwards Stadium. A BYU fan saw me and told me I had guts.
Aggie fans are a little different. For years, they have suffered as the poor step child to the Ute-BYU dominance. Whenever I reveal my divided loyalties to a true Aggie, they give me a "how-can-you-sleep-at-night" look and walk away in disgust. I tend to have more sympathy for my fellow Aggie fans these days, even though most of them see me as un-true Aggie. If it means anything, I understand their hate a little more, due to so many years of suffering. Still, if Aggies hope to beat BYU or Utah in the future, it would mean a lot more if they beat a good Ute or good Cougar team.
All this hatred doesn't make any sense. If BYU were 0-12, would it be a very sweet victory, or help with the BCS standings if Utah beat them? Not really. If Utah were 0-12, and BYU trounced them, would the BCS care? Nope. I attended a LOT of Utah-BYU games back in the 1980s and they were some of the most boring and insignificant blowout games I've ever been to. It was a good thing when the likes of Jim Fassel, Ron McBride, Urban Meyer and Kyle ("Traitor!") Whittingham turned the program around. At least for now, the BYU-Utah game means something, other than a means by which a BYU QB could pad his stats.
When BYU won the National Championship in 1984, it was the first (and probably only) time a school from a non power conference turned heads around the country and alerted the media that there actually are schools that play football outside the SEC, ACC, Big 10, Big 12, and Pac 10. Utes should be thankful.
But fans are quick to point out my divided loyalties as wishy-washy vacillation; a convenience that allows me to avoid getting shamed by religious zealots or getting beer thrown on me by drunken hordes of boosters.
Let go of the hate, people.
Oh yeah, and GO AGGIES.
(Note: With Utah and BYU going their separate conference ways, I mourn the loss of significance in one of the greatest rivalries in college sports. Everybody loses.)