Bleeding Red: Unhappy ending vs. UW tests mettle of true fans

So sad to play hard and come so close yet still lose
But close only counts in hand grenades and horseshoes
Will Utah ever be ready to clear the bar?
As Frankie Valli sang, so close, and yet so far

 COMMENTARY – When I was still a free agent working the dating market, I could never understand the women who would pass on me only to fall for a bad boy who would inevitably break their heart. It turns out that I have become just like  one of those women. The only difference is I just can’t help falling for the Utes.

utesPerhaps I’ve seen too many Disney movies that always have a happy ending. While the statistics vary depending on who is doing the research, it is generally accepted that a substantial number of marriages will end in divorce (and that doesn’t even account for all of the relationships that go south without even making it to marriage).

When Utah busted the BCS not just once, but twice, fans got spoiled and expected similar results on an annual basis. Joining the Pac-12 just meant a bigger stage on which the Utes were expected to flourish. O.K., maybe it would take a year or two to become acclimated to their new conference, but we are well past that now, right?

The marriages that last aren’t perfect without any challenges. The reason they last is because the couple understands that neither one of them is perfect and they are willing to work through their problems. My beautiful bride has put up with me for more than 27 years, and every day I count my blessings that she didn’t cut bait and run the first time one of my many flaws manifested itself.

It is seasons like this that separates the wheat from the chaff, the true fans from the bandwagon fans.

Photo courtesy Utah Athletics

Utah is arguably only four plays away from being 9-2 instead of 5-6. Of the six games the Utes have lost, four of them were to ranked teams. Ironically, Utah lost by a single score to each of the ranked teams (including Washington last Saturday), but got steamrolled by the two teams the Utes should have had a decent chance of beating. If anyone can explain how and why that happened then I’m all ears (and I’m betting so is Kyle Whittingham).

Coming into the home stretch of the regular season, Utah had three chances to get one more win to become bowl eligible. After two swings and misses against Washington State and Washington, the Utes are down to a single game showdown with Colorado this Saturday.

Will Utah strike out and sit home during bowl season, or get a much needed base hit to extend the season? We won’t know until time expires in Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday night. That’s why they play the games and fans are drawn to it like bugs to a light – we don’t know, and anything can happen.

The outcome on Saturday will prove just as much about the fans as it will the team. Do the players and coaches have what it takes to win one more game (and hopefully two)? Will the fans cut bait and run, or stand by their team (cue Tammy Wynette singing “Stand by Your Man.”).

True fans understand that the same investment in a team that makes it hurt when the Utes lose is the same reason it is so much fun when they win. Bandwagon fans never suffer the same lows so they never experience the same highs, and instead they constantly float somewhere near the middle. Call me a drug addict, but I’ll take the lows in order to get the full thrill out of the highs.

Meanwhile, just a little further up on The Hill, the Runnin’ Utes are giving fans a reason to cheer.

There are a lot of new faces on the team this year. Sometimes change is good. Many newcomers will have an opportunity to shine this year, and some of them are already starting to stand out.

In a big win over Mizzou last Thursday, Donnie Tillman showed he has the potential to be something special.

While there are many reasons why this is the most wonderful time of the year, the overlap between college football and basketball is definitely one of those reasons.

Here’s hoping Utah has at least one more win in them as they host Colorado on Saturday night, and the Runnin’ Utes cash in on their trip to Vegas this week.

Bleeding Red is sports column written by Dwayne Vance. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. George News.

Email: sports@stgnews.com

Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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