“Better red than dead, I’ve always said
Though I’m no hurry to die
Unless of course, I’m asked to endorse
The team down south at the Y”
COMMENTARY – Let’s be clear about one thing right up front – I bleed red.
Through good times and bad, I have been an unabashed, unapologetic, avid Utes fan for as long as I can remember (which, ironically, is becoming an increasingly shorter period of time the older I get). I reveled in the Runnin’ Utes run at the NCAA basketball title in 1998; and for the past two seasons my son and I have battled to sit on the front row of Section F decked out in outrageous outfits to watch the struggling hoopsters play in a nearly empty Huntsman Center (although it was kind of fun to hear my own cheers echo back to me). I suffered through nine consecutive losses to the kitty-cats from down south in the 70s and 80s; and I was personally present for the beat-down in the bayou that Utah put on ‘Bama in that sweet Sugar Bowl victory.
I suspect there are many people out there who really are Ute fans but are not willing to admit it, or may sincerely just not realize it. Recently, I volunteered at a blood drive sponsored by my church. After one of my good friends donated blood, I asked him a simple question: “Admit it, you bled red, didn’t you?” While he remains in a state of denial to this very day, I still hold out hope for him and the many other closet Ute fans throughout this great state and beyond.
However, just because I bleed red, that does not mean I am merely a sycophantic fan when it comes to the field of competitive play. My day job as an attorney has taught me to be able to argue both sides of a coin and be somewhat objective (I say “somewhat” because even attorneys can get caught up in a client’s cause).
For example, in no way, shape or manner do I endorse the narrow-minded, short-sighted, misguided decision to discontinue the football rivalry with BYU. As a fan (not as an administrator, not as a businessman, not as a detached commentator, but as a true fan), this decision makes no sense to me whatsoever. Let’s be honest – without the fans, the football program would be relegated to the same status as the tennis team (please understand that I have nothing against tennis, it simply does not command the same attention and dollars as football currently commands). So why not give the fans what they want?
The Holy War has been a hallmark of Utah’s football season for decades and has been the one true measuring stick that fans from both schools have used to beat each other over the head at the water cooler, over the backyard fence and even in church. Now that BYU and Utah are no longer in the same conference, this annual match-up has taken on even more significance. Last year is a perfect example – Y fans can say what they want about sneaking into the 25th spot of the last Coaches Poll based on a 10-3 record against mediocre opponents, but all U fans have to do is point to the Utes’ convincing 54-10 victory over the Cougars in the Y’s own backyard and the discussion as to who was the better team last year is over.
Please spare me the “I can’t expect us to play 11 really, really difficult games in a season,” sob story, Dr. Hill. While there truly are some very good teams in the Pac-12, there are some really bad teams as well. How many Pac-12 football coaches lost their jobs last season? They weren’t fired because their teams played really, really well.
As a fan, it absolutely kills me to hear Dr. Hill basically admit that he is scared to play BYU because they are a difficult team to play. The solution is mindlessly simple – if the U doesn’t want to over-schedule, then just drop the Michigan game and keep BYU, end of discussion. If the U cannot justify dropping a quality opponent like Michigan in order to play the likes of the Y, then the Y isn’t that scary after all and we should be able to play both Michigan and BYU.
Enough talk about scheduling, I cannot wait for the Utes football season to begin on September 7 in Logan at Utah State. In the meantime, we get a preview of what the Utes might be capable of this year in a tune-up scrimmage at home against Northern Colorado next Thursday.
My favorite aspect of this time of year is that hope springs eternal in the breast of every fan, no matter which team they back. Every team is undefeated and in the mind’s eye of its fans, it is destined to remain so. I am not going to rain on anyone’s parade today (but I make no promises beyond today, Happy Valley). In the coming weeks, I am going to have plenty of time to tout the virtues of Utah’s stone wall of a defense and their much improved offense.
For now, I will simply answer Hank Williams, Jr.’s perennial question – I am ready for some football! Are you?