Bleeding Red: Let’s leave religion out of this ‘Holy War’

A tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye
Rivalries like this have long become lore 
Say what you will about the U and Y 
There is nothing holy about this war 

 COMMENTARY — “The Holy War” moniker makes the Utah/BYU rivalry very recognizable nationwide. However, I don’t believe it is a very accurate description of this rivalry as religion has far less to do with people picking opposing sides than the media would like you to believe.

Utah_Utes_-_U_logo.svgNotwithstanding the many wars, conflicts and dissensions that are prevalent in the world today, I believe that God intentionally refuses to intervene among his children here on earth (whom he universally and unconditionally loves) with only a precious few exceptions proving the general rule.

This rivalry does not merely consist of Mormons vs. Non-Mormons, but rather there are a healthy number of Mormons on both sides of the fence (although I freely admit there are precious few non-Mormons in the Cougar camp). I myself am a faithful Mormon (which can be confirmed with both my bishop and stake president), but am a rabid Ute fan.

A recent political poll branched out into questions about college sports in the state of Utah. Among Mormons participating in the poll, 40 percent favored BYU while 21% favored Utah, with the remaining 39% split amount other schools or undecided. In reporting on the poll, Matt Brown of SB Nation commented, “I’m not from Utah, so it’s entirely possible I’m off-base here, but I would have expected BYU to do a little better amount LDS residents in Utah.”

The inbreeding among the Ute and Cougar coaching staffs adds a fun new dimension to this rivalry.

Kyle Whittingham
Kyle Whittingham

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham, co-offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick, linebackers coach Justin Ena, and tight ends coach Freddie Whittingham, all played football for BYU. Additionally, receivers coach Guy Holliday just joined the Ute coaching staff this year after spending the last two seasons coaching the Cougars. Notably, Kyle Whittingham turned down an offer to be the BYU head coach in order to coach at Utah.

Although BYU head coach Kalani Sitake played football for BYU, he coached at Utah for nine years under Kyle Whittingham prior to that. Additionally, defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki, tight ends coach Steve Clark, and defensive line coach Steve Kaufusi all previously coached at Utah before making the move to BYU.

The Ute players and coaches will try and do their best to treat this as just another game, as well they should. Whittingham has consistently pointed out, “We don’t prepare any differently for it, we just do our normal routine.” The reasoning behind such an approach makes perfect sense. “If there was a way that was better to prepare we wouldn’t save it for this week, we’d do it very week,” he explains.

However, independent of their game-day preparations, we all know this isn’t just another game, and so do the players and coaches. After Utah’s last win against BYU in Provo in 2013, Whittingham explained: “At our team meeting on Monday, I asked for a show of hands of anyone in the room that has ever lost to these guys. Not one hand went up and that’s the way we wanted to keep it.”

1byuutahWhen Morgan Scalley played for Utah in 2004, he was famous for saying: “I hate those guys, I hate them with a passion, ever since I was born.” Four years later, BYU quarterback Max Hall engaged in his own rant: “I don’t like Utah. In fact, I hate them. I hate everything about them. I hate their program., I hate their fans, I hate everything.”

My mother was a very wise woman. I have four younger sisters and growing up, I relished opportunities to tease them. When they would go crying to my mother she would inevitably provide one of two responses: “He’s only teasing you because he knows it bothers you.” or “He only teases you because he loves you.” She was right on both accounts.

I want to make it clear that I have no tolerance for pure hatred and the inevitably resulting violence and senseless conflict. However, when trading good-natured barbs with friends and family, I freely admit that one of my many faults is that I find it entertaining when someone takes it too hard.

When KUED produced the documentary, “Red Blood Blue Blood: The Rivalry,” there was an open house in the skyboxes at Rice-Eccles Stadium featuring both Ron McBride and Lavell Edwards as the speakers. I thought it would be very appropriate to invite one of my friends who is a rabid BYU fan to attend the event with me. However, he refused to attend because he just couldn’t get over the fact that it would be held on the Utah campus (perhaps he was afraid that someone would pour beer on him and/or his family). I made sure I took a picture of me with Lavell Edwards and sent it to him. Because of his over-the-top reaction to this rivalry, my friend missed out on a great event and an opportunity to meet one of his personal heroes, Lavell Edwards, in person.

Quite frankly, I don’t believe that God cares who wins or loses the Utah/BYU football game or any other athletic contest. I am amused by those that do, and I simply cannot resist probing for the foundation of such a belief.

At least for me personally, my favorite aspect of this rivalry is that it allows me an opportunity to engage with those I love, but who may share different views. Members of my own family and many of my very good friends are BYU fans, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Just like the adolescent boy pulling the ponytail of a girl on whom he has a crush, my mother was correct that much of my teasing related to the rivalry is my own admittedly juvenile way of saying I love you — kind of like when me and my older brother wrestle or punch each other in the arm instead of hugging and showering each other with kisses.

Here’s hoping The Holy War lives on, and that the Utes will continue to dominate the rivalry as they have in recent years. Utah by 5 on Saturday!

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

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • David September 6, 2016 at 11:21 am

    Dwayne, this is the best article I have ever seen written on this particular subject. I agree with you 100%, and I believe that is something significant, because I bleed blue. You have articulated this term Holy War in a most profound way. Kudos to you for you wisdom!

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