Grateful for the Game: My Thoughts on the BYU/Utah Game

It happens every year, around this same time. It is so widely popular that even those who are not followers still understand the "importance" of this event. It is distinct to this area and this culture, and it has now become the most embarrassing part of us. It is the "Holy War" rivalry football game between the University of Utah and Brigham Young University.

I must admit that I am a born and raised Cougar fan. I didn't come to Utah Valley until 1997, where I started 6th grade, but I remember that everything was about BYU Football. It has been something that my family and I have shared together for many years.

It was a couple of years ago that my perspective began to change. My older brother Adam and I spend quite a bit of time discussing all things football and Utah Jazz. The more we talked about it, the more we came to the realization that this rivalry has nothing to do with football anymore, and it's become completely pointless. While some may argue that there is nothing wrong with a little competition, we agreed that there was no proper reason we could find to eternally hate one program just because you "belong" to the other. The more we stepped outside this little box that is so easy to get trapped in, the more we realized that this rivalry between fans looks more like children fighting over whose toys are cooler than whose. So we decided to step back. We decided to remove this unnecessary bitterness that this fan culture (from both sides) has raised us with, and enjoy the game for what it is. Not only this game, but this rivalry, this conference, and the schools themselves.

In stating this, I would like to invite you, whoever you are, and wherever your allegiances lie, to consider a few things this week before we get to Saturday's big matchup.

First and foremost, I discovered that by removing pointless hatred towards a program that was not "my own," I did not in any way tarnish my own "fanhood" towards my own team. It actually has allowed me to cheer for both teams more often in hopes that the rivalry game will consist of solid football and it will bring positive attention to Utah. I am no less a BYU fan for respecting and often times cheering for the University of Utah.

Next, I have learned quickly that we should never feel the need to "defend" our school or team, even and especially when someone has generalized it down to absurdity. In most cases, there's no need to say anything. When it happens, it's usually pretty obvious that it has been driven by emotion, and they are likely doing a great job of looking silly without any help from anyone else. I've seen friendships threatened because BYU is all "self-righteous" or because the U is all "classless Mormon haters." If Spock were both real and here, he would slap us upside the head for all of our ridiculous logic.

Third: This is the last time the game will ever be like this again. Sure, the teams will play each other, but because of Pac-12 rules, they have to play each other at the beginning of the season instead of the end. Couple that with the changes in conferences and/or independence, and now they won't even be battling for a conference title anymore either.

Basically what I'm trying to say is that after Saturday's game, there will never be as much riding on this game ever again. Maybe that means there won't be so much heat and hate over it and that would be great. But wouldn't it be nice to see this current rivalry end on a positive note?

So what if Eddie B. from BYU really thinks that he is better than you (and U)?

So what if Jenny Z. from the U really does hate Mormons?

As a Mormon myself, sometimes I hear of people who don't like the Church or anything about it because of a bad experience they had with one of its members. I usually find myself thinking, "If they could just see that not everybody does that..." or "I wish they wouldn't judge the whole Church based on one bad experience..."

What's so different than having the longtime battle of "Who's the classiest" between schools all the time? On both sides we are desperately looking for vulnerabilities and attack points. When we find them, we jump on them and shout with joy, "See! See! I told you your school is stupid! I told you that you are all classless (or drunks, or whatever)!"

Are there BYU fans who really think they are better than you (and U)? Absolutely.

Are there U fans who really hate Mormons? Definitely.

So what?

How many other areas of the nation have what we have? We have two programs who make great competition every single year and we are fortunate enough to be a part of it! There are some other great rivalries around the nation, but they are very few. We get that here and now. Now, it will never be the same. After Saturday, there will be no returns to this era, at least not for the foreseeable future.

It seems that we've taken a great football game and turned it into petty insults that annoy some and offend others.

Some may say that this is all part of a healthy rivalry. I say you're wrong. A healthy rivalry respects its opponent. They may dislike them, but they don't spend their time looking to spread seeds of hatred by undermining the character of an entire school based on their interpreted actions of some.

The bottom line is that hate is hate, no matter what color we try to paint it. It is embarrassing for us as a state, and even more so as members of society in general. It absolutely goes contrary to religious values, no matter what religion it may be.

So I challenge us as a society and a very unique culture not to let personal attacks and petty generalizations continue to be the collective beam in our eyes. We're about to lose one of the greatest rivalries in the country, and we have forgotten entirely what the rivalry is about. It's about football, plain and simple. I wish I didn't feel the need to spend a very long time writing about something as simple as sportsmanship and common courtesy for a people who should know better. There are so many other things that are so much more important than this.

So let's make this the best rivalry game any of us have ever seen, regardless of the outcome of the game. Let's be grateful for the game itself, which we'll never have the same way again.


"Who is that God?"

I have felt the need to get back on the blogging horse and ride into the sunset. But fret ye not; I will tell you all about everything as I ride into that hermosa sunset. Apparently sunset is feminine.

Why waste time? The hand of the Lord has been involved in our lives for a very long time. Right now, we are living in Lindon at my in-laws house. Mary is just starting her second week of her "bootcamp" in a program called IMPACT. It's an acronym for being really smart and dedicated to math. I was blessed to be able to move on in the Seminary Teaching Program (called "pre-service") and am now a part-time student teacher. I will be teaching at Timberline Middle School and at UCAS at UVU this fall.

Most of you who read this will know all of the previous information. What you may not know is what got us to this point.

Back in March of this year, Mary and I were living down in Provo. We were in an amazing ward. We were both serving in wonderful callings with the young women and young men, respectively. We loved being there. Our apartment was a fantastic little place and our landlady was incredible. We told everyone we would not be going anywhere for as far as we could see into the future.

Ha ha ha. Ha.


Under some sort of maternal/grandmothernal inspiration, Mary's grandmother informed us of all of the different options and opportunities available to us as potential first-time home buyers. I want to thank Grandma Williams right now for her persistence. In retrospect, going on this crazy-always-in-limbo-what-are-we-doing-with-our-lives adventure has been more than we ever could have bargained for. An abundance of blessings.

Grandma got the wheels churning in my head, primarily, as I am the one who likes to do crazy things and spend money. However, it didn't take long for Mary to see the potential long-term benefits of buying our own home. The next several weeks were enveloped in realty sites and quickly learning the way of the realtor. As we had family members who were also in the process of buying a home, we were referenced to a wonderful realtor. She gave us a chance and pursued so many things for us. She even gave us homemade chocolate covered marshmallows. I also think I ate every hot tamale candy in her office. Twice.

Those weeks of house-hunting seem like such a blur now. I remember getting excited about just about every house that had a basement or purple carpet on the walls. I'm just that kind of guy. Mary was thankfully apprehensive, as she is the one who uses her brains on a consistent basis.

After a few weeks of searching and searching and searching, we found a great deal on a condo. We had initially said we did not want a condo because it felt like a glorified apartment, but because of the location, the price, and the freedom to have pets, we went for it. We negotiated and worked and negotiated. Our realtor, who I'll call Vickie, worked very hard for us.

We were ready to move in to our soon-to-be home.

Long story slightly shorter, we moved and moved again. Within two days. Things did not work out on our end and in a panic mode, we turned to Mary's parents, who were more than happy to take us in.

Here's the interesting thing: during that whole process, each time we saw a home or looked up a home, or considered buying a home, we rarely felt that complete assurance that it was the right place to be. Even me, who was anxious to spend higher than I can count, still felt nervous about these decisions. We figured that it was just part being realty rookies. So we never exactly felt at home anywhere, but we knew that we needed to move.

While I'm sure that there's always nerves when taking such a big step like this one, there was something different.

So anyways, I called back all of the amazing people who were so willing to help out the first time, and they rallied for another move. Without one complaint, friends and family gathered and moved all of our things during a bitter rainstorm. I love those people.

It wasn't long into the first twenty-four hours in our new home at the in-laws that I finally felt we were where we needed to be. As much as my intellect tried to tell me that moving in with parents is the definitive step backwards, everything else told me otherwise.

Now, I'm not sure why we are here, nor for how long. What I do know, and not by my own wacky imagination, is that we are where we are supposed to be. There is no doubt in my mind that we were led to this place at this time.

It has been such a blessing being here. We have learned so much and are still learning every single day. We have opportunities and blessings that simply would not be ours otherwise. My conviction is that everything happened exactly the way it should have. There just wasn't any other way I could see us leaving our happy place in Provo than the idea of buying our own place. God works in mysterious ways, and as much as I sometimes die to know why, I am grateful.

So maybe there's a little lesson here. Maybe we can learn that our understanding of how things "should be" means nothing when we know that Someone Else is in charge. It's hard to live in limbo, not knowing why or what's next.

It reminds me of a couple of great examples in the scriptures.

In the Book of Mormon, the book of Alma, chapter 14. Alma and Amulek are two missionaries who have been captured by wicked men and—after witnessing horrible things—face the idea of being burned alive themselves. Verse 12: "Now Amulek said unto Alma: Behold, perhaps they will burn us also."

If I were in Alma's shoes (or sandals), I probably would have said, "No kidding." But Alma's faith shines brightly here: verse 13: "And Alma said: Be it according to the will of the Lord."

Now, of course, our situation compared to Alma's and Amulek's is pretty much nothing, but the example of having faith in God no matter what is pretty awesome. Go Alma.

Ether, another Book of Mormon prophet, witnessed the destruction of his entire nation by wickedness and war. The last verse of the last chapter of the book of Ether states: "Now the last words which are written by Ether are these: Whether the Lord will that I be translated, or that I suffer the will of the Lord in the flesh, it mattereth not, so long as I am saved in the kingdom of God. Amen." (Italics added)

Lastly, in the Bible, the incredible example of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego in the book of Daniel.

King Nebuchadnezzar has built a golden image and commands everyone to worship it. The three previously mentioned awesome guys who refuse to do so. They are brought before the King. He tells them that when the music plays, they will have to fall down and worship the image in his presence or suffer death by fire immediately (seems to be a common theme among bad guys). Then he adds this tasty bit at the end: "and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?"

Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego respond, saying "If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods..."

I love that example. But if not. Amazing faith in God when facing seemingly insurmountable odds. Let's finish that story.

So the king has them thrown into the fiery furnace. The fire is so hot that it kills the men who took Shadrach and Co. to the mouth of the furnace. But then something happens. The three stand up, and the king says "Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God."

Sooo, King Nebawhatever, you were asking who that God was that would deliver them?

Jesus Christ. The same who saved them yesterday. The same who will deliver us today. The same who will save us forever.