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.
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.