(From the FanPosts...)
A recent post on Mountain West Connection got me thinking. The post simply asks the question: Would you root for your rival?
A lot of sports fans would consider this a stupid question. And depending on the sport, they could be right. In the NBA, for example, I am a loyal Utah Jazz fan. The good of any rival team, whether the Lakers, Spurs, Nuggets, Rockets, or anyone else, can only mean bad news for me. There is absolutely no benefit to another NBA team doing well. This is the way of it in pretty much all professional sports.
College is different. Especially in a smaller market like the Mountain West. Especially football. College football is subjective by nature. In football there are polls and formulas. Recruiting budgets and TV deals. Haves and have-nots. For us in the Mountain West, this means it's not just about winning. It's about making an impression. It's about proving people wrong. It's about getting noticed. And unfortunately, a lot of that is out of our hands. (Okay, technically all of it is out of our hands, since we're not actually out there with a Y on our helmets. You get the point.)
(Continued after the jump...)
Consequently, it behooves us as BYU fans to want the rest of our conference to look good, especially in non-conference games and bowls. When the teams in our league are better, and BYU beats them, BYU looks better. Even if BYU loses, it lessens the sting if the opponent is respectable.
This brings up the inevitable dilemma, and the subject of the original MWC connection post: Would you, for the good of the conference, and therefore the good of the Cougars, cheer for the Utes to win games?
Me, I go back and forth on the issue. I'm a BYU graduate, and I grew up in Provo. I have always cheered for BYU and always will. And I do favor them when they play the Utes.
Having said that, I have no hatred towards the Utes at all. I like seeing them win, except for when they play BYU. And even then, if they're honestly the better team when they play BYU, and show it on the field, then I can usually live with that too, and accept the fact that we didn't get the job done. It's not just because it makes the conference look better. I really just don't have any hatred for them -- whether by "them" I mean the players themselves, or the school, or the fans. I live in Salt Lake City now, with several Utah students. I know too many people on both sides of the rivalry to hate.
However, in my current line of work, I have to see a LOT of the worst parts of the BYU/Utah rivalry, on both sides. I see the worst of the smug, superior, self-centered, condescending arrogance that Utes fans hate in BYU fans. (And let's be honest, Cougar fans -- there's more than a little truth to that.) I also see the worst of the baiting, mean-spirited, confrontational belligerence that BYU fans hate in Utah fans. Both extremes are equally annoying to me, and sometimes make me want to give up any stake in the rivalry at all.
I cannot stand the media-created and perpetuated moniker "The Holy War," and I don't use it when I talk about the BYU/Utah rivalry. I know it's easy to make BYU a target given its religious affiliation. And I understand that it even deserves some of that criticism, given the high-minded attitude the school sometimes has about its sports programs. I don't care. I want my rivalry to be about what happens on the field. Nothing else.
Calling it "The Holy War" is a tacit acceptance of the erroneous stereotype that BYU vs. Utah really means Mormons vs. Non-Mormons. Given the number of LDS athletes on both sides (not to mention both head coaches), that stereotype is silly. Using the nickname also means you're silently giving permission to those who hate BYU solely on the grounds that BYU is affiliated with the LDS Church. Which, I guess, is anyone's right. But I'll not be party to it.
There's no question that seeing a rival lose can be a pleasurable experience, full of sadism and schadenfreude. It's nice to have material to use against that friend or family member who supports the other side, ways to tease and needle and annoy.
There are times that we all like to see Utah lose. That doesn't mean we have to be irrational about it.
Even if, sometimes, we just can't help ourselves.