PROVO For 13 gut-wrenching, soul-searing seconds, each immortalized on YouTube, my sister's pure fan heart lies exposed before the world, agonizing as John Beck rolls left, then right.
By the end of the blurry video of the final play of last year's Brigham Young University-University of Utah game, the best part of the annual rivalry is revealed, a window into human longing and fulfillment.
We get this glimpse because somewhere next to Karolyn Walch Cutler in the BYU section of Rice-Eccles Stadium, another football fanatic recorded the game-winning play on a cell-phone camera.
Karolyn unwittingly supplied the audio, conscripted into the role of EveryCougar. She was a 20-something woman bleeding blue in a sea of red-clad fans, talking Beck through the play as though he could hear her in his helmet.
Various versions of The Answered Prayer have been viewed a half a million times on that popular Web site. In July, the smart folks at the Salt Lake City ad agency Richter 7 suggested to new BYU sports marketing director Dave Almodova that two of them would be perfect for ticket commercials this fall.
"I'd never seen it," Almodova said of the video with Karolyn's audio. "It was awesome. It gave me chills."
They e-mailed the people who posted the two videos and they became TV commercials unchanged. No voiceovers. Just the poor quality of cell-phone cameras capturing the depths of rich emotion.
"Come on, come on, come on, come on," Karolyn says with the urgency of a young mother coaxing her children out of danger. "Find someone. Find someone."
Finally, seconds ticking into what seem like hours, the game clock having long ago struck zero-zero-zero-zero and valiant Utes hot after Beck and all his receivers, Karolyn issues an increasingly desperate plea directly to the quarterback: "John, run it in. John, run it in. John, run it in. John, run it in."
Standing next to her, her husband thought he was going to die of suspense. Then Beck threw the ball and he felt worse.
"Ohhhh!" John Cutler yells, instantly reminded of the 2005 game, when Beck overthrew Michael Reed on the final play as BYU lost in overtime to Utah.
"It was 'Ohhhh!' as in, 'You've broken my heart again, John Beck,"' he said.
An instant later, ecstasy relieved agony. At the last possible moment, while Beck was running right and a defender about to clobber him, he spotted what the Cutlers and nearly everyone else didn't: Tight end Jonny Harline was wide open way back to the left. Leaping and twisting, Beck threw. Everyone knows Harline knelt to catch the touchdown pass.
This is where the bootleg video becomes priceless. BYU fans can't watch it without breaking into big, goofy smiles. An authentic, overwhelming joy unfolds that is uncommon in a complex world and that Hollywood can't approach. And there's no disdain for the Utes in this celebration, just genuine jubilation.
"Whoo-hoo, whoo-hoo!" John and Karolyn yelled, over and over again, as the cell-phone camera bounced up and down and side to side and the BYU section turned into a mosh pit.
"I'm not a touchy-feely person," John said, "and I hugged strangers at that moment."
"We didn't know each other," Karolyn said, "but it seemed for that moment like we all knew each other."
"That's really a high you experience very rarely," John added. "Maybe like a first kiss."
Nicely, Utah fans don't seem to mind. Almodova worried Ute boosters would complain about the TV commercial. They didn't. And why should they? They've been there, too. In 1993, Ute placekicker Chris Yergensen kicked what seemed like a 55,000-yard field goal with no time on the clock to beat BYU in Provo, 34-31. When Utah won the next game 34-31, again, Ute coach Ron McBride and Cougar coach LaVell Edwards made TV commercials poking fun at the scores.
John and Karolyn, who graduated from Davis County high schools and BYU, will watch Saturday's game on TV in Los Angeles, where John's a grad student at UCLA.
She only learned about the commercials a couple of weeks ago, about the time John told her the game ranks as one of their best dates of all time. She remains a bit embarrassed.
"What I'm saying doesn't even make sense," she said. "John Beck knew better than I did what to do."
For her husband, Beck's final play at BYU removed all doubts about the quarterback.27 comments on this story
"Oh, are you kidding? He's my hero. I've been following his saga with the Dolphins this year, cheering for him to get on the field. That play vaulted him into the pantheon of great BYU quarterbacks."
For a while, they forced their friends to watch the video. Something about Karolyn's raw, soulful, blow-by-blow commentary followed by the moving celebration makes it an emotional moment they don't want to forget. Like wanting to hold on to the best moments of life, to be able to smell them, touch them, feel them again."It kind of brings tears to my eyes, then I feel kind of silly," Karolyn said."But I feel kind of teary when I watch it again. It was just an amazing game and an amazing play," Karolyn said.