The BYU-Utah rivalry, football version, resumes Saturday and here's hoping this is the year fun gets put back in dysfunctional.
Max Hall has left the stadium. He's left the entire state.
Hall will be remembered not as one of BYU's best quarterbacks who won 32 games as a starter and lost just seven. He will be remembered as the guy who said he hated Utah's fans and considered them classless.
People had said they hated the other side before. A million times they said it. If you count under their breath, make that a billion. But the difference with Hall saying it was two things: 1) He sounded like he meant it from the depths of his soul, like the Huns talking about the Anglo-Saxons, and 2) he'd just thrown the touchdown pass that won the game.
Geesh. It would be like Barack Obama in his victory speech saying how much he hated Republicans.
Talk about a gut punch. A mood killer. Hall managed to suck the fun out of winning. Not only did he launch a robust cottage industry of "Max Hall Hates Me" T-shirts, but he turned a 115-year college rivalry into something that needed to be discussed soberly and seriously, like in a, gulp, family council.
Anyway, Hall's gone, and let's hope it was just a blip, that this year the rivalry returns to good old-fashioned brotherly hate.
The healthy hate. The good hate. The loving hate. The kind you have when you're playing your brother in the driveway.
The BYU-Utah game is called the Holy War. It's called Church vs. State. But neither label is a good fit. Family Fight is more accurate.
Take my situation, which I think is fairly typical. My dad, Gilbert, went to Utah — and played football there. When I came along I went to BYU — this was back in the day when you could get a D in high school algebra and still get in — primarily because I had friends who were there.
And my son, Eric, of his own freewill and choice, and probably because I went to BYU, went to Utah.
If the trend holds, his kids will go to BYU.
The state is full of families in similar conflict. Not to mention neighborhoods. Also, many people attend both schools and have their own inner personal clash to sort out.
The president of BYU, Cecil Samuelson, went to Utah; the president of Utah, Michael Young, went to BYU. The head football coach at Utah, Kyle Whittingham, went to BYU. The head football coach at BYU, Bronco Mendenhall, went to Snow College and Oregon State — but I'll bet he'd have gone to Utah if they'd offered him a scholarship.
The conflicts, the contradictions, the overlapping, they all date back to the very founding — and founder — of the schools.
It was Brigham Young who started the University of Utah — known in the beginning as the University of Deseret — in 1850. He didn't start the school that bears his name until 1875, 25 years later.
So Brigham Young was a Ute and a Cougar.
It makes you wonder where he'd sit Saturday.
And by the way, if it really is a Holy War, not that you'd ever bet on such a thing, but don't bet against the Utes, considering that the last two LDS prophets, Gordon B. Hinckley and Thomas S. Monson, went to Utah, and back in 1894 David O. McKay was a guard on the Utah football team — the same David O. McKay who later became Mormon prophet and they named a building after at BYU.
The truth is, the schools are impossibly intertwined, as much alike as they are different, a product of the same gene pool. When they get together it's a family reunion with tension.
The very ingredients that are at the heart of all healthy college rivalries.
One of the most fabled is in the South involving Georgia and Georgia Tech. Their annual football game goes by the name "Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate."
Let's hope this year Utah-BYU gets back to that.
Lee Benson's column runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Please send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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