For most people, the BYU-Utah rivalry used to be a one-week affair.
The actual week leading up to the annual gridiron meeting between the University of Utah and Brigham Young University, which is this week, would usually be filled with all sorts of noise and chatter between the two institutions' fan bases, but everything remained calm and cool during the other 51 weeks of the year.
However, as BYU fan Tyler Henderson of Seattle pointed out, that's no longer the case for the folks who post on BYU or Utah message boards across the Internet.
For them, the BYU-Utah rivalry has become a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week, year-round endeavor.
Throughout cyberspace, minute details are debated — over and over and over again — battles for perceived supremacy between the two rivals are continually waged and, in general, fans of BYU and Utah interact with each other every day throughout the year.
"The rivalry goes on longer because the two fan bases are constantly in contact with each other," says Henderson, 31, who has been posting on the prominent BYU sports message board, cougarboard.com, since 2003.
"It used to be that there was a BYU-Utah rivalry game and the week leading up to that your neighbors were having some friendly banter going on, talking a little trash or whatever. But now you're constantly in contact with each other and so you're always keeping tabs on the other program because you wanna see how they're doing.
"Basically, it's the rivalry on a smaller level week-to-week."
The rivalry has certainly played out that way on deseretnews.com, which introduced several changes to its website last fall in hopes of producing more civility.
As the BYU-Utah rivalry has moved online, the shift from macro to micro has undoubtedly had its positives and negatives.
"It has pluses and minuses," says Henderson. "It does have a fun, more entertaining angle, but it does have its side that's probably uglier than it otherwise would be, as well."
For Utah fan Alex Chidester, 23, Orem, the thing that draws him to BYU-Utah message boards is the fact that he can more easily find information about the two schools than he can anywhere else — regardless of what else is going on in the world of sports.
It's a sentiment shared by many of the folks who post on Internet message boards throughout cyberspace.
"The thing that appeals to me is it's a concentrated, focused element," says Chidester, who actively posts on five to six websites, including Utezone.com, a subscription message board, and Utefans.net.
"I can go to other websites that will talk about college football or sports in general, but (BYU-Utah message boards) are appealing when the local media talks about the Jazz or the NBA when that's something that I just don't really care for. It's nice to have those message boards that are talking about just Utah or just BYU and it's within a culture that I'm comfortable with."
Of course, as Chidester quickly noted, there's also the flip side.
Cloaked in the anonymity of an Internet screen name, posters can say whatever they want whenever they want. On message boards involving BYU and Utah, that has allowed for an enormous amount of bitter exchanges between the two sides.
"It's contributed to making the rivalry much more uncivil, partly because of the anonymity of the Internet," says longtime BYU fan Craig Gale, who frequently posts comments on deseretnews.com. "There are many Internet bloggers, who are more haters than they are fans; who are more interested in heckling the opposition than they are in having a real discussion."
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