Brad Rock: Utah teams, athletes receive plenty of respect nationally
In my never-ending quest to debunk falsehoods, expose myths and boldly speak out against wild assumptions, I sometimes carry a heavy load. For instance, already this week I proved beyond reasonable doubt that the NBA does NOT orchestrate its championships.
But my work is not done.
On a different subject, I recently heard a friend say the national media, NCAA, NBA, etc., are "never going to treat Utah teams fairly." Yet my own research — conducted over many hours inside my head — has confirmed there actually isn't an anti-Utah bias in sports at all.
I know, shocking but true.
My opinion is that not only are Utah teams treated respectably in the national view, they're in some cases treated BETTER THAN THEY DESERVE!
WHY AM I SHOUTING?
I have no idea.
The local teams actually have a nice deal going. It may have taken some time to prove themselves, but they've arrived. In fact, they've been there for some time. Take for instance BYU's recently completed basketball season. Thirty-two-and-five is a great record. Still, the Cougars could have been lightly regarded at the end. Didn't happen.
They were ranked No. 9 and beat San Diego State but lost to New Mexico. Yet in the next poll they were ranked No. 8. THEY ROSE ONE SPOT!
OK, I'll lower my voice.
People are staring.
Anyway, the Cougars' good fortune continued. A few weeks later, they again beat San Diego State and rose to No. 3, receiving five No. 1 votes. The next week (minus Brandon Davies) they lost again to New Mexico but beat Wyoming, yet still received a No. 8 ranking.
Even losing convincingly to SDSU in the conference championship barely scratched them. They only fell two spots in the polls and earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, their highest ever.
My point is that BYU got plenty of respect, even when it lost at inopportune times and lost a key player, too. The poll voters, as well as the NCAA Selection Committee, rubber-stamped them regardless.
The Cougars aren't alone in their good fortune. Utah football, for no compelling reason, was ranked No. 24 in the Associated Press preseason poll. After rolling to an 8-0 record, it was ranked No. 5. Nobody really complained about the Utes' schedule, even though it wasn't their toughest.
Most people knew the Utes weren't that good, but the voters didn't. Sort of like in politics. When Utah finally lost, it was an embarrassing 47-7 home defeat against TCU. In past years, the Utes may have disappeared completely after such a loss. Yet they only slid from No. 5 to No. 14. It could have been far worse. The next week it was more of the same: a 28-3 loss to Notre Dame, yet they mysteriously remained in the polls at No. 23. They even moved up to No. 20 on the strength of narrow wins over San Diego State and BYU.
After getting humiliated 26-3 by Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl, they should have fallen entirely from the rankings, but no. They still showed up at No. 23 in the USA Today poll at season's end and were the top vote-getter in the "also receiving votes" category in the AP poll.
Come to think of it, the Utes got the ultimate respect when they were invited to be part of the Pac-12, in spite of winning just one conference football championship since 2004.
In the past 26 months, BYU has attained a No. 3 ranking in basketball and Utah has been ranked No. 2 in football.
That's nice national respect, any way you look at it.
You could make a case that USU basketball doesn't get any respect, but on the other hand, it has won only one NCAA Tournament game since 1970.
To their credit, teams and players in Utah have had enough good years that people actually remember them. Jerry Sloan was named inaugural winner of the Rudy Tomjanovich Award, given to coaches who are exceptional with the media. Also, Sloan, John Stockton and Karl Malone have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Malone won two MVP awards.
BYU's Jimmer Fredette was the national player of the year. Andrew Bogut and Alex Smith were No. 1 draft picks from Utah – in the same year. Deron Williams, Mehmet Okur, Carlos Boozer and Andrei Kirilenko have all been All-Stars playing in Utah. Ty Detmer won the Heisman. Urban Meyer was national coach of the year at Utah.
How much more respect can you get?
Next time I hear someone saying the local teams/players don't get any national respect, I'll point out that when Juliette Binoche won an Oscar for "The English Patient" in 1996, she accepted the award by saying even SHE thought it should have gone to Lauren Bacall.
Sometimes even honorees know they're getting more than they deserve.
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