SALT LAKE CITY —
A few weeks ago, an LDS acquaintance told me he liked my columns and read them regularly. He added, though, that he seldom reads my articles on Sunday because the material gets him "too worked up."
He doesn't need the angst.
In that case, he might want to skip today's column, too, because I'm going to talk about Sunday college basketball games. My take is this: Live with it. It's what Ute fans asked for.
They've made their deal with the devil, so to speak.
I can picture my friend's eyelid twitching, even as I speak.
Sunday at the Huntsman Center, the Utes host Stanford in the first Sunday home game in Utah men's basketball history. The Pac-12 people apparently felt airing the Utes-Cardinal game would draw respectable numbers, both on-air and in-house, so they made a decision. For Utah fans that believe sports should be avoided on Sunday, this is a strange new era. It might even be offensive. But Utah's win-loss records have been offensive to Heaven and Earth every other day of the week, too. So who knows, maybe this will change things.
Those attending in person tonight (if anyone) can rest assured they'll be easing the mind of Utah athletics director Chris Hill. He worries about these sorts of things. He has to keep a lot of people happy, including those who don't like Sunday games.
Sabbath play isn't a big issue in most markets. It wouldn't raise an eyebrow at Stanford or Cal, and probably not anywhere else in the Pac-12. The idea is to broadcast more games to the most people. Hill openly admitted when the Utes joined the league that Sunday play would become a reality. Now it's here. You can catch them tonight at 7, same time as "Little Women" on BYUtv.
Some aren't taking the prospects of an occasional Sunday game passively. They think it's a bad precedent and I agree. Along with religious implications, Sunday games complicate a team's routine for practice and play. Utah did get a Thursday bye, which leaves it with almost a full week to get ready for Colorado next Saturday. Still, Sunday games can throw off timing and study patterns.
College sports should be Tuesday through Saturday and leave pro sports to dominate Sundays and Mondays.
As for the Utes, it will be hard to gauge exactly what Sunday games mean to them. Attendance has been low for several years, and Utah has lost six of its last seven games. It's doubtful many fans would show up anyway. But that doesn't mean Utahns never attend Sunday sports. The Jazz sold out four of six Sunday playoff games in the old Salt Palace. One of those non-sellouts was just 172 tickets shy. They have sold out 13 of 14 Sunday playoff games at EnergySolutions Arena/Delta Center, and fell just 284 tickets short on the other.
Of 11 regular season Sunday home games, all-time, the Jazz have sold out or come within a few hundred all but three times — all in the 1980s.
Senior PGA Tour events were always well attended when they were held in Park City.
Clearly there are takers for Sunday sports events, even if they're not the original ticket-holders.
There is some talk of fans flooding Hill's and commissioner Larry Scott's inboxes with letters of protest. That seems a bad idea. Utah willingly signed up for this. There's a reason the Utes are in the Pac-12 and BYU isn't, and part of it is Sunday play.
With that in mind, Sabbath-obeying Utah fans will just have to live with it. It's not ideal, but it's the deal their school agreed upon. Otherwise, the Utes should have stayed in the Mountain West, where they had enough clout to tell the conference to take its Sunday scheduling and go, well, straight to heck.
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