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Brad Rock: Max Hall: a fixture in rivalry lore

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 1 2009 12:00 a.m. MST

Now that Max Hall has calmed down from his rant following BYU's win over Utah Saturday night and apologized for indirectly disparaging everyone from Brigham Young himself on down to current LDS President Thomas S. Monson, I have a confession.

All that stuff about him hating the University of Utah?

I loved it.

People say there's no backing down in this rivalry. Why stop now?

Every once in awhile, it's not bad to have a Lenny Gomes incident to keep it interesting.

If you didn't watch Saturday's overtime game, you missed a great finish. But you didn't miss everything. Not by a long shot. The really interesting stuff came afterward when Hall took a jab — no, a haymaker — at the University of Utah and anyone else who has ever set foot on its campus. I won't re-quote him; if you're reading this, you already know he said he hates Utah — its team, its fans, its food court, its concert hall, its fine arts museum.

He said "classless" Utah fans poured beer and spit on his family last year and he hated their guts. Then he expanded from there.

Nicely done.

I give it a strong 9.8. Really.

But he forgot to mention their heritage or their I.Q.

On Sunday evening Hall issued an apology, which was probably a good thing considering former LDS leader Young, President Monson and BYU President Cecil Samuelson all have ties to the U.

Still, this isn't as big a deal as it may seem. Many will lament the lack of civility, which I understand. At the same time, who ever said true rivalries are civil?

I'm pretty sure Michigan fans have been harassed by Ohio State fans and Texas A&M fans have had beer poured on them by Texas fans. I know the Wyoming-Colorado State rivalry has produced some ugly stuff, including fruit-throwing, beer pouring and other discourteous behavior.

Wayne Howard got infamous as Utah's football coach in 1981 when he discussed the "hatred" between Utah and BYU. That ticked off a lot of people.

Maybe it's a cultural quirk: The worst thing you can say to a Utahn is you hate him.

Austin Collie wasn't disparaging, but nonetheless riled up Ute fans when he said after a win over Utah in 2007, "When you're doing what's right on and off the field, I think the Lord steps in and plays a part in that. Magic happens."

Seeing how a sizable number of Utah's team — and its coach — were LDS and other religions, you can imagine how that went.

Utah safety Morgan Scalley said in 2004 he hated BYU, using a mild vulgarity to describe its players.

Then there was Gomes (who now goes by Lenny Gregory), who in 1993 said it was OK for Utah to beat BYU because "all those (Utes) think that's all there is to life. But when I'm making $50,000-$60,000 a year, they'll be pumping my gas. They're low-class losers."

Saturday it was Max to the max.

Great endings and great quotes?

To a sports writer, it's all a wonderful dream.

In all this, Hall did more damage to his own image than he ever did the Utes. Many of Hall's teammates were the embodiment of class after BYU's win. Dennis Pitta, Andrew Rich, Jan Jorgensen and O'Neill Chambers were gracious in victory.

The best response for Hall would have been to do what Jim McMahon did years ago, when Utah fans were harassing him: He pointed at the scoreboard.

Even if he isn't fully feeling that way now, I figure Hall will eventually regret what he said. I know Gomes/Gregory does. "I was all-conference three years, named the best defensive lineman at BYU. But what they remember me for, 10 years later, is that comment I made about Utah," he once told me. "If someone would just step up and make a stupid comment this year, then maybe (people) can go ahead and forget about me."

From a media standpoint, I thank Max Hall for what he did. He will live forever in rivalry lore.

Lenny Gomes thanks him, too.

e-mail: rock@desnews.com

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