OREM — Everything was as it should have been for Brennen Thorne when he got his new truck this spring. It was perfect for hauling people, boats and snowmobiles: a GMC Sierra 2500 HD 4X4 with a tasteful dark charcoal paint job.

You might even call it a dream ride — right up until he picked up his license plates. There they were, bearing the inscription "441 UTE".

You could have knocked him over with a stare.

The Utah Department of Motor Vehicles had delivered a body blow no linebacker could duplicate. It had managed to make a lifelong, Cougar-blue-wearing, pass-stat-quoting, Ty Detmer-worshipping BYU fan look like a card-carrying, Cougar-vilifying Ute.

"How the heck can this happen to me?" said Thorne. " I don't know how this happened."

How could he end up with the name of his sworn enemy right there on his plates?

"I don't know if I'll take it to the (Edwards) Stadium — especially for the Utah game," said Thorne.

Why not just give him a set of plates that say "GO CRIME!" or "HILLARY FOR PREZ!"? In Utah County, they'd be just as popular.

"At least," sighed Thorne, "they didn't come in red."

Thorne grew up in Utah County, attending Timpanogos High, where he played quarterback. He now works for Osmond Real Estate in Orem. That's the thing about being a real estate agent — you need nice wheels. You're meeting or accompanying clients all the time. Beyond that, you spend a lot of time in the vehicle.

He has no complaints with the truck. The plates, though, are another matter. They're, well, uncomfortable.

"When they gave me my plates I was like, 'You've got to be kidding me."'

What's next, a bumper sticker that says "My favorite team is Utah and anyone who is playing BYU"?

Thorne spent many a Saturday as a youth watching games at what was then Cougar Stadium. He loved Detmer. His idea of natural beauty was a sea of blue — blue BYU shirts, that is. His favorite game memory is the Cougars' 1990 win over Miami.

Among his most vivid memories of BYU games, though, is the year he was helping his father clean their family-owned sporting goods store on a Saturday, listening to the game. That turned out to be one of the two times in the 1990s in which the Utes beat BYU 34-31.

"I swore then I hated the Utes," he said.

He wouldn't so much as name a dart board after them.

It hasn't gotten better, either, with the rivalry becoming even more heated in recent years. Including Utah's 34-31 win in 1993, the Utes have a recent 9-5 record against BYU.

Thorne says so far he hasn't called the DMV about getting the plates changed. More likely he'll have to wait until next year, then order vanity plates. He and his wife have talked about a replacement theme but haven't decided on anything specific.

Perhaps something with "BYU" in it.

How about "UTEHATR"?

99 comments on this story

So far, he says, he hasn't had his sidepanels egged, his windshield smashed or the tires flattened — though he figures that could happen. The only grief he's taken has been from co-workers and family. But that could change quickly, especially with football season fast approaching.

He says he is planning on attending the Utah-BYU game in Provo this November — though not necessarily in his truck. His prediction: another nail-biter. With BYU winning, naturally.

Thorne stands up from his desk and walks to the parking lot for another look at his plates. His shirt is Navy blue with "BYU Cougars" emblazoned on the pocket. He isn't humming "Utah Man."

"People keep saying, 'Man, I didn't know you'd become a Ute fan,"' says Thorne.

Life can be tough.

His heart is saying no, no, no but his license plates keep screaming yes.

E-mail: rock@desnews.com