Look at us, America. We have a presidential candidate. We — little ole Utah. Imagine that. Pretty cool, huh?
We've got a dog in the hunt, a horse in the race. We've got Mitt Romney. How do you like us now (oh, please, like us)? We've arrived. We've got a place on the big stage; we're relevant and validated.
We are, aren't we?
Romney is ours.
But he isn't a Utahn, you say? Nonsense. Mitt lived here a few years; he is, rightly or wrongly, credited with saving Utah's Olympic Games; he is a member of Utah's prevailing faith, the thing for which the state is famous. He attended BYU.
Good enough for us.
Steve Young came from Connecticut and attended BYU for a few years, and we claim him like a native son.
The presumptive Republican candidate for president of the United States and the office of world's most powerful man is ours, baby. So sue us. We're claiming him. Massachusetts and Michigan can share.
Mitt claims us, too. Whenever he needs help, he drops by, like an old pal. He stopped by the other day for some more cash. More than 100 Utahns paid between $50,000 and $78,000 for a dinner fundraiser. (What do you serve when people are paying 50 large? I have no idea. Uh-oh, I hear a Jell-O joke coming.) At another event Utahns paid $10,000 to attend a reception and have their photos taken with the future president of the United States who is kind of from Utah.
We've been accused of being Mitt's ATM.
We don't care. Use us; we just want a place on the national stage, even if we're just groupies or enablers.
Let's face it, Utahns have always been the insecure kid on the back row of the class, hoping to be acknowledged. Or least that's how we've tended to view ourselves. We've never felt hip, never run with the "in" crowd. We wanted some validation that we were cool, that we were like the big boys. We've always been a little needy and thin-skinned.
(I wrote this once years ago, and a reader called to say "NO, WE AREN'T." And thanks for proving my point. And now you're upset about this column! Calm down, take a deep breath; we're in this together.)
We are eager to claim some legitimacy, some acceptance. That's why we're overly sensitive at times. To wit: the sports arena. When a pro basketball player named Brian Williams said he wouldn't want to live in Utah and denigrated the night life, Utahns were outraged. Hadn't he seen the lights on Temple Square? Hadn't he had a malt at Hires Big H? Now that's nightlife!
There was public outrage when Derek Harper and Rony Seikaly refused to play for the Jazz. They didn't want to live in Utah, either.
Utahns booed Michael Jordan, the greatest athlete of our time, just because he said he didn't like our golf courses. Gov. Mike Leavitt wanted to proclaim a Michael Jordan Day and take him golfing. Just to show him we had nice fairways. As if we cared!
Actually, we did.
Sometimes we not only try to act like the other kids in the class — such as super big and totally awesome California — that we try too hard. In 1997, during the Olympic Media Summit, Utah officials gave reporters a bag that contained an apple, two cookies, a bag of potato chips, beef jerky, a box of chocolate candy — and two bottles of locally made beer. "We want to make sure they know they can get a drink here," one official explained. What, no cigarettes? Goodie bags are commonly passed out at such events, but not brewskis. They also handed out pamphlets that said, "Salt Lake is a very cool place. Honest." Apparently, people needed some convincing on this point. "We have plenty of brew pubs," it stated, whatever those are.
We wanted to be Denver or Portland when we grew up, and the Jazz, the Pac 12, the Symphony, the Winter Olympics and so forth were ways to get there. Of course we bungled it sometimes because we were a little too eager, like a puppy running around trying to please. We couldn't even bid for the Olympics under the table like everyone else and keep it under the table. Then we slapped ourselves silly just because we got caught doing what the IOC asked us to do.
But that's all in past now. We've got a presidential candidate we can claim. We are in. We are sitting in the front row.
Oh, and by the way, Michael Jordan has a house on one of our golf courses.