I don’t normally read the Sports section of the paper, but this morning the above headline caught my attention. This Saturday was the big rivalry football game here in Utah between the University of Utah and BYU. As with any other local rivalry, fans on both sides feel strongly about their team and often will demonize their opponents. Sports fans can be crazy sometimes. The difference with this rivalry is that like everything else here in Utah, there are religious undertones. BYU is associated with the predominant Mormon culture and Utah fans are considered to be the “others”. This is not necessarily true as there are many avid Utah fans who are LDS and the University of Utah has a large LDS population.
So, why does religion have to play such a big part in this rivalry? Why so much bigotry and ugly rhetoric from both sides? Even in sports, Utah cannot seem to get away from the strong religious divide that exists.
At last years game which took place at Rice Eccles Stadium at the U, BYU quarterback Max Hall’s family was treated horribly. They were verbally attacked and had beer dumped on them. Hall asserts that there were “vile comments personally attacking my wife, my mother, other family members, and our religion.” I find this conduct despicable. I do not blame this young man for being angry. I have been at many football games where wild fans have gotten out of hand and have seen numerous people escorted from stadiums. This bad behavior is not unique to University of Utah – it takes place all over the world at sporting events. I don’t understand it, and solving this odd human activity is a topic for another day.
This year, BYU was victorious and Max Hall obviously felt vindicated. Here is what he said to reporters after the game,
“I don’t like Utah. In fact, I hate them. I hate everything about them. I hate their program, I hate their fans, I hate everything….I think the whole university, their fans and their organization, is classless. They threw beer on my family and stuff last year, and they did a whole bunch of nasty things, and I don’t respect them, and they deserve to lose.”
As I said, I really do understand his anger, but a bunch of idiotic fans do not represent an entire university. We have had LDS people do and say some extremely cruel things to my family, and believe me I am very angry about it. However, I know they are just disturbed individuals who do not do a very good job representing their faith. I do not and will not hold an entire group responsible for the actions of a few misguided people.
Max Hall’s hate filled words also do not represent his school or his faith well. To Hall’s credit, he has apologized for some of his remarks. The problem is the damage is done. The blogosphere is going crazy with negativity from both sides. The mistrust and anger grows and frankly I am unbelievably tired of it. I wish I could just say - this is just football people, but I know the problem is so much deeper. We will forget about the “Y” vs. the “U” until next year, but the rift in Utah society is a daily struggle. Today, I vow to do my part to value everyone as an individual, regardless of race, religion, gender, and sexual preference. Can you vow to do the same??
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