There was a time in my life when I was a HUGE BYU fan. My dad worked as an usher at most of the BYU basketball and football games which meant that I got to see a lot of them growing up as a kid. I still have a lot of memories of those times. In Basketball my favorite player is Danny Ainge. My favorite number to this day is 22 because that was his jersey number and I wanted to be just like him. I also remember Keith Rice, Greg Kite, Fred Roberts and the rest of them. After the games when my dad was hustling people out of the Marriott Center I would go down by the locker room and try to get an autograph or two. In one game, well before tip off I went down onto the floor and rebounded balls for Ainge. It was a thrill.
Football wasn't any different. I grew up with Gifford Nielsen, Marc Wilson, Clay Brown, Via Sikahema, Steve Young, Jim McMahon and Ty Detmer. BYU sports was my life, and as a young kid in Orem, Utah I wanted to one day play for them. We moved to Iowa in 1983 and in 1984 BYU became NCAA Football National Champions. I was elated! I took some ribbing in school as I was the only "Mormon Boy" but I was genuinely happy that they had pulled it off. If you had been a fan as long as I was, you knew full well the ups and downs of each season. The sweet victories, the bitter defeats, when you lived and died with each play you feel entitled to claim part of that trophy as your own.
All of that changed when I moved back to Utah in 1993. I was anxious to resume my loyalties and listened intently to Paul James call the BYU-Utah game. After years of getting routed, the Utes won a close and exciting 34-31 game and BYU finished the season 6-6. The KSL call in show was a shock for me as fan after fan questioned Lavelle Edwards for his play calling. As a life long fan I was disgusted with how "spoiled" these fans had become and the inexcusable way they were getting after a BYU coach who had brought the program from the dead to a National contender. I still remember the fan who said "I've been a BYU season ticket holder for 15 years and I'm not buying next year. I will not be a part of a program that doesn't win." Obviously this guy wasn't around for those times when we would have been grateful for a 6-6 season.
So after years and years of listening to BYU fans whine and complain and Monday morning quarterback an extraordinary coach I decided that I had had enough. Aside from the fact that I have lived in Salt Lake City for 14 years now and always support the local teams (Real Salt Lake, The Bees, the Buzz, and finally the Jazz) I decided to cheer for the Utes. Unlike BYU fans, they genuinely seemed to enjoy every win, probably because of years and years of being a cellar dweller. Most of all, Ute fans don't WHINE the way BYU fans do!
So that is the reason that my loyalties have changed. Is BYU an excellent school? Of course it is. Except for my brother and I, EVERYONE in my family AND their spouse is a BYU graduate! I will always believe that BYU offers a great education. On the flip side, can you get a great education at Utah? Of course, the medical school alone is one of the most prestigious in the Country. Is BYU the ONLY place to get an education? Absolutely not! There are plenty of great universities out there, each offering it's own specialty.
But at the end of the day I love cheering for the Utes. It's impressive to me that kids who grew up all along the Wasatch Front can come together as a team and take on powerhouse football programs from the Big Ten, Pac Ten, Big East and ACC and beat them as good as anyone. Congrats to the 2008 Utah Utes and with some luck I hope to watch you play in your second BCS game!