It's always fun when a news story dominates a news cycle or when an unlikely story takes everyone by surprise. Luckily for Utahns, we've had several this past week. The LDS Church and the Utah Legislature are re-thinking prior positions regarding same-sex marriage. OK, not a big surprise when you think about it, but surprising in that most everyone believed the issue was settled—just goes to show you politics is, as always, more willow than oak.
Here's another: Former Utah governor and a man regarded as way too sensible to ever become president of the United States, Jon Huntsman Jr., says he could see himself getting behind the candidacy of Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump. That makes no sense—not that Trump can't win, but that a man like Huntsman Jr. can support him. In every way—from presentation, to resume, to prose, to accomplishment, to political position—they are not the same. The word "statesman" might as well be stricken from the dictionary.
What else? Oh, some members of the Utah House of Representatives, notably House Speaker Greg Hughes (a big "R" fish from Draper) and a little "R" fish from Riverton, Rep. Dan McCay, are calling for an audit of University of Utah athletics because they're pissed that Utah head basketball coach, Larry Krystkowiak, cancelled next year's basketball game against Brigham Young University, incurring a penalty of $80,000 due to BYU as was written into that contract's escape clause. Such penalties are like late fees on parking tickets or library books. Same thing, only with more zeroes.
Ute fans owe Krystkowiak a round of applause at this point. As the issue becomes less emotional, more and more Ute fans are reaching the obvious conclusion: There is no upside for any University of Utah athletics program to play BYU other than to appease ancient egos and to drive more knucklehead, anti-Mormon and anti-non-Mormon drivel to the sports page comment boards. Utah is now a force in the PAC-12 (not even counting the ski team), is a bona fide research academy, doesn't mind playing on Sundays and is doing fine. BYU is whatever. Time to divorce amicably.
Never mind that Krystkowiak is paying out of his own pocket, this threatened audit—which is customary in any case when public funds are involved (except when millions are spent on Utah Republican insider special interests)—has now been plastered all over America. This is simply a petty payback to the University of Utah, of which I'm a proud graduate.
As such—and this is for you, Sen. Gene Davis, a Salt Lake County Democrat who sometimes puts "Vote for Davis" signs in my yard, a Ute fan and member of the audit subcommittee—don't let those weasels across the aisle out of the box on this. Embarrass the hell out of them. Remind them that while they are looking for some piss-poor reason for Utah to play some private school, those legislators are wasting my time, my money and my sense of what a government should be. Why is this an issue when people are driving to Colorado for medical-marijuana pain and illness relief? Or when gay youth take their lives at alarming rates because living normally is not so easy for an LGBT person in Utah? Our air is filthy, there are potholes on my street and discrimination is rampant. Yeah, right, play ball.
And, of discrimination, what of that other big story where a bartender at Willie's Lounge reportedly told two potential customers that she could not serve them because she wasn't allowed to serve Polynesians? To some credit, the bar's owner quickly took it on the chin and admitted that he and his place screwed up. In 30 years of publishing, I've never seen a guy clearly admit a mistake in the manner he did. Did Shurtleff or Swallow ever do that? Your local fake religious leader? Your neighborhood scam artist? Nope. You can be your own judge and decide to go to Willie's or not. I've been mistaken for Polynesian more than once, and I'm willing to go there—but I'm pretty sure there are more places than Willie's with a similar "policy." Willie's is not the problem by a long shot.
I've been lucky to spend lots of time with Polynesian kids. My son's football friends like James Aiono (a relative of my old buddy, Maua Aiono—some of you old-timers may remember him as the doorman at Oscar's, One More Time Club, etc.), Kaleki Katoa, Josh Fitisemanu, Kasey Lords, Tavita Fifita and the great-natured Jared Tupai, are welcome at my house anytime. Yeah, they're bigger than trees—and they emptied my fridge more than once—but they're the nicest kids I ever met. They introduced me to their culture, which I'm grateful for. I remember an article I wrote many years ago about how on Memorial Day, Polynesian families show such deep respect for their lost loved ones, all but covering entire cemeteries in flowers. It's a sight.
So, here's what I'm hoping. I hope that all parties sit down to a nice batch of kava and get to some serious relaxing. No need for a Haka. Bring some leis, maybe, and some candy-bar necklaces, a beer from Willie's and nothing else. Just everyone sit down, take some kava sips and enjoy the numbness. I've done it. I'd do it again.
We can mix up a batch in the City Weekly offices, make peace, make new friends, and figure out a way to expunge our real enemy: Ignorance.
If Reps. Hughes and McCay want to join in, that's fine, too. And they should. So should Tom Holmoe, BYU's athletic director, because, well, I'd just love to see him smile for once, and he's not going to get one by beating the U. CW
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