Private Eye | Polar Express: Even a Ute fan has to be realistic once in awhile 

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It used to be that I’d be bummed out over a University of Utah football loss to BYU. Not anymore. It’s so familiar at this point that I’m coming to consider a BYU comeback victory in the same manner I regard a smelly pet dog. Sure, the dog smells, but there’s a certain comfort in his being there for you. It stinks to high heaven that the Utes caved in this past Saturday, but there’s a mild reassurance that all remains well in the universe. A Ute loss means the sun will rise in the east. I may be in a minority here but I think if you take a scientific look at such matters you too will discover that global warming began after, not before, Utah supposedly became equal to BYU in football.

Dead polar bears upon the shrinking polar ice cap? Blame Ron McBride. Once he got the Ute football team beating BYU, subtle but dangerous omens began to occur. Ducks and geese quit flying south. Wineries in Washington began bragging about their wines. Golf became a year-round sport in Utah. For the past 15 years or so, I’ve enjoyed every Ute win and every late-season garden tomato. But, it is what it is and I’m a realist, too: Tomatoes shouldn’t ripen in October and Utah isn’t supposed to beat BYU—at least not in close games.

That’s why I predicted a Utah win last week to the tune of 62 for Utah and 3 for BYU. I had originally typed in a 30-to-10 Utah victory but, after conferring with a certain bookie, I jacked the prediction upward for Utah and downward for BYU. It wasn’t overconfidence. The bookie told me that, if it were a close game, BYU would win. I was certain that the power of suggestion via a lopsided prediction would insure a Utah win.

It nearly worked. BYU sat upon the score of 3 for more than half the ball game. They were doing their part religiously by just standing still. When Utah finally tied the game with their own field goal in the third quarter, I was certain they would use that momentum for another 59 points and leave no doubt as to which is the superior team. But, they didn’t. They either couldn’t or wouldn’t. By the time the game ended with a Hail Mary pass going unanswered (like, duh!) in the Utah end zone, it was painfully—and I mean painfully—clear that BYU is either at or near domination of Utah football once again. If so, polar bears may yet be saved.

Even a Ute fan has to be realistic once in awhile. You saw the game didn’t you? And last year’s? Can any Ute fan honestly say Utah even bothered to show up offensively in the first half? They looked scared to death and nervous as a prostitute in a nunnery. Utah gained all of 50 yards in that first half while watching BYU squander several scoring chances. BYU blew additional opportunities in the second half, too, while Utah—which had been putting up huge point totals for more than a month—could only muster a touchdown with just over a minute and a half left to play.

As history has proven, that’s a lot of time on the clock for BYU—especially when you factor in that BYU players “do what’s right on and off the field and the Lord steps in and plays a part in it.” That’s what BYU receiver Austin Collie said after the game. Collie, who caught the now famous fourth-and-18 pass down the sideline that helped set up the BYU victory finished that sentence with two simple words: “Magic happens.” Blogs and radio stations have been making big hay out of Collie’s comment but I’m on his side—between the Lord and Utah’s anomalous wins against BYU, something is definitely killing the polar bears. Besides, Collie has a right to credit whomever he wants for the fact that his quarterback barely escaped a tackle that would have ended the game and was able to throw over the head of at Ute defender who apparently isn’t living right.

Naturally, the Collie comment has people in a tizzy. Those of soft skin claim it’s one more evidentiary piece of BYU celestial arrogance. Meanwhile, the hard-skinned people disclaim something like, “Well, we didn’t cry when Sammy Sosa performed the sign of the cross in the batter’s box.” Or that Tony Dungy thanked Christ his Savior after a Super Bowl victory. Happens all the time in sports, and none of it really bothers me. I’m waiting for the day, though, when Utah recruits a Muslim running back and he invokes the Koran after a big victory. I have a suspicion the soft and hard skins will flip-flop. Actually, we already know what will happen—check out the old video of Muhammad Ali.

The only thing a bit curious about the Collie comment came later. Some radio callers and bloggers made claims he never said it at all and they ignorantly called those who were complaining about Collie ignorant provocateurs. Collie had indeed delivered the quote (during a radio interview with Patrick Kinnahan) but, early on, neither KSL-TV nor the Deseret Morning News ran with it (ergo, it never happened in Utah La-La Land). The D-News used only the two words “magic happens” when citing Collie. Hmmm.

Anyway, Collie was wide open. Judas Iscariot could have caught that pass. It’s just a game. But, global warming—now, that’s another matter. I’m all for the Utes. I’m all for the polar bear, too. That’s a tough call. Nah, I’ll take the Utes and I’ll start living right in support of the polar bear.

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