Her name is Rachel. If I were University of Utah President David Pershing, I’d give her a big, fat raise. If I were Chris Hill, special assistant to the president and the athletic director of University of Utah sports, I’d put her (after Pershing gives her the raise she is due) in charge of the athletic-department ticket office. If I were an employee of that ticket office, I’d worry that Rachel might be cloned, replace me and do something utterly uncharacteristic of that entity: say something nice to a longtime fan, supporter and customer.
Anyone who’s read this column for the past few years already knows what’s coming—my annual pre-season tirade about how screwed up the Utah athletic ticket office is. Long story short is that City Weekly is among the many who gave support to the University of Utah football program when it was down and out, only to be shut out of the greedy, grubby system once Utah football hit a higher benchmark. Despite our support, the ticket office sold our 12 annual tickets out from under us with no notice (prompting me to purchase BYU season tickets instead and give them away just to say “Eff you”). And every year since, even though City Weekly sales reps must stand naked before the football-ticket gods in hopes of being thrown a bone, I remain a dyed-in-the-wool University of Utah football fan.
I love Ute football—especially after watching former Ute defensive tackle James Aiono play the other night for the Indianapolis Colts. James has been a family friend for nearly a decade, and I’m so proud he’s a rookie in the Sunday show. The Ute football coaches nurtured him along, despite the fact that he didn’t quite realize his five-star rating hype. He’s there now, and that’s all that matters. I also love that I got to see James play for the U—because I buy secondhand or scalped Ute tickets these days.
In a way, the Ute ticket office did me a favor when they said sayonara to City Weekly. I’ve met scores of people who were also treated miserably by the ticket office whom I wouldn’t have met otherwise. That’s a plus. I attend the games I want, and other times, I watch from the better seats in front of my TV. In both cases, I pour my own Crown Royal. What I feel for the Utah athletic program isn’t exactly bitterness; it’s an emotion that needles somewhere between being pissed and amazed—how can a Pac-12 quality program be so clueless?
Like this year. Remember, now, that one of the criteria for entry into the Pac-12 is the caliber of academicians at a university, coupled with the quality of education one might receive from that university. Academics first. Rigghhhht. So, our sales rep contacts the advertising agency that represents the football program. After some persistence, he makes his case and is told by the agency that there will be no buy. Again. Not even trade. Again.
“Well, why?” our sales rep asks.
He’s told that the advertising agency spoke to the marketing folks at the university about including City Weekly in their budget, and the message came back that the athletic program doesn’t want any part of City Weekly. (Hey Crazy Lady. Wanna compare scars?) They are said to be concerned about our content, even while acknowledging we reach their desired target audience. Our rep tells the agency it’s no problem at all to place an ad away from anything that might be deemed objectionable—standard in any media. To which he’s told the athletic program doesn’t want to be next to any polarizing content, any classifieds, or any opinions. In other words, the Einsteins in athletics pretty much object to our core mission statement—the very traits instilled in me on the way to a journalism degree from this same university in 1979.
Football isn’t polarizing? Tell that to the substantial number of Utah and BYU fans who literally hate each other and what each side represents. I know this is true because I’ve witnessed the velocity of snowballs being hurled at the always polite and courteous Ute fans by BYU fans. Even by the girls. Football doesn’t create opinions? Tell that to the armchair quarterbacks who today are spouting off about who should be the starting quarterback next Thursday in the Ute home opener. The athletic department doesn’t like our classifieds? How ironic is that? The department that treats Utah fans and businesses like used-up 10 cent lovers finds objections in solicitations from the women whom horny football players—and their horny coaches—have been known to find comfort with.
Well, I don’t like being seated at a game only to be subjected to all those game-interrupting commercials and announcements, either. But, I don’t protest that. I cover my ears, close my eyes, take another mind-numbing swig of whiskey, and I’m done with it. Yes, muling whiskey into Rice-Eccles stadium is easy and makes my line of sight directly across stadium to the sky boxes housing the athletic department all the more palatable.
But, back to Rachel. She also sells tickets for the university. She called my home the other night, making a pitch for a season-ticket buy to Pioneer Theater Company’s upcoming season. She was nice, polite and direct. Before I could say no, she started paying compliments to City Weekly. I’ve never met Rachel, but she talked to me like she knew me. Given the experience with athletic department’s “Up yours,” Hail Mary sales approach these past years, the style contrast was glaringly obvious.
The 2012 season-ticket score shall read: PTC 4 Ute Football 0.