Sports | R-E-S-P-E-C-T’ed Off: Utah teams’ sports success doesn’t bring love from the Powers That Be. | Arts & Entertainment | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Sports | R-E-S-P-E-C-T’ed Off: Utah teams’ sports success doesn’t bring love from the Powers That Be. 

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Ever since July 24, 1847, one of the big ideas behind the whole concept of “Utah” was that the people who lived in “The Place” felt like they couldn’t get a fair shake anywhere else across the nation. Ever since then, xenophobia has been the birthright of all residents of the Beehive State, native or immigrant. n

Then again, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t out to get you. Utahns were reminded of this every so often in the 19th century when the federal government had its troops drop by to check up on things. We continue to get reminded every so often in the 21st century based on the lack of respect Utah sports teams receive on a national level. The barren frontier landscape blossomed as a rose and was developed to the point where we could afford to construct stadiums and arenas. We then placed teams in them that only remind us that everybody else still doesn’t feel too comfortable about Utah.


The fall months along the Wasatch Front bring the annual berating of the Powers That Be in college football. In the 2008 edition of this rant, no less than five different one-loss teams are ranked ahead of undefeated Utah in the BCS rankings, and before BYU lost its first game of the season, it had been made clear to the Cougs that the poll voters weren’t going to allow them anywhere near the national championship game.


The statewide frustration will be compounded this week as the Utah Jazz open their 2008-09 NBA season. As winter comes on, they will become Utah’s team that gets ignored, this time by the Powers That Be in professional basketball: the television networks. Despite posting back-to-back 50-win seasons and being the only NBA team with two 2008 Olympians on the roster, the Jazz will be on national TV just 11 times this season—and will make exactly zero appearances on the high-profile weekend telecasts on ABC.


This is actually a bit of step up compared to how many times the Jazz have had games televised countrywide in recent years, but there is a curious disparity between the abilities of the Jazz on the floor as compared with their perceived ability to draw ratings. Those who set the NBA television schedule will point out that they are only giving people what they want. It’s understandable that teams like the Lakers (27 national television appearances for the coming season) and Celtics (25) get the limelight after both reached the NBA Finals last season. One can also forgive putting the unforgivably boring Spurs (19) and Pistons (14) on the air more than the Jazz based on the success of those franchises during the past decade. The NBA also has a strategy of marketing stars, so it’s no surprise that Lebron James of the Cavaliers (26) and Steve Nash and Shaquille O’Neal of the Suns (26) get plenty of face time.


What’s more difficult to swallow is why teams such as New Orleans (13), Washington (12) and Portland (13) will all get more nationwide exposure than Utah in the coming season. Their overall performances as teams don’t match the Jazz over the past two seasons, and their up-and-coming stars—Chris Paul, Gilbert Arenas, Greg Oden—don’t seem to have any more of track record than Utah’s Deron Williams or Carlos Boozer. But what really induces the development of conspiracy theories is that the neighboring Denver Nuggets—a franchise which has finished second to the Jazz in their own division the past two seasons while featuring poster children for bad behavior such as Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony—will have their games sent forth to television sets across the land no less than 16 times this season.


It’s hard for a fan of the Utes, Cougars or Jazz not to get discouraged, much less frustrated. Brigham Young seemed to feel the same way back in 1857 when on Jan. 3, he penned a letter to friends containing the phrase, “We have been imposed upon long enough by such consummate know-nothing scamps.” Young was referring to the feds, but he may as well have been talking about those who vote in college football polls or decide which NBA teams get on ABC.


Nevertheless, as much as we might complain, Brother Brigham also taught that all we can do as Utah sports fans is remain hopeful and put on a brave face for those outside our borders. Just four days after the letter referred to above, he sent a missive to Thomas Kane, an outsider in Washington, D.C., stating, “We of Utah consider that we are entitled to some consideration in regard to having behaved so well for several years past.”


For fans of the U, BYU or the Jazz, the only thing left to do is the same thing past generations of Utahns did when trying to get the rest of the nation to respect them: Keep the faith.



UTAH JAZZ HOME OPENER vs. Denver Nuggets
nEnergySolutions Arena, 301 W. South Temple, Wednesday, Oct. 29 @ 7 p.m.,  325-SEAT,

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