University of Utah football rules 

Cheering for the SLC team is a basic building-block for a happy childhood.

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Hello from my desk. It’s nice to be home from abroad, and equally nice to nearly be over the jetlag I suffered getting here. “Nearly” is the operative word in the previous sentence. Two days ago, I had a beer. I almost never drink beer, not even when I’m alone. Blame the jetlag.

Gradually, though, the brain synapses so disturbed by long travel begin to adjust. I’m back to a solid five hours of sleep. I can sit here and type without wondering why I’m sitting here. I’m back to wondering what’s going right and what’s going wrong in Salt Lake City. I’m back to following University of Utah football and being pissed once more at the Ute ticket office for booting me out of my seats a couple of years ago. I’ll be watching them on TV again this year, not counting the road games I may attend with my buddy, Joe Caputo, who’s currently selling me on the wonders of Eugene, Ore., and San Jose, Calif.—two cities the Utes travel to this year. I’ve been to both cities and came away uninspired, so maybe I’ll wait for the bowl game.

Despite what some may think, I don’t hold a grudge. I get mad, I get even, I get over it. Most of the time. But, when it comes to the University of Utah ticket office, I just can’t let go and haven’t been to a home game in three years. Despite assuaging phone calls from University of Utah officialdom, I’m still mad. I mean, they took our seats away without warning. As an afterthought, they sloppily tried to placate the situation two years ago by offering seats in some foreign corner of Rice-Eccles stadium. Having gotten the same blisters for nearly a decade, I didn’t want to sit just anywhere. If I can’t sit with my friends like Joe, I’ll watch from home or from Lumpys, the Huddle or the Leprechaun Inn.

Joe is one of the Ute superfans. Travels to away games. Tailgates. Been to nearly every bowl game. Wears red nearly every day. Each week, Utah’s football coaches watch film of their upcoming opponent all day and late into Sunday night as they develop a game plan. Joe occasionally schlepped Sunday dinner to those Ute coaches.

Another Ute superfan, Harold Marston, used to spend his football season Sundays preparing and delivering huge homecooked meals to the coaching staff. When Harold needed help, Joe joined him. A couple of times, Joe dragged me along. I’m here to tell you that the rumors are true: Watching game film all day is grueling work and builds an incredible appetite— you should see those guys eat!

I don’t know who will be feeding the Ute coaches on Sunday this year. I’d do it, but I’m still at odds with the homeboys on the Hill. This new bunch of coaches might not like Greek moussaka, anyway, especially when they compare it to Harold’s great Italian dishes. Harold, a good-old Catholic boy from Price, was joined at the hip to Ute football, counting Ron McBride, Urban Meyer and many Ute assistant coaches as friends. The same may go for Coach Whittingham, but since my Ute expulsion, I haven’t looked in to check. Nor can I ask Harold, because he died suddenly several months ago.

Our seats were all near one another’s. One year, Al “Lumpy” Santi left, never to return. Then me, now Harold. Section E37 was the best place to sit in Rice-Eccles, filled with a special breed of Ute football fan—Harold’s hearse and casket bore the Ute logo. So now, I wonder if I even want to go back to Rice-Eccles at all, as it wouldn’t be the same. Harold always treated my family like gold during his pre-game tailgate meals in the lower parking lot. There are four things Harold did perfectly: He laughed, he cooked, he loved his Utes, and he was a great friend and father.

I’ve been thinking of a way to honor Harold this football season. Since being jilted by the Ute ticket office, I’ve been buying season tickets to BYU football and giving them away to anyone who asked. It was spite. Harold laughed about it, but he didn’t approve—helping BYU in any fashion wasn’t good in Harold’s book. I’ve thought about it and decided to silence my inner child by forsaking my annual BYU ticket giveaway. That means about a dozen people who might have wanted to do so will not be attending a game in LaVell Edwards stadium. Sorry.

The money is still on the table, but it will go to the Utes. I hope the head-in-the-sand Ute ticket office works with me to get some seats to give to a local Boys & Girls Club or something. Harold would agree that a basic building-block for a happy childhood is Ute football. If I can score a pair of seats to Utah’s home games, the world may end up with a few dozen brighter eyes come November.

So, when I finish these next couple of sentences, I’ll draw a breath and dial the Utah football ticket office. If I get the slightest bit of, “Hey, we’re a big-shot NCAA football program now with dummies like you lined up to the top of Mount Olympus waiting to buy our tickets, so take what we give you” attitude, I’ll not hang up. I’ll eat it for Harold, even settling for the east top row seats where the setting sun is known to melt corneal implants, pretty much removing hope of seeing an entire football game. And the kids will love it. I hope. And Harold, too.

Addendum: I just got off the phone with Eric in the Ute ticket office. Very nice guy, not even a whiff of bad attitude. Thanks, Eric, for helping. Go, Utes.

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