Utah Won, Max Hall Loses 

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An hour after the Utah/BYU football game on Nov. 28, BYU quarterback Max Hall made his now-famous remarks about how much he hated “everything” about the University of Utah.

Among his reasons for hating all the players, fans, plants, liberal-arts instructors and maintenance sheds at the U was his contention that during 2008’s game, his family was treated to a variety of “nasty things” at Rice- Eccles stadium. By nearly all judgments, the most awful act committed by those Ute fans was that they tossed beer on his “family and stuff.”

You can check for yourself, but I’ve already wasted a day of my life reading the online comments about Max Hall’s remarks. Many revolve around the notion of that spilled beer in Rice-Eccles stadium. BYU fans love to call Ute fans drunks. Ute fans marvel that people who claim both purity and sobriety behave like clowns one minute and wolverines the next. It’s really just a big misunderstanding.

I’ve seen plenty of contraband hooch at Ute football games, so I’m not prepared to call Max Hall an embellisher. Who wouldn’t be upset if that really happened? But I wonder why he waited a year to vent and why he defined beer as the weapon of choice. Would he have been OK with French’s mustard? What if his family were whipped by a churro? Bad behavior doesn’t require hops and barley, but hey, if blaming beer allows you to ignore your own foibles, so be it.

That’s what beer is for, by the way.

I wasn’t drinking, so here’s what I plainly remember about Saturday’s game: Utah kicked off and stopped BYU on three downs. BYU punted and Utah scored a field goal. Utah kicked off again and again stopped BYU. BYU punted. Utah scored another field goal, making the score six nothing for Utah at the end of the first quarter. Utah lost the game right there when they could only muster 6 points instead of 14 on those two possessions.

During the game, I must have praised Max Hall a half dozen times. If his team needed 12 yards on 3rd down, he scrambled or passed for 13. He was playing to win—a pity folks won’t remember that. Meanwhile, Utah’s players were engaged in a different game called: “Let’s do something stupid and make the guy over there in the striped shirt blow his whistle.” Utah played about as undisciplined a game as they could— and that’s on the Utah coaches.

But, like so many good rivalry games, the brave and righteous Utes challenged. At the buzzer, the game was tied at 20 after Utah added two more field goals—and lost eight more points in the process. Utah’s five scoring possessions could have and should have yielded 35 points, not 20. So, by my reckoning Utah won, simple as that.

But, rules are rules, and the game went into overtime. Utah quickly kicked yet another field goal and was primed for a nice upset when Hall threw a 25-yard touchdown pass, giving BYU a scoreboard win of 26-23. As I regard myself as a jolly good sport, and because I know Utah actually won, it was really easy for me to go on with my life by clicking off the TV. No sorrow. No regrets. Good game, Utah. Good game, BYU. Good game, Max Hall. See you next year. I settled into Facebook.

So it was that I missed the ruination of that fine game when Max Hall’s pent-up emotions exploded into Utah lore like a teenager’s zit on a locker-room mirror.

As one who has pissed off plenty of people and also wrongly made too many generalizations via this column, I knew Max Hall was delivering words he’d soon regret. I also knew that if he were lucky, somebody would smack him or speak to him in a manner that would ignite his inner light, and he’d say, “Yep. I was an asshole.”

That’s how it happens to me at least. But prima donnas are rarely smacked and thus far, no one of authority or status has so much as repudiated a single one of Hall’s words. I guess they approve, then.

A few years ago, I went off on BYU myself—oh, and Utah County, too— prompting a number of BYU fans to call me on the carpet. They were good guys who didn’t “deserve” (a Max Hall word) what I’d written. We exchanged several friendly e-mails, and one fellow even sent me some strawberry Jell-O to appease my Ute red heart. I think I did OK at apologizing to them, too.

I read Max Hall’s apology. It isn’t one. It’s an explanation. He reiterates the ugly points he made in his spiel to boot—real apologies don’t do that. Real apologies are like the ones Tiger Woods must be giving his wife right now. If Max Hall owes anyone an apology, it’s to his teammates and his school, not the University of Utah. If you want to accept Max Hall’s apology, go ahead. I never asked for one. Nor did any Ute fan I know—many of whom consider the feeling is mutual anyway.

Max Hall is a “righteous, holier-than-thou BYU jerk,” according to a good LDS friend with whom I spoke this morning. “They just don’t get it,” he said. “They make us all look stupid.”

Who are “they?” They’re all those people like Max Hall who put an ugly face on the religion and institution they claim to love and represent. He’s the football-playing missionary who BYU’s preachy coach Bronco Mendenhall bargained for—delivering acidic fighting words one minute and hollow solemnities the next. Until he wises up, his original words define him. Have you seen the hot, new “Max Hall Hates Me” T-shirts, yet?

Poor Utah—defined only by an empty beer can.

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