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Playa Hatas 

BYU football is good again'which means it’s OK to hate them.

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BYU football is back. After four straight nonwinning seasons, 2006 saw the Cougars win their conference, earn a national ranking and get invited to a bowl game. With everything just like it was in the old days, can the hatred BYU football has traditionally inspired be far behind?


After all, this is a squad that Sports Illustrated once declared to be the most-hated college football team in the country. The Cougs are able to generate an animosity that goes beyond the borders of the Beehive State and the rivalry with the University of Utah. When Sports Illustrated broke down the sporting views of each of the 50 states for its 50th anniversary, universities from states as varied in topography, ethnicity and athletic preferences as Wyoming and Hawaii both named BYU as their most hated rival.


Consistent winning by BYU during the LaVell Edwards era explains part of this ill will; people hate the New York Yankees, not the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. During the past four years, there wasn’t a lot to loathe about the Cougars but now that Bronco Mendenhall seems to have the program back on track, the hate can’t be far behind.


What is it about BYU football that breeds such widespread scorn? Just like the jolly old man in the red suit (I guess we know whom he roots for) does this time every year, let’s make a list and check it twice.


Self-righteous BYU fans: Most people who despise BYU football developed their revulsion after getting to know a BYU fan. There is no LDS doctrine stating that the Cougars are the Lord’s team, but if you believe they are playing for the Lord’s university, it’s not hard to connect the dots. Church leaders have never officially stated that BYU wins somehow help to answer Joseph Smith’s question about which is the one true faith, just as they have never officially stated that voting Democrat makes you a bad Mormon. Nevertheless, the vast majority of rank-and-file members fervently believe both propositions to be true. I have personally heard more than one member of the faith bear testimony of the Cougars. After your team loses, the last thing you want to hear from the fans of the winning team is that the results of the gridiron contest are just one more example of why you are well on your way to hell. Don’t hate the playa, baby; hate the self-righteous fan.


Persecution complex: Some Mormons get satisfaction out of feeling that they are picked on'thus proving they are God’s chosen people. In this respect, they are no different from any other religious group. However, you’d have to go back to the Roman Empire games of Christians vs. Lions in the Coliseum to find a group of people who felt that cheering against their team meant cheering against their faith.


If you work with somebody who is a Raiders fan and tell them you want their team to lose, it simply means that you don’t like Al Davis’ white jumpsuits, and the two of you can tease each other about it. Tell a BYU fan you want the Cougs to lose and suddenly it’s Missouri in the 1840s again, and you’re calling Joseph Smith a liar. It’s hard not to hate a team that has fans you can’t joke around with.


Then again, maybe Americans really do hate Mormons: A recent poll showed that 43 percent of Americans would never vote for a Mormon presidential candidate. It’s probably not much of a stretch to guess that the same 43 percent also get a kick out of seeing BYU lose. But if that’s true, maybe the persecution complex mentioned above is justified.


If both the second and third reasons are true, the relationship between BYU haters and BYU fans is much like the relationship between a sadist and a masochist: Everybody’s getting something they want. Until al-Qaeda fields a squad, BYU is on its way to once again becoming America’s most hated team'something both Cougar fans and foes can feel good about.


nBYU vs. Oregon
nThursday, Dec. 21
n6 p.m.

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