If BYU is in the news and Utah fans don’t hate on it, did it actually happen?
Can a BYU fan defend Ului Lapuaho without bringing the Utes into it?
Can either fan base form an objective opinion about the other program, it’s players, or even their actions in individual cases?
This week has provided strong indications that the answer to all 3 questions is “NO”.
While it might be unwise to generalize based on Twitter conversations, I can’t help but draw at least a partial conclusion that the lack of an actual rivalry GAME hasn’t done much to calm the rivalry fires.
I need to make it clear that I’ve made no bones about the fact that I think BYU is falling short in their discipline of Lapuaho, and that a suspension would be a course of action seemingly more in line with both the written and unwritten mission statements of BYU football. I’m still a believer that BYU enforces a higher-than-average standard of both academics and character in their program, which is why I am critical of the decision to let this one slide. It’s not a novel or completely original opinion, but it is valid for me.
Most importantly, this is an opinion formed because of what I saw and what I know as an athlete and former player and what think and know about BYU. The fact that Utah is my alma mater has ZERO influence on the formation of that opinion. It’s just the right call, certainly for BYU, but also if the incident came from any other player on any other team. Suspension is the right call. I fully accept that Bronco, BYU, and the Big 12 officials that oversee BYU as an independent don’t feel that way. I’ll talk about other things, but always be internally critical of that decision and feel it was heavily influenced by the fact that BYU values Lapuaho as a player and they have a game against UCLA coming next.
Nearly every Utah fan I’ve seen/heard from on the show or social media agrees with me. But here’s the thing…. A lot of them are not in agreement because it’s a common sense call. Many (most?) just relish the fact that it’s a really bad look for BYU and want to pile on. The calls start coming about how BYU is a dirty program, that this is common practice for the Cougs etc. The argument (which shouldn’t exist in the first place) deteriorates to BYUvsUTAH and eventually Mormons vs Non. It’s insane. Somewhat expected maybe, but still absolutely crazy. The red-tinted crowd smells blue blood in the water and joins the feeding frenzy, citing op-ed pieces and year old incidents and all number of things to drag a historically prominent (and currently very exciting) program through the mud.
On the flip side of the equation, the BYU die hards can’t bring themselves to criticize the program for even this one single inconsisten decision. Because it’s BYU versus the world? My tweets about the incident are met with “only you Utah folks are still talking about it” even as I watch virtually every national sports outlet replay it with more regularity than the game winning TD pass. I am actually talking about it LESS than ESPN is. The blatantly unsportsmanlike play and subsequent lack of suspension is defended like this…
“The Boise player jumped on him late…” (which warrants a junk-punch response I suppose) or…
“This kind of stuff happens all the time…” (Not really. Pushing, shoving, facemask grabbing, cussing, Yes. Nutshots no)
“The officials didn’t think it deserved a suspension.” (most times as a fan we wouldn’t trust a ref to take out the garbage, but since this judgement call supports my allegiances, we fully trust the refs and their governing body)
Since even the staunchest of supporters can’t ACTUALLY believe those arguments, and because the Utah crowd is piling on to trigger a fight or flight response, suddenly the play itself, the lack of suspension, takes a back seat to mud-slinging and muck-raking.
“Lapuaho’s play was dirty? What about Sunia’s hit on Chuckie?” or “Is one game enough for Domo Hatfield to miss?” (This argument is about the BYUvsBSU game and a play within it what does Utah have to do with it?)
“look at this list that shows teams with most personal foul penalties a.k.a ‘dirty teams’. Utes are on it!” (but what does that have to do with the nut punch?)
Then the Utah fans come back.
“Here’s an article about BYU being the dirtiest team in football!!!” (That’s a bunk article written by a UCLA fan site. Also… UCLA is going to have bad things to say about you too, just in a few weeks instead of today.)
Objectivity be damned! Throw the precedent and standards to the wind! Nevermind what your own eyes tell you! BYU fans on one side of the issue and Utes on the other! Attack! Attack! Attack the Enemy!!! Defend! Defend! Defend all actions and decisions related to someone wearing our colors!
Many from both fan bases tell me that the rivalry is dead and that they have moved on. I don’t need to talk about it on the show anymore… “Get over it OC!” they tell me. Yet neither fan base can. Even in a year when the teams do not cross paths.
No Holy War game required. Twitter is the new home of the Utah/BYU rivalry.