Raider’s Thoughts: Sunday afternoon, I’m minding my own business when within about ten minutes of each other, the Raiders plod their way to a win against an putridly awful Jaguars team and Sergio Romo gets Yasiel Puig to ground out with the bases loaded to preserve a Giants victory against the Dodgers, which the good guys proceeded to take 3 of 4 against the presumptive World Champions in Chavez Ravine. Hilarity ensued and fun times were had by all. But it did get me to thinking. I like to think know a thing or two about what a rivalry is and what a rivalry is not.
A few years ago when Manny Ramirez was suspended for doing PEDs, I pointed and laugh as is my prerogative as a Giants fan. When someone mentioned on a former internet hangout of ours that I, as a fan of black and orange, shouldn’t moralize over steroid use, I said “no, I’m not cheering about someone getting caught using performance enhancers, I’m cheering that this happened to the Dodgers”. And so it goes. Giants and Dodgers on both coasts have competed against each other for pennants, World Series titles, not to mention the hearts and minds of New Yorkers and Californians and it is the best rivalry in baseball. Better than Cubs/Cardinals, better than Shoeless Joe and Kenesaw Mountain Landis, and if you think I wrote that for the sole purpose of trolling Yankee and Red Sox fans…well, you’re probably right. But 16 years ago this week, this happened and I still remember it like it was yesterday.
(One day, I will write at least 5,000 words on the 1997 Giants and specifically how the Marlins need to be nuked off the face of the sport).
My life as a Raider fan leaves me with more rivalries than I know what to do with. But for the purposes of this argument, I consider only three teams to be “rivals” and that’s the lesser teams in the AFC West. Yes, the Steelers and the Dolphins are kind of rivals and we have a sore subject with the Patriots. But for the purposes of things in the NFL that make my blood boil year after year, it’s essentially confined to Denver, KC and Sandy Eggo.
Oh, and while I’m at it, I know it behooves a lot of Ute fans to prove you’re a die-hard fan by supporting Mike McCoy and Brother Weddle and becoming Charger fans, but believe me when I tell you, there are better ways of being a die-hard Ute fan than lowering yourselves to supporting a family that lives in Stockton, California on purpose. This has been a RaiderUte public service announcement.
(Speaking of things that I’m still not happy about, I’m still convinced that if instant replay weren’t around, the whole Tuck Rule isn’t even brought up, the Raiders win that game and Tom Brady is probably selling Priuses in San Mateo. That’s akin to saying “you know, if the Martin and Willy Companies had diesel pickup trucks instead of handcarts, they probably don’t die out by Independence Rock”, but still).
So this leaves us with what we kind of call a rivalry still, I guess. Let’s compare the previous rivalries I mentioned to this one, shall we? Giants/Dodgers typically involves winning at worst an NL West title and maybe a Wild Card if it really comes to that. Same thing is also true of the quartet of the AFC West, as I can’t even count how many times the Raiders have been involved in late season playoff battles against at least one or more teams in the division. What about Utah and BYU? There’s the conference tit—er, no, that’s not happening anymore…there’s some sort of boot we can win, that would look nice in the new football facility…maybe there’s money to be made and marketing going on…or maybe it’s because media around here would have to start talking about the Jazz.
Here is my issue with this particular game: it’s to the point where if I say “I really don’t care about this game other than I want a win to increase the number of wins in the W column they publish in the Tribune”, it’s as though most people are responding by saying “you will be made to care”. We aren’t playing for a conference title or even a better bowl game if you get down to brass tacks. So other than people on Twitter and media figures around here need something to talk about, and elders quorum presidents throughout the Wasatch Front need to feel as though they have a leg up in the righteousness game because they went to the Y, why play this game? Maybe there’s still money to be made on both sides? Maybe there are enough people here in town that see more tradition to this than I do? Perhaps we play this so a certain subset of Utahns can feel all giddy inside in lieu of a big hug or something? Or it might be that you and I are just a couple of outsiders that don’t “get it”?
Take it from here, lest I go off on some 17 year old kid with an iPhone and a Twitter account wishing injury on a college sophomore he’s never met.
Mac’s Thoughts: I think the Salt Lake Media is where the problem begins. First there are just far too many lazy journalists (Tony Jones being an exception). And second those lazy journalists refuse to see that this rivalry is changing. Further, what are there now, 194 Sports Radio stations in the Salt Lake area? More than there are in Phoenix which has 11ty million times as much sports. So what they do is play to the nutjobs on both sides so that it seems like the 12th hour of Monson and whomever is really needed.
The thing about rivalries is, they changes. Georgia’s fight song literally says, “to hell with Georgia Tech.” What priority is beating Tech to Georgia these days. Or think about Nebraska-Oklahoma. In the 1970′s and 80′s this was the biggest thing going, now those two schools don’t even know each other. Before the LDS church decided to drop a truck load of money on athletics and a guy named LaVell was hired, Utah St. was a much bigger deal to us.
Now, that Oregon St. game was a much bigger deal than this weeks game but some idiots in our fan base don’t get that. And the Salt Lake media doesn’t want it to change because having to do research about UCLA or Stanford is much harder than trying to find things that will bring out the mock outrage in each fan base.
My dream is that our fan base will grow up and put down childish things, like this game. In fact I think it will take a decade or so, but recruiting will make it so most years the outcome of this game is a forgone conclusion.
It’s also my belief that Dr. Hill was ready to end this rivalry until the swim scandal nearly cost him his job and he was forced to give into the pressure from our less smart boosters about playing this game.
So what does all my rambling in this actually mean. I enjoy a great many rivalries that teams I cheer for are apart of. But Utah-BYU is no longer fun for me. It stopped being fun the day some douche screamed in my wife’s face (not mine mind you, my wife’s) after the 2007 game in Provo. Too many idiot fans on both sides. And regardless of the outcome, these next two years are going to be a true joy to me, only having to interact with the good BYU fans and only when I choose.
But it would be nice to go into the break on a 4 game winning streak.