LLOYD: Giving thanks for all that is the BYU-Utah rivalry

November 22, 2018

Brigham Young Cougars head coach Kalani Sitake talks with Utah Utes defensive tackle Lowell Lotulelei (93) after a game between the Brigham Young Cougars and the Utah Utes on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo. ISAAC HALE, Daily Herald

Isn’t it ironic?

In 2018, the same week that features the Thanksgiving holiday, which is about positives like gratitude and appreciation, also features the BYU-Utah football game, which often brings out negatives in people on both sides.

I’ve already seen enough of the expected increase in vitriol on social media, with Cougar fans and Ute fans going after each other with jokes and GIFs and sometimes even outright meanness.

I have to admit that I get tired of that aspect of Rivalry Week, mostly because the commentary is usually repetitive, unimaginative and unkind.

But when I step back and look at the broader perspective, I actually believe that Thanksgiving and BYU-Utah compliment each other perfectly.

That’s because I am truly thankful for the rivalry.

I grew up in Utah and remember it being one-sided in BYU’s favor back in the 1980s. I remember the Ute resurgence in the 1990s, then how incredibly close it has been for most of the last 30 years.

Utah has made enough plays to win the last seven games, but only one of those lacked fourth-quarter drama, which shows how evenly matched the contests have been.

That excitement, that thrill, that adrenaline is what makes my job so rewarding. In that regard, it’s not surprising that I would appreciate a rivalry that has had 19 games decided by a touchdown or less in recent years.

But the depth of my gratitude for this clash of Cougars and Utes goes a lot further.

That’s because it is a connection that ties so many in this area together.

Life — and particularly sports — is about passion. Emotions run high in competition because so much is invested.

Add on the family, community and even religious ties and it’s no wonder that people really get wrapped up in this rivalry.

And no matter which side someone is on, I’m just glad they care that much.

You see, only when people are invested do they take the time to talk or joke or even insult with fans from other teams.

When you play a team every year and it’s somewhat nearby, like when BYU plays Boise State or Utah plays Colorado, that makes for a nice little rivalry.

When you are in the same state, like Utah State is with both the Cougars and the Utes, it elevates the rivalry to another level.

The Aggies have the best record in the state this year and it’s definitely a rivalry whenever they face the other top in-state teams — but being up in Logan, more than 80 miles away from the University of Utah and out of the big metro area in the state, means Utah State doesn’t enjoy the same immediacy in the main population centers year-in and year-out.

In Utah Valley and Salt Lake Valley (and to a lesser extent the rest of the state as well), this football game is by far the biggest annual sporting event.

Whether decked out in red or blue, whether sporting a “U” or a “Y,” whether singing “Rise and Shout” or “Utah Man,” whether a Cougar or a Ute, this is a time to be proud of your allegiance.

I think it’s also a time to be proud of the allegiance of those on the other side, to honor the opposition for their passion.

After all, what fun is a rivalry if the other side doesn’t care?

So, when you sit down to your big feast on Thanksgiving and spend a moment considering all the of great things in your life, I invite you to join me and take a minute to be grateful for this great rivalry we get to savor every year.

That’s something both those who love red and those who love blue should appreciate.

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