BYU football is the reason the Daily Herald goes on living, and the University of Utah game is the reason the Daily Herald goes on living with a smile on its face. It is our raisin detour (or “raison d’etre,” as the French say).
We look forward to football season all year long here at the paper. In February, sports writers can be seen slumping around the newsroom, their knuckles dragging on the ground more than usual, visibly depressed by the lack of football to write about, reduced to covering such trivial matters as basketball and the Olympics. Many of these writers are so somber, they speak only in monosyllabic grunts, as opposed to the rest of the time, when they speak in monosyllabic exclamations.
And then football season begins, approximately three years before the first game. Joy oozes throughout the office, seeping into the crevices and festering behind the filing cabinets. Sports writers come out of their hibernation and dance about gaily. (When I say “gaily,” you should understand I mean “like a bunch of fairies.”) Football has begun!
Football is important in American society because it gives big, fat, sweaty guys something to do. If it weren’t for football, these men would be out on the street, holding signs that say, “Will be big, fat and sweaty for food.” (That’s how my brother Jeff put himself through college, actually.)
So we honor and revere football. We schedule our weekends around it. We attempt to explain its intricate rules to our less-informed friends, many of whom feign interest in the sport only when they have to write a column about it.
Which brings us to my point, which is to make a lot of jokes about the rivalry between BYU and the University of Utah. For those unfamiliar with each school, here are some comparisons that make the U of U look bad.
BYU: Requires its students to refrain from sex outside of marriage.
U OF U: Requires its students to refrain from sex outside the species (may be waived).
BYU: Used to be a high school called Brigham Young Academy.
U OF U: Used to be a high school called University of Utah.
BYU: Students like to tell “BYU co-ed” jokes.
U OF U: Students like to tell “BYU co-ed” jokes.
BYU: Endured national humiliation when it ill-advisedly censored a Rodin exhibit.
U OF U: Endures national humiliation when people in other states hear its name and say, “Utah has a university?”
And, in the interest of fair play….
U OF U: Performs theatrical works with themes of adultery, alcoholism and other controversial topics.
BYU: Does the same plays, but cuts out the swear words.
U OF U: Promotes academic freedom and open-mindedness among its diverse faculty.
BYU: Promotes academic freedom and open-mindedness among its white male upper-middle-class Mormon faculty.
U OF U: Goes out of its way not to mention Mormonism in the classroom, even though most of its students have an LDS background.
BYU: Had a professor who once went an entire day without mentioning Mormonism in the classroom, at which point he was fired.
U OF U: Football team has a record of 7 wins, 2 losses.
BYU: Football team has a record of 6 arrests, 3 convictions.
The joke in the first paragraph originally read: It is our raison d'etre (literally, "raisin detour"). I decided that was too Dave Barry-ish, and besides, I liked the twist of doing it the other way around.
Interesting side note: Mere hours after writing this column, I saw BYU's production of the musical "She Loves Me." The play has among its subplots an adulterous affair, an attempted suicide, and a woman who sleeps around a lot. All of that remained -- but the key word in the phrase "they can go to hell" was removed.
The cracks about sports writers were entirely unprovoked and unwarranted. But I was on friendly terms with the sports guys at the Herald, so no beatings occurred.