The Holy War, the annual rivalry game between the University of Utah and Brigham Young, had some national implications this year. The 7th-ranked BCS bound Utes ended up trouncing the 14th-ranked Cougars 48-24. But even among the community-splitting engagement, I had time to pose and remember what truly mattered.
The Utah/BYU rivalry shares many of the same rivalry traits as the more well-known match ups: geographical proximity, equally matched schools in size and ability, shared conference, longevity, and history; but this rivalry comes with something else. Religion.
Although the University of Utah was founded by pioneer settler and Mormon leader Brigham Young in 1851, the public university and the Mormon owned Brigham Young University couldn't be more different.
The tailgate parties started in the Ute parking lots on Friday; no alcohol or coffee is allowed on the BYU campus. Pick-up flag football games ran all morning long on every slice of Utah campus grass to be found. Signs that read, "Cougars don't cut corners," adorn the perfectly manicured BYU grass, which is forbidden to walk on. Many Utah fans grow out beards so they have more face to paint; Cougar students must remain clean shaven and keep missionary-style trimmed hair or they aren’t allowed to take tests in the testing centers. Utah fans paint letters on their topless chests; one former BYU student is presently having his degree revoked (and has been excommunicated) for publishing a calendar of topless missionaries. Obama won Salt Lake County (home of the Utes); Utah County (Cougar country) is traditionally the most conservative voting county in America, often with no Democratic running opponent.
Sadly, during this rivalry week, the trash talk often turns from the game to the faith. When I saw some blue fans blowing long horns, I myself was tempted to shout something about looking like Moroni (the Mormon angel seen on all the LDS temples). There tends to be more intentional foul language used at the game. There were signs peppered throughout the stadium that said something about forgetting to pray or that God loves one team over the other or some other religiously motivated jab. What's worse is that there's no opposition in any sports bar or tailgate bash.
But in the big scheme of things, it's important to remember that "Jesus loves U."