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In the Paint: The state of the rivalry

In the Paint: The state of the rivalry

By Mark Durrant | Posted - Dec. 12, 2011 at 1:55 p.m.

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PROVO -- As a boy growing up in Salt Lake City, I underwent great persecution from the many Utah Ute fans that I was forced to live among. A lesser child would have folded under such trying circumstances, but each jeer or taunt only served to strengthen my devotion to the Cougars.

My greatest joys and worst sorrows as a child resulted from the outcome of the twice yearly matchup between the teams. After a BYU loss, I dreaded the very thought of showing my face at school the next day. Alas, there would be no mercy for me. Conversely, when BYU won, it seemed that as I walked the halls at school Ute fans would scatter like cockroaches in front of me rather than face me in my exultant glory. Such is the mind of a young boy who lived and died with the results of the BYU - Utah games.

In the Paint: The state of the rivalry

So it is no surprise that I now take some satisfaction in the current state of affairs for the University of Utah basketball program. BYU won its sixth straight over the Utes last Saturday, the longest streak since the late 60's. The last few games haven't even been close. It looks as though this year's Ute team may rival BYU's 1-25 year for futility. I recall how very painful it was to watch as BYU struggled in the late 90's while Utah was at the very pinnacle of its basketball success, almost beating Kentucky for a National Championship.

It seemed for a time that BYU would never again beat Utah. It was indeed a dark time for Cougars fans everywhere. And now the tables have turned, BYU basketball has never been better. The last few seasons have been some of the best ever, including a Sweet 16 appearance last year. Meanwhile, Ute fans much watch their team nose-dive into oblivion. I feel their pain.

Even though I'm enjoying this rare imbalance of power, I must admit I prefer it when both teams are evenly matched, as has been the case for the majority of the rivalry. I fondly remember watching as a boy the epic battles between the likes of Ainge, Durrant, Roberts, Kite and Runia against Chambers, Vranes, Mannion and Hendrix. I loved playing in and being a part of the chess match between two great coaches, Roger Reid and Rick Majerus. Each game seemed to go down to the wire. Arenas were packed, fans were rabid and the play was unmatched. I get anxious just writing about it.

A far cry from this year.

One would have to use a magnifying glass to find any mention of the game in the local media. If the Huntsman Center were a gas tank the low fuel light would be on. I've heard louder crowds at a candlelight vigil.

In the Paint: The state of the rivalry

That's the beauty of the rivalry.

Over the years the series stands at 128 - 125 in favor of BYU. It all seems to balance out over time. And oddly enough, I'll look forward to the day that Utah emerges from their current doldrums. I miss the days when it meant something to beat Utah. I miss the days when the jump ball was thrown up and the result wasn't a foregone conclusion. I miss the days when the game invariably was decided on the last play.

Now I know that Utah fans do not want my sympathy, but take courage my Ute friends, this too shall pass. In a day in the not too distant future, your pain will be only a memory as your team reasserts its rightful place in the college basketball hierarchy, and that pain will make the future successes more satisfying.

For now, I'll enjoy BYU's utter hoops dominance, recognizing it is the exception rather than the rule. The day will come when, as I walk into the Huntsman Center or the Marriott Center on rivalry day, I will again experience those familiar feelings of excitement, anxiousness and anxiety that only comes when you are about to watch two great programs go head to head and the outcome is uncertain. That is what has made the rivalry great in the past and will make it magical again in the future.

I look forward to it.

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Mark Durrant


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