It's a good thing BYU lost to Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY — Maybe BYU's loss to Utah is not all that bad. It's the Christmas season and I don't see a half-drunk glass of eggnog — I see four inches of spicy goodness remaining.

That sweater that your mother knit you probably wouldn't work on others but for you, it's as if both Dolce and Gabbana were your personal designers.

So, as I got a second helping of the BYU-Utah game from Saturday night — in truth, I was tediously watching and editing that one-sided assault — I came to the realization that the loss wasn't a bad thing.

Bear with me, remember the eggnog.

Rivalries are far more interesting when there is parity. When one team dominates for years on end, the game becomes ordinary. Nobody likes to see a puppy get kicked.

BYU has been rolling Utah for the last few years. Prior to Saturday's loss, BYU had won seven straight games and 11 of the last 12 — dating back to 2006. The last time the Utes won a season series against the Cougars they were led by Luke Nevill and Johnnie Bryant, who is now on the Jazz coaching staff.

On Saturday, the Huntsman Center was nearly filled. The MUSS was fanatical, their ever present inappropriate signs were prominent, and the team responded.

The game was ugly, but the atmosphere was beautiful. "When I walked out, I got a little choked up," said head coach Larry Krystkowiak.

In a sea of red, fans were — metaphorically — drunk with hysteria as their team came out red-hot from three-point range and built a big first-half lead from which the Cougars could never recover.

Sophomore guard Jordan Loveridge grew up cheering for both teams. He was heavily recruited by BYU, but decided at the last minute to go with the rebuilding Utes.

"I never had a favorite until I got here (to Utah)," Loveridge said. "We haven't beaten them in a while, so it just shows you that Utah basketball is back."

I'm not judging, but a huge number of fans are fair-weathered. If they don't think their team has a chance to win, they conveniently find excuses not to show up. Bad weather, bad roads, bad parking are the rationalizations for not supporting their bad team.

When the fans show up and the team delivers, there's not a more unifying and invigorating place than a sports arena.

As a sports fan, I love that. Fans love it, coaches love it. But more importantly, the players love it. Whether you are basking in the adulation of your fans or you are shouldering the brunt of their distain, it's a magical experience.

That doesn't happen unless there's some give or take in the win column.

In football, Utah State has only beaten BYU once since 1994, but that 2010 win in Logan changed the game's attitude for both teams. Utah State players think they have a chance, and BYU players know they can be beaten.

For nearly 20 years in the 1990s and 2000s, the BYU-Utah football game was a 50-50 coin flip. It was the most exciting and anticipated matchup of the season. The rivalry never would have been allowed to end during those years, but now that Utah owns a four-game winning streak, many bear hug the hiatus.

BYU's loss on Saturday stung, but it breathed life into the basketball rivalry and will benefit basketball for years to come.

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Dave Noriega


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