Hockey pet peeve: "when a teammate tips a puck in on you, which is exactly how my first collegiate goal against happened. Thanks, Copper."
Intro: I normally rant about skiing, and realised after writing this that it has no place on my own site, so I've posted it here. Hopefully someone enjoys it.
Monday morning, I arrived at my office, as tired and bored as ever, and
began my week of pretending to work while whittling away minutes on the
internet. This routine normally sustains me through lunch time, when a
trip home with food provides a much needed break and I return
refreshed; ready to waste another 4 hours doing nothing on the
internet. Yet this Monday, as I flipped through the articles on my
news feed I was tossed into a real fright, not by tales of an avalanche
on Mt Blanc du Tacul, but by the equally frightening prospect that
Michigan plays Utah on Saturday (this Saturday!?!?!) which has taken me
completely by surprise.
parents made sure that Michigan football is an integral part of my
being. For me, a brief story of how I became attached is pointless,
since I was a Michigan fan before I was able to even choose to be one
myself, I'm simply incapable of remembering a time when I felt
differently, lucky enough to haven season ticket holders for parents I
can't even remember my first game. I'm a Michigan fan because I always
have been. Part of that existence is every summer for as long as I
can remember, urged on by the hope of a glorious season, I've counted
down the days to the first game of the season, longing for the days
when saturdays would seem less pointless. Which, is why I'm so shocked
I allowed this game of such deep personal significance to sneak up on
degree from the University of Utah, which, like the title to my
$500 Subaru, certifies my ability to wade through a bureaucratic
nightmare. The five years I spent in Utah were like an afternoon wasted
at the DMV, a state of perpetual limbo where you're badgered by the
announced passing of numbers and your only option is to wait it out or
flee, so you can wait in the same line, again, on a different day. I
chose to get out of line and go skiing nearly ever day. Which
collectively are the still the best choices I've ever made.
should I be surprised by the nearness of Saturday's game. Both habit
and circumstances should have had me ticking down the remaining days
since new years. Of all games, this is the last one that should be
sneaking up on me. But, after last year's Oregon game I retreated into
the world of european sports, mostly soccer. I'd been leaning that way
for years, and despite a history of absurd sporting optimism, that
double blow to open last season made me feel we were entering a long
dark chapter I didn't want to read. I found things familiar (that
gripping fear of impeding doom is as present in soccer as any other
sport) but much less personal (Michigan was never playing), everything
had a fresh novelty appeal (relegation) , and I learned things could
always have been worse, I could have been raised a Tottenham fan.
Still, addicted as always, I tuned in each Saturday for the Michigan
game, but retreated to my new sporting universe following each game.
kept up on the latest Michigan news, (usually through this site) but I
am now completely adrift of the American sports calender. I'm no
longer capable of forming opinions on baseball and basketball. ESPN,
once rivaling NPR as the background music of my house,
has disappeared from my TV. I've been extremely excited for
the beginning of the Rodriguez era, but it's always seemed as distant
in time as Michigan does physically, from my frosted home here in
Alaska. But no more, startled by, and admittedly ashamed of my near
neglect of the opening of football season I thought it necessary both
to get myself ready, and to pay for being ill-prepared I figured I'd
pen this little piece (that seems to have grown unmanageable) about why
Utah isn't just your generic opening opponent, but a team of the worst
kind, who should be despised as hated as more traditional rivals like
Notre Dame and Ohio State.
is a good place to start. Utah doesn't have any. Talk of the pre
Urban Meyer era is greeted about as kindly as questions regarding
the existence of certain gold plates. They'll tell you their
collective history, of both losing and being lost, doesn't matter, what
matters is that once you see the inside of Temple Square or Rice-Eccles
Stadium you'll see the truth. Unfortunately for them, the truth turns
out to be a seagull statue and a bunch of unenthusiastic plastic fans.
Oh, and a Boot, given to the winner of the BYU game each year.
applying for school I thought on two tracks, Alta and skiing. I didn't
even recognize that Utah had a football team. They hadn't played
Michigan, or any team we had played, or played in any game that had
affected Michigan in any way, or done anything of note for as long as I
could remember, and so to my mind they simply didn't exist. The Ute
football team never crossed my mind. I didn't even register
their existence until orientation, when, during the customary tour of
campus I remarked how the stadium seemed large for a small team, and a
snobby sorority girl with that your an idiot look that must a
qualification for membership sniped back, "small team, didn't you know,
we were like third in the Mountain West last year."
the time, I found her quip absolutely hysterical, and my attempts to suppress laughter for the duration of the tour made it,
as an exercise to learn my way around, completely worthless. It served
me well later on though when I attended my first game later that year.
It was mid season, and Utah was playing San Diego State. I hadn't
planned on going to the game, but when two friends stormed my room and
claimed they were going, I figured I might as well follow along, the
games were after all free. We wandered into the stadium, it was a
third full. Some people were wearing red, and there was a football
game going on, but no one really seemed to care. I hadn't been in my
seat for more then 10 minutes, before witnessing 4 interceptions. All
of them similar to Mallet's punt throw against Wisconsin. But despite
the ineptitude served up on the field, no one really seemed to care,
and everything progressed in the same cheery manner as before. The
events on the field were of no consequence to anyone. The game was
nothing more then a pageant to help pass the time before Sunday. I
valued my football Saturdays too much to waste on the Utes and left the
game midway through the second quarter to catch the Michigan - Purdue
kickoff, a game whose result people had an interest in. Which is
entirely the problem with Ute fans. They don't really care, any result
can be shrugged off. Gone is any semblance of drama, as the results
don't matter. The events aren't accompanied by any nervousness in the
stands, and the slow build up of tension between plays is completely
foreign to a Utah game. All that matters is that the team shows up
too provide the fans a few hours of pleasant distraction.
in Utah seem happy enough, but it's likely just the anti-depressants.
Deep down their all afflicted by the same issue, fear
of irrelevancy. They don't believe Utah is given the credit it
deserves, and feel snubbed. There is this odd belief, that despite
Salt Lake City's smog, the lack of booze, or the fact the the entire
Wasatch front is a numbing expanse of strip malls resembling a southern
California closed on Sundays and without an ocean, Utah really is the
greatest. The state harbors a deep bitter resentment, which manifests
itself into a strange belief that they're only an Olympics, a few
Thursday night shuffle passes or an unbeaten season, away from
acceptance. But when that all passes, and your still without any
recognition, or victories against solid opponents, you continue to
acting like a fool in search of attention.
like your neighbor from childhood, who devoid of any talent, jumps
around waving his hands, only to get picked last, again and again, for
every game and every sport before eventually growing up to
be delusional, bitter, and a cop. They share the myopia and disconnect
of the missionaries at your door who grow confused when you laugh, as
you urge them back out the door they may mumble how you just don't get
it, or you simply haven't seen it yet, but the problem is that you do,
you have and that no matter how it may have came to pass you're really
only two games in my first two years at the school I began attending
more games in my third year, when, with Urban Meyer coaching the team,
in a desperate bid for attention, they began playing every Thursday and
Friday nights. Not being a member of the MUSS (mormon/mighty Utah
student section) me and my drunken friends were forced to wander the
stadium nomadicaly from game to game. Drinking Pina Colladas with the
Cal fans being a particularly memorable game. Sitting in a family
section getting lectured for my language as I squirmed and yelled in
anger, wondering how Michigan could have lost to the horrible Oregon
team I was watching Utah dismantle is another particular fond memory.
The hype that grew through that first year and into the second season
of Urban revitalization was absurd. People were so defensive over the
teams questionable schedule that they began to feel like victims.
People didn't want to schedule them, because of the altitude. They
wanted to join the Pac-10, but they weren't wanted. It wasn't their
fault the Mountain West was so bad. All true, but stomping around in a
pout like a neglected skank was poor form. Instead of enjoying their
fluke season Ute fans spent the fall feeling slighted, and forgotten by
the second week of January. But fear not, Alex Smiths high draft
status and Meyer's success at Florida has since proven they were the
rightful MNC champs in 2004, despite not defeating a single decent team.
I've seen the Ute fans treat a modest victory against a .500 Pac Ten
team in some mid December bowl game as a title winning performance. In
2002 the Utah student paper treated scoring a touchdown against
Michigan as an amazing achievement. So have no doubt the Utes will
enter Saturday's game in a similar mood to Appalachian State last year,
pegging all their hopes on this singular chance to make an impression
on the national stage. But Appalachian State had 1-AA Championships to
occupy itself, Utah has none of that. The Michigan game will be the
sole game of interest they play in this year, before returning to the
usual Mountain West dross of TCU and UNLV. And Ute fans, with their
deep rooted sense of neglect, will treat a victory against a rebuilding
Michigan as the great conquest of a super power by the plucky
underdogs, and will forever use it as evidence of their team being
better then they're given credit for.
So please Michigan, put the Utes back in their place Saturday and allow
me to hope for a successful season for at least the first few weeks.
I'll understand if it all goes pear shaped later on, growing pains are
inevitable this season, but giving the Utes the taste of glory they
crave would be a horrible blow to us all.