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Left at the Curb! Sometimes It's for the Best

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Left at the Curb! Sometimes It's for the Best
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – I remember as a five-year-old child, my better-looking evil twin brother was busy one summer day getting all dressed up for church. 

OK so Fred wasn't evil.... we just decided he was the bad twin and I was the good one.  

Anyway,  it wasn’t church or even Sunday.  It was a mid-week day and I wasn’t asked to put on my Sunday best.   Sometime before noon, a large car with five other children drove up in front of our family home on Balboa Boulevard in the rapidly sprawling San Fernando Valley and my mother took my brother outside, handed him a little wrapped present and helped him into the car. 

I was totally dumbfounded inasmuch as my brother and I had done virtually everything together from our first chin kick in the womb.

Oh there was that brief separation when he exited first and I hung around to straighten the pictures, patch that bruised kidney and put two of mom’s ribs back in place. I wrote something on the wall like “I love Mom” and then left the womb to join my brother on what I thought would be a perpetually inseparable journey through life.  But now I was there, not quite six and he was driving off to the set of Bozo-the-Clown to enjoy cake, ice cream and the camaraderie of his pack of friends. 

For some reason, I hadn’t been invited.

I remember standing there watching as the car drove away and my mother turning to go back into the house.  I was devastated. Could this really be happening? Was I left behind? Was I not like the cool kids?  When did I become the red-headed step child?    

Believe it or not, it was a big kick in the stomach for a six-year-old, but also an important lesson learned early in life. Being wanted rocks, not being wanted stinks. 

The thing is, most everyone with a sibling has gone through this experience in one way or another.  

Fast forward to this week to Salt Lake City where long time sibling rivals UTAH and Brigham Young have been separated in much the same way. 

UTAH has been invited to the cool party. BYU is today’s major college football equivalent of the red-headed, no blue-headed step child.      

It doesn’t matter that football exists as a fall exercise at the major college level because sibling BYU made it so.  It doesn’t matter that BYU was winning championships and becoming nationally relevant nearly four decades ago under LaVell Edwards while coaching current Head Utah Coach Kyle Wittingham.  

For everyone that bleeds blue in this state, it has to feel an awful lot like I did standing there on the curb watching my twin brother Fred and his friends drive off to the big party on played out on television. 

How ironic that BYU is suffering much the same way I did as a kid, standing outside the car looking in.     Maybe more ironic is that television exists because of an enterprising electromagnetic and physics professor from the afore mentioned Brigham Young University named Philo T. Farnsworth, was the man whose genius in the 1920’s brought forth the invention of television in the first place.  OUCH!

In any event, UTAH is a deserving addition to the PAC-10 conference. Utah is no less worthy than my twin brother Fred was getting an invitation to his friend’s birthday party at Bozo’s set. I grew up an avid UCLA BRUIN fan.    

I have to admit the prospect of splitting the new PAC-12 into divisions that pits UTAH up against my BRUINS, USC, Arizona, Arizona State and the other PAC-12 newbe, Colorado IS ACTUALLY PRETTY EXCITING.     

Well it is, until I remember the last time UCLA played UTAH they lost 44-6. 

For the record, it wasn’t the worst loss in 70 years for the azure and gold.  Brigham Young defeated UCLA 59-0 the next year.  Maybe UCLA will have more than just the maroon and gold to worry about.  Yikes!

This change is all good for UTAH.    My own wife is a U of U graduate and so this is pretty special (like her).  She originally chose the U over numerous Ivy League schools that recruited her; and while getting an exceptional education has at times in her own career had to listen to the ranting of those who solemnly swear that the school with the "Y" on it's helmet (usually Yale, not BYU) is better than UTAH and vice versa.   Utah is worthy on every level. 

Smart fans realize, Utah is in and that’s good for the whole state.

Still, the BYU folks have to be somewhat perturbed that a school with a local TV market share that stretches from two blocks north of the State Capital all the way to 3900 South  (yes Rhode Island is bigger)   is getting the spotlight.  UTAH in most respects is the clear-cut runner-up in terms of facilities, following and fan base all along the Wasatch Front.  

  BYU should have been by any logical financial and academic measure the prettier girl at the dance and yet the PAC-10 still chose the homely neighbor girl wearing Birkenstocks. 

It is proof that it wasn’t JUST about money. Liberals have principles too you know.  That prayer thingy can get annoying even if LDS church leader and BYU professor of historic Geology, James E. Talmage was teaching that dinosaurs roamed the earth 10s of millions of years more than three decades before Darwin and Apes were tried in Tennessee (Scopes Monkey Tral). 

That was long before most “liberal arts” universities (including the PAC-10 schools) we on board.  Claiming BYU isn’t open minded ranks right up there with myths like Sham-wow can’t offer you the two for one deal all day!

Wait a moment!  Back to the point…..  You know, having thought about the U of U’s cheerleaders, maybe the homely moniker doesn’t really fit.     The point is,  BYU is one of the finest universities in the country.  Like me, BYU got left standing at the curb while UTAH goes off to party with Bozo. 

 

Is there a lesson in all this?

Well actually, the rest of the story tells you something too.  The mother of the child that was having the party must have felt awful watching this little boy stand there at the curb and wave goodbye to his 8 minute older brother.    She drove around the block and came back for me.  My mother said I could go and so they crammed me into the middle of the seat. 

Thankfully for BYU, the PAC-12 will not go around the block and return.  They have made a shame for themselves and are skipping out of town as quickly as possible.  They have an escort and are thought to be safe so long as they remain between the Chvron refinery on the north and  the 7-11 across the street from St. Marks Hospital. 

Sure it sucks to be BYU for the moment.  Remember I wasn’t wanted.  Parties aren't always what you expect either. I sat on the hard hump all the way to Hollywood.  I noticed that all the other children were dressed so pretty or in their little dress shirts and ties. I wasn’t!  You could say kindly that I was dressed in mismatched shirt and trousers. I would have been Pig-Pen if it were a peanuts cartoon.   

The party seemed fun, lots of cake and ice cream, Bozo singing and making balloon animals. 

Of course, the TV cameras were recording all of it, the bright lights, big city. Unfortunately, I stood out like a sore thumb, the only one of about 20 kids dressed for frog hunting, not paper streamers and pastel balloons.  

Of course the camera man noticed and according to my mom watching at home (it was live TV) he took a group shot of everyone and then honed in on my Tom Sawyeresqe like appearance for a close up of the urchin from Hannibal.  

I looked totally out of place and stupid.

I am not sure the stupid looking has changed all that much, but I learned a valuable lesson that day.  I felt awkward, out of place and didn’t really belong.   

Of course, I wanted to go,  I knew there was  cake and ice cream.  I wanted to play in the games and share in the prizes and laughter.   I just didn’t fit in! 

Perhaps if I had the right clothes I might have felt better about partying with the red-headed icon of children's birthday catillions.  Bozo was after all the Father of all Clowns.   But I really didn’t have a great time. 

Hindsight is such a great teacher.   Prior experience in all of my six years tells me I would have enjoyed staying home alone with mom making animals from colored paper and glue, the alternate agenda I had skipped.

BYU was not invited to the special party with all the cool kids.  Unlike me standing on the curb, they have for the most part said, “Hey Utah, thanks for all the good time playing at our house, don’t let the MWC door hit you on the butt.”   

  BYU's fans might be temporarily upset, but really most seem to be at peace with it all.   It''s sort of like the classy wide receiver that exercises the equivalent of reaching the end zone and then places the football down.  UTAH hopes to spike it.  BYU is the team that most people figure will always act like it’s been there before!  Bronco Mendenhall and LaVell Edwards who started the BYU dynasty have taught BYU's players to act that way. 

In real terms, BYU has proven over the course of four decades that they can play anyone anytime and if you are not careful they will knock you on your kiester.    

BYU is the program that was averaging 65,000 fans regularly in a sold out stadium nearly 30 years ago and still does. Yes, UTAH is 1-0 vs UCS all time, but BYU is 7-1 vs Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M whom the PAC-10 was courting ahead of the UTES as if they were all named Kardashian. 

BYU is an extra 6-15,000 fans everywhere it plays away from home.  BYU was (against Pitt in 1984) the first team chosen to play on the newly launched television contract for upstart ESPN.   

BYU is the lone MWC program that is a guaranteed ratings bonanza for ESPN every time they appear.   

BYU is the program that has been to 28 bowl games in less than 4 decades, just two less than UCLA in its entire history.  In an era when BCS inclusion has been difficult at best and usually impossible to achieve, BYU hasn’t gotten quite that far while UTAH has. But BYU has still defeated UTAH in three of the last four years and won on the gridiron three bowl games against PAC-10 teams while notching 43 victories. 

BYU has a national pedigree in football and though 25 seasons removed from a national championship, it has something UTAH has never even sniffed at – national moxy.

The difference between BYU and UTAH isn’t just history, finance and structure.  It is also cultural.  Utah is heading to the expanded PAC-10 party because it fits.   

BYU doesn’t!  But BYU fans should take heart.  Some parties you just shouldn’t attend.  

BYU has nothing really to prove.  It was already becoming a national power when Arizona State was strong armed by Arizona into the PAC-10 conference.  BYU will continue to be successful without UTAH 40 miles north on I-15. 

  BYU has been ranked in the top 25 nearly 300 times,  Utah has a long way to go before it reaches one hundred.  BYU already is nationally relevant and has been for decades. UTAH needs the PAC-10 to become nationally relevant.  

UTAH fans might think I am putting this opportunity down. NOT SO! I am really happy for UTAH because it is the right team for that party.  IT IS A GREAT FIT!  The Ute’s dressed in the proper clothes, polished their shoes and brought a gift.   

We still don’t know if UTAH can pack a 60,000 seat stadium because their 45,000 seat venue has been empty so many times in the past 10 years.  

BYU has nothing to prove. UTAH still hasn’t proven they can consistently take more than a few hundred fans with them on road trips.  BYU does that regularly and BYU faithful around the country pack away games everywhere.   BYU is the perfect guest.  

In this case however, the brother to the north got the party invitation.  BYU just needs to do what I should have done that as a child, step back from the curb and think about those special times alone with mom.  

The MWC is mom.  It might not always be there as kids grow up, leave home.  UTAH is leaving home. 

In the meantime, BYU has incredible fans, boosters, supporters and the very people that brought them up to where they are.  BYU is one of the premier universities in America, one that is academically on par with any PAC-10 school.  BYU has the athletic facilities and success that most other universities would envy.    

Perhaps w ith this invitation, UTAH no longer needs to try and compete with or become BYU…it can be just finally be UTAH.  BYU no longer needs to contend for a spotlight that it will never get and probably shouldn’t necessarily want.   BYU doesn’t fit in the car.  It won’t look right in the group picture with all those PAC-12 kids.  

The MWC is still no slouch group without UTAH.  BYU still commands most of the TV market here and the addition of Boise just expanded the footprint and kept the quality of the football status quo…which means three teams regularly ranked in the top 25 and occasionally Air Force flirting with the same.  BYU just fits in the MWC so well …for now!  

Of course if a very smart Big XII-II commissioner comes calling…well you don’t want to be left on the curb your entire life now do yah?  My brother Fred went to the party and as I recall had a great time.   Brothers no matter how close just shouldn’t always attend the same celebrations.  He fit in.  I didn’t!

Still, it has always had me thinking about being prepared for the next time a car full of well dressed people drives to the curb.  I hadn’t thought to ask back in Kindergarten.  Maybe it’s time for BYU to at least be prepared with its best shoes and dress clothes just in case.   

Hmmmm….. OK! OK! So maybe chaps and a 10 gallon hat fits a little better there!  BYU should get dressed appropriately just the same.

 

Louis E. Deaux
Sports Forum West
FWAA 1982 - Present

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