I've been pretty known for my emotions toward BYU. It is true, I do not like BYU much. But that was in the context of the football team. I have no reservations about using the word hate and BYU football in the same sentence.
Yet as we're only a few days out from the final rivalry basketball game of the season, I am having a helluva time mustering the same amount of emotion toward the Hardwood Cougars as I have for their gridiron brethren.
I just don't hate BYU basketball. Now I'm not going soft here. I don't like them. I've never cheered on the Cougars and don't foresee a moment where I would. But it isn't as deep or as heated of a rivalry as we've come to see on the football field.
I have a hard time disliking Dave Rose. I think he is an incredible man who has not only fought odds in real life, but on the basketball court. I envy the job he has done down in Provo and believe he is one of the best basketball coaches in the country. The way he carries himself, interacts with the media and represents his school only makes him that much more likable.
He is not a Roger Reid or a Bronco Mendenhall - two solid coaches who, without question, are not very well liked within the Ute community. He doesn't have the weird style and quirks of Steve Cleveland and he's surely not as intellectually questionable as Gary Crowton.
There isn't much to not like. He wins. He does it generally with class and he's proven to be an exceptional person on and off the court.
When that is your enemy, it becomes even more difficult to dislike, specifically hate, the opposition.
So you move on to the players. But even there I have a hard time finding that perpetual bogeyman. Sure, there was Chris Miles' kick on Bogut a few years ago and Jackson Emery's flop of all flops. But that's kids stuff compared to what we've seen out of the football team lately.
Even the fans are different. BYU basketball fans can be annoying, for sure, but they don't have that sense of entitlement like when it comes to their football team. Maybe they understand their place in the college basketball world better than in football. Maybe they've resigned themselves to the fact they'll be a good program, sometimes very good, but never great. History has proven that out. I mean, the last time BYU did anything major on the national stage was years before I was born.
They haven't had a deep NCAA Tournament run since 1981 and are one of the winningest programs without a Final Four appearance.
But their fans seem to understand this. Their fans generally concede that they are not the most dominant and successful program in the conference. Sure, they have won a good number of conference championships, but where it counts - in the NCAA Tournament - they've flopped. They haven't made the second round since 1993, a stretch of seven games without one victory.
Their tournament record does not match their regular season prestige. And most BYU fans will tell you this. Which is odd because the football team faces a similar situation where their postseason accomplishments are generally scarce. But the approach both teams see from their fans is unquestionably different. BYU basketball fans might not be content with their lack of success outside of the regular season - but they admit it's there.
It's harder to find the same admission toward their football team.
Now obviously BYU has had a better five-year stretch than Utah. That isn't up for debate. The Cougars are leaps and bounds better as a program today than the Utes. But that should make me hate them more, right? The fact they're succeeding while our program, at least right now, seems stuck in neutral.
Yet I can't. I can't find the hate.
There just isn't that emotion like with what we get from the football rivalry. I'm not apathetic, but I can tell you when Utah lost earlier this season down in Provo I was not emotionally devastated like I have been recently with losses to the Cougars in football.
Maybe that isn't such a bad thing. I don't know. What I do know is that I can tolerate BYU basketball far more than football, even with their recent success over Utah.
Now if only their football team would catch up.