Bragging rights

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

When it comes right down to it, the Utah-BYU football game is all about the bragging rights. Nothing else really matters.

Occasionally, there is something else on the line, such as bowl eligibility or a battle for recruits. But the fans of both teams know that the right to brag surpasses everything else.

Some boast with bravado. Others prefer the smug approach. Some fans live for the moment when they finally get to elbow a coworker in the ribs. But whatever your style, it’s finally November, which means bragging rights are up for grabs once again.

Every year, after a three-hour gridiron battle, the upper hand for the next 12 months is decided. For the loser, it’s like being sentenced to the hoosegow for 365 days. After the game, fans of the losing team brace themselves for an entire year of water-cooler smackdowns. That’s one full revolution around the sun. Four seasons. Seven dog years.

For the vanquished, it’s an eternity. For the victor, it’s never long enough.

Popular forms of bragging include the in-your-face look directed at the neighbors — fans of the other team — when dropping the trash bags off at the curb.

There are the “harmless” remarks in which the braggart’s voice wavers ever so slightly as he tries to disguise his snide intentions.

Some fans prefer to buy products that do the bragging for them. Ute fans wear T-shirts bearing the famous 34-31 score. BYU fans attach license-plate frames to their cars that read, “Harline is still open.”

Some fans prefer gloating as a group. At last year’s women’s basketball game between the rivals in Provo, the Cougars pulled ahead with time winding down. Sure enough, the chant in the Marriott Center rang out in that familiar sing-songy tone. “Just like football, just like football.”

A dagger.

For the Ute fans in attendance, sitting in the visitors’ section with their arms folded and their faces twisted in scowls, there was no comeback. No argument, under any circumstances, trumps the scoreboard.

Methods vary when it comes to responding to bragging. Some people bite their lips. Others predict next year’s result.

But whatever defense mechanism the losing fan utilizes, the wound left by a “Holy War” defeat doesn’t heal until the following November rolls around. Winning in basketball or other sports eases the pain slightly, but it’s just not the same.

At the end of last year’s Utah-BYU game at Rice-Eccles Stadium, when John Beck found Johnny Harline wide open for the game-winning touchdown as time expired, many Ute fans responded to the play viscerally.

Not because it narrowed the all-time tally to 53-32-4 for Utah. Not because it caused the Utes to finish the regular season at 7-5 instead of 8-4. Ute fans felt a gnawing at their very core because they knew that at that moment, their precious bragging rights flew out the window.

They knew what the future would bring. The knowing smirks across the aisle at church. The Jim Rome-style taunts on the radio. The winks. The license plate frames. For Utah fans, it was all too much to absorb at once.

On Saturday, there won’t be a national championship on the line. There’s much, much more at stake.

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