Dicou: Football junkies get last fix for a while

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

Ah, the red-white game — one last chance for football junkies to get their gridiron fix before college football goes away for a long, long time.

The game allows Ute fans a chance to check out next season’s up-and-comers and get excited about the now seemingly distant 2008 football season.

It gives fans something to hang on to during the long months ahead, which, sadly, are known to be a bit skimpy in the spectator-sports department. They consist most prominently of televised baseball (yuck), as well as ESPN’s summer smorgasbord of strangely compelling, though ultimately pointless, strongest man competitions and televised billiards.

Actually, this summer seems to have a lot going on sports-wise. For one, the NBA playoffs promise to be a guaranteed thrill ride. The Jazz seem to have a decent chance of reaching the second round at least, where they’ll likely meet up with the Lakers. At that point, all bets are off. However, if the Jazz do manage to make a deep playoff run, it’ll give Ute football fans something to cling to as they wait for Brian Johnson and Co. to once again don their pads.

Then comes the Beijing Summer Olympics, which begin Aug. 8 and run through Aug. 24.

Granted, the Olympics can’t compare to American football, but they’re always good for dramatic finishes and high stakes — both characteristics that football fans crave.

As for now, it’s time to get one last look at the Ute football team before the players begin a summer of pumping iron and running sprints while dragging parachutes. (That is, if they’re not sitting on the couch all summer watching guys move 747’s with their teeth like in the aforementioned strongest man contests).

I know what you’re thinking. You’re sitting there, going, “How will I make it through?”

There’s no doubt about it — it’s going to be tough. Rest assured, though, Johnson and the boys will be back in time for Utah to kick off its season against Michigan in the Big House on Aug. 30 in what will, far and away, be the Utes’ toughest non-conference showdown of the season. However, considering that D-II Appalachian State went into Ann Arbor, Mich., in last year’s home-opener and downed the then-5th ranked Wolverines in front of 109,218 shocked fans, I like Utah’s chances.

On Saturday, the Utes will probably get a decent turnout, but it’ll be nowhere near the number of fans that turn out for spring football games of the nation’s largest programs. Florida, for instance, reported a record crowd of 61,000 at the Gators’ blue-and-orange game last weekend. Rice-Eccles Stadium, on the other hand, has a seating capacity of 45,017, and that is rarely filled for real games.

There’s one other difference between Utah’s spring football game and the Gators’ spring football game. Florida’s blue-and-orange contest was broadcast on ESPN and covered by the College GameDay crew.

Utah, on the other hand, is tickled pink if ESPN covers one of its real-life, during-the-season games that actually matter.

Oh well. Who needs ESPN when you can play your games on The Mtn.?

Enjoy the red-and-white game. It might be the last slice of entertainment you get for a long, long time.

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