Families must decide where loyalties lie with Holy War

By By Joseph Simmons

By Joseph Simmons

Nothing tears a family apart like having one of its members switch allegiances in a rivalry.

Without sports, it wouldn’t be quite so infuriating to see a loved one suddenly start cheering for a rival school, and in Utah the rift created can be particularly deep.

Everyone knows that Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham played for rival BYU, but no one questions his allegiance. For other former Cougar players, the switch can be impossible for families to handle.

Timpview High School football head coach Louis Wong played on the offensive line for BYU and was on its 1984 national championship team. However, after his playing days were over, he coached as a graduate assistant at Utah with Ron McBride.

The switch from Cougar blue to Ute red was too much for some family members to handle, and Wong said he quickly ran afoul with a few of his in-laws.

“It was my first year at Utah and Rivalry Week, and a distant brother-in-law who was a big BYU fan came by asking me where my loyalties were,” Wong said.

Wong said he told him that even though he was an alumnus and played for BYU’s national championship team, it was now his job to beat BYU.

“I told him that I was loyal to my work, but he kept bugging me, saying, “You know you still bleed blue,’ ” Wong said. “He thought I would change my mind, and I didn’t, so he stormed out of my house, and he got into his car and backed it right into my red Jetta and drove off.”

The next day, Wong said he called his brother in-law and asked why he had rammed his car.

“He told me it just made him so angry that I would say I wanted to beat BYU,” Wong said. “Then he told me, “Just get it fixed and let me know how much I owe you,’ but didn’t say sorry,” Wong said.

The next day, Wong told McBride about the incident. McBride told him to use it as a motivational speech.

“I just used the story to get the guys fired up for the rivalry game, and it did,” Wong said.
Things become much more complicated when a staunch Ute family has a child marry a BYU fan.

Longtime Crimson Club members and die-hard Ute fans, the parents in the Salmon family faced a dilemma when their son Bryant chose to go to BYU over Utah for school.
“They almost dropped me out of the family when I went to the Y, but I stayed faithful in my attendance to Utah football and basketball,” Bryant Salmon said.

Things got worse for the Salmons when Bryant Salmon fell for not only a BYU student, but a BYU student-athlete. Meredith Simmons played goalkeeper at BYU and said that her five years as the only BYU fan in a Crimson Club family have been tough.

“They received me into the family with love, but then and still now it’s been non-stop teasing about BYU sports,” Meredith Salmon said. “It’s been a five-year battle having to hold my own for the Y.”

The Salmon family has worked on converting their blue sheep to Ute red, with mixed results. One triumph was in 2003, for the infamous 3-0 Ute victory in Provo, when father Kevin Salmon got Meredith Salmon to go to the game decked out in Ute gear by bribing her with a day of driving his Nissan 300Z and paying for her and Bryant to go out to a fancy dinner.

In other situations, it’s been more about compromise. Last season, when Bryant Salmon got the family tickets for the BYU-Utah game, he agreed to take his wife only if she wore red to the game and cheered for Utah. Meredith wouldn’t go that far, and in the end the couple agreed on her wearing black and not cheering for BYU.

“I couldn’t cheer for the Cougars out loud, but I still cheered for them in my heart,” Meredith Salmon said.

Brßyant Salmon said that despite his wife’s protests, he can see her slowly turning to the U. He said that at the 2004 Fiesta Bowl, she cheered for the Utes as loud as anyone in the stadium.

Still, in the end, the two of them know it’s only a game, albeit a fierce rivalry one.
“I’m not a Utah fan, but I’m a fan of being married peacefully,” Meredith Salmon said. “I know how to pick my battles.”

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