COLUMN: Big Time Utah Sports, an Oxymoron

Harry Caines contributes a weekly column to CacheValleyDaily.com. Harry is a resident of Logan and an alumnus of Utah State University. He can be reached via email at hacaines@gmail.com. His column is a work of opinion, and does not reflect the views of Cache Valley Daily, the Cache Valley Media Group, or its employees.

“The problem with Utah is that you’re just sitting there and your mind is, like, dead, because in L.A., you still got energy for the game… but in Utah, it can kind of lull you to sleep.”

—Andre Iguodala, world champion professional basketball player

This column will be published on Opening Day of the Major League Baseball season. I love baseball. It is my favorite sport. Life has been kicking me in the head lately. But Opening Day is a day of boundless optimism for everyone. Well, maybe not Mets fans.

I will spend my Opening Day in front of my TV rooting for my beloved Phightin’ Phillies. Five straight seasons of 89 or more losses has not dissuaded me from believing in my squad. Thanks to the Eagles winning the Super Bowl, Philadelphia is no longer known as Negadelphia, but Posidelphia!

Serendipitously, the Phillies open in Atlanta—the worst sports town in America. My guess is the ballpark, only in its’ second year, will be half empty. The fans that will show up have long ago given up on life, which is a common affliction for Braves fans. The Braves have more—and better—fans outside of Georgia than inside. As Donald Trump says so eloquently: Sad!

Will the Phillies make the playoffs? I say no. I am optimistic, not delusional.

So, who will make the baseball playoffs? I am glad I asked that rhetorical question. Here are my predictions:

In the American League, I am choosing the Yankees, Indians and Astros to win their divisions. I would love to pick the spunky Twins to grab a wildcard, but I am going with the big money Red Sox and Angels.

In the National League, I will take the Nationals, Cardinals and Dodgers to take their divisions. The Cubs and Rockies will cruise to the wildcards.

And the World Series? Boring as it may be, I just think the Dodgers and Yankees are better than everyone else. The era of math geeks helping small market teams outplay the big money behemoths will be put on hold for a year.

And now, some Utah sports stories.

— Two things happen every April and October. LDS General Conference and my futile call for the National Hockey League to put a team in Utah.

Seriously, the NHL is missing out on a rabid fan base. Utah hosted a Winter Olympics. There is a ton of land to build a new arena that a hockey team could share with the Jazz. And unlike many of the NHL teams located in warmer climates, Utah has a natural hockey feel that would make a team fit in on Day One.

The NHL recently relocated a team out of Atlanta (see above) and sent them to Winnipeg. For the uneducated, Winnipeg is just like Salt Lake City, but with stronger beer and better health care.

The NHL is going to put an expansion team in Seattle. Yeak, OK, Seattle is a great town. I cannot bad mouth that pick. And the hideously unloved and inept Arizona Coyotes have long rumored to be headed to Quebec City. Again, nothing to argue with.

But, some team is the American South will have two or three consecutive losing seasons and the fans will go away. Move that team to Utah and watch it flourish.

Make it happen, NHL!

— Donovan Mitchell is a phenomenal basketball player for the Utah Jazz. There will be no shame when he takes 2nd place in the Rookie of the Year vote behind the Philadelphia 76ers’ Ben Simmons.

That’s called trolling.

At least three Utahns I know have taken umbrage with me over the suggestion that Simmons will take the ROY over Mitchell. Apparently, status awards are a serious thing for Utahns. Why?

Riddle me this:

What do the musical groups The Swingle Singers, Starland Vocal Band, A Taste of Honey and Milli Vanilli all have in common?

Answer: They all won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist.

I know what you are thinking. Both The Beatles and Hootie & The Blowfish also won that award. Yeah, so, a broken clock is right twice a day.

My point, and at this point even I doubt I have one, is that status awards are meaningless.

This is a Utah thing. Utahns have such a desperate desire to be thought of as a “big time” sports region that they grasp for any recognition they can get. This is why BYU and Utah Ute fans are insufferable crybabies. And with the Jazz fans, they all lament a perceived “anti-Utah bias.”

This is a ridiculous premise. To have a bias against Utah, people would have to think about Utah for more than two seconds. They don’t.

Dry your tears, Jazz fans. You have a talented team that can win for the next few seasons. Enjoy it while you can, because at some point you will run into the Houston Rockets or the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs. And then you’ll see what big time really is.

#troll

— And finally, a few words on the firing of Utah State University’s men’s basketball coach Tim Duryea.

Despite the laments of some Cache Valley journalists and media personalities that forewent journalistic integrity during the Stew Morrill era, the simple truth is that Duryea was overmatched and in over his head. He should have been fired. He should have never been hired.

For reasons I will never understand, Aggies fans embraced former coach Stew Morrill as a legend. Apparently, winning 25 games a year against cupcakes like Idaho State and UC-Irvine and then disappearing every March is good enough for legend status at Utah State.

When Morrill came to the harsh reality that he could not get it done anymore, he retired. His assistant, Duryea, was picked to succeed him. Fail.

I have no idea if new coach Craig Smith can bring more success to my alma mater. All I know is that I have higher expectations. In recent years, George Mason, Butler, Gonzaga and Loyola-Chicago have made the Final Four.

I want the Aggies to join that list of upstarts. And if you think that is an impossible goal, then you are the reason that teams in the state of Utah will never be considered “big time”.

That’s not trolling. That is cold hard fact.

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