In 1999, I saw one of the ugliest sides of the BYU/Utah rivalry close-up: the time when the BYU fan tackled the male Ute cheerleader. You could say the BYU freshman-to-be was to blame for everything, but I think it goes deeper. I would say the overall underlying hate in the rivalry played more a part than any actual animosity between key players in this notable instance. One thing led to another. Pride took over and hate spilled over. The rivalry went too far.
Where was the playful rivalry I was accustomed to as between two neighboring high schools? LaVell Edwards and Ron McBride didn’t have anger toward their opponent. Why were the fans getting out of hand?
It started innocently enough. The Ute cheerleaders always ran flags around the endzone after a Utah score. No big deal! One of the cheerleaders, however, started using the opportunity to taunt the home crowd with increased jeering and gestures. He acted like he was taking on the whole stadium. Still, it was just a hothead cheerleader, so why were fans like me, allowing him to rile up untoward emotions?
My brother and I weren’t ten rows from the pranksters. The BYU fan seemed to think it funny to take the dumb advice–a dare, or whatever you want to call it–of his buddies and get the last laugh. They lowered him onto the field, and he ran over and made the tackle. We saw what was going on, but didn’t exactly know what they were up to. We couldn’t believe our eyes. He triumphantly raised his hands in silly fashion after he succeeded. I was in shock. What just happened?
He did what all of us wanted to do to that cocky cheerleader, but it was wrong, even illegal. Did he not think how he would react if someone unexpectedly jumped him in a heated environment?
The cheerleader chased him, goaded him, and tackled him, but he covered up rather than fight back. The embarrassed cheerleader kept punching until he was pulled off. Security guards took the smiling trespasser away.