Runnin’ With The Utes: “The ‘Rationality’ Of The Sports Fan”

The Kentucky Wildcats celebrate yet another national title. Photo from


I am fascinated by sports fans. Five different people can watch the same game and each can come away with something different. Blame and credit can be given to a wide variety of people. Message boards and social media have expanded the means in which sports fans can share their opinions and discuss their team.

On Sunday, I took a twitter poll to take the pulse of Ute fans. My hypothetical situation was that if the team was guaranteed to go 1-1 over their next two games, would it be better to beat Oregon State, or BYU. Not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority went with Oregon State. This is rational. Oregon State is a Pac-12 foe, and while it is always fun to beat BYU, we need to start winning Pac-12 games.

But are fans always so rational? Sometimes yes, sometimes not so much.

I recently had a conversation with a friend about sports and as the conversation progressed, it turned to the subject of my least favorite team. You have to understand that I am a fan of the Utes, Jazz, and Red Sox. So naturally, I do not have the kindest feelings for the Cougars, Lakers, Yankees, or most recently the Rays. I don’t hate any of those teams, I don’t cheer against them, but I don’t wear their gear either.

But one team trumps them all in terms of dislike. The Kentucky Wildcats. I despise them with a passion. My friend asked me (again, in a hypothetical), if I were given the choice, would I rather have the Utes go to the Rose Bowl in football or the Runnin’ Utes beat Kentucky in the NCAA tournament. In this hypothetical, choosing one would guarantee that the other would never happen. As I thought about how to answer, my mind raced through the last 20 years. 1993, second round of NCAA tournament: blown out by Kentucky. 1996, Sweet 16: obliterated by Kentucky. 1997, Elite Eight: stopped cold by Kentucky. 1998: you know what, this one hurts so bad to this day, I can’t even describe it here. 2003 second round, 2005 sweet sixteen, the same old story.

As the names of Antoine Walker, Ron Mercer, and Scott Padgett came to my head, my decision became easy. I’d take the win over Kentucky. Yes, I would doom the football team to a lifetime of never reaching the pinnacle for a chance to just one lousy time send those degenerate low lives home from the NCAA tournament.

That, my friends, is not even close to rational. I recognize that, but I can’t change the way I feel. And that’s what’s great about being a sports fan; it’s less about being rational and more about the way you feel. This is why, even though I chose a win over Oregon State, I can understand and even applaud those who chose BYU. It’s just one of those things.

At the end of the day, I’d love to see the Utes do both. But I cannot back off from the thought that I’d take that win over Kentucky over just about anything else.

I think every honest sports fan has something that they would gladly make a “deal with the devil” to see their team accomplish. I would love to know what the readers think, what would you sacrifice irrationally to see one of your teams accomplish something? Or are you rational all the time? Drop us a comment here, because I’d love to learn from you and I’m planning on a follow up based on your responses.

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  • Cris Balmanno

    Fan is short for fanatic. As a fanatic I’m less than rational about the teams I follow, I think it comes with the territory. That said, I don’t know that I’d sacrifice the potential long term success of any of my teams for a short term gain for one of them. I don’t know that I could doom the Cougar basketball team to never make the NCAA tournament again just so the football team could win a National Championship. I’m a fanatic – not crazy.