Gordon Monson: If Utah’s Cam Rising says he wants to ‘whup BYU’s [Cougar tails],’ good on him

The Utah quarterback fanned the flames of the rivalry’s fire during Big 12 media days.

Perennial Utah quarterback Cam Rising said, when asked the other day about playing the BYU Cougars in the Big 12 this coming season, that he wants to “whup their a--.”

You might have seen the clip.

Ah, the gloriousness of not just playing college football, but being really good at it, being good at talking about it, being good at throwing shade at an in-state rival.

What Rising said, you might imagine, was greeted by BYU fans with great warmth and enthusiasm. They rather eruditely considered all angles of what he said, why he said it, and were, like, “Oh, OK, that sounds about right to us.”

No. That’s not what they said. They, many of them anyway, said they wanted Rising to do anatomically impossible things to himself. Some even reveled in Rising’s injuries of the past and hoped for more of the same for the quarterback in his future, particularly a very specific day in his future — Nov. 9 — when the Cougars and Utes line up to play each other at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Not that any self-respecting BYU fan would wish bodily harm upon a college athlete who’s just trying to get his education, play a little ball, and collect upwards of $1.5 million in NIL goodies. Most fans in rivalries eschew injuries, but what they hate even more are insults, what they perceive to be insults.

The way I figure it, what Rising said was not an insult, nor any kind of affront. It was just a competitive dude, a gifted, successful competitive dude, telling the truth about how he and likely a great multitude of his teammates and coaches feel about facing BYU. That sentiment has pretty much always been there in the Ute locker room and in the Cougars’ room, too. I once talked to a Utah player who said when this rivalry game comes around, he wants to not just beat BYU, but beat it by as many points as possible. If the margin is seven, he wants it to be 14. If it’s 14, he wants it to be 21. If it’s 21, he wants it to be … 28 … 35 … 42 … and on up from there. I think the word he used was, “infinity.”

And beyond.

This is the beauty of a rivalry in college sports, especially football. Especially one that’s taken the last few years off.

BYU’s Connor Pay said he “wouldn’t want it any other way.” He also said the Cougars feel the same.

Athletes being motivated to play at a level so high that their team’s superiority cannot be doubted. That feels good. And the alternative, God forbid, a loss to said rival feels even worse than a win feels good.

A whole lot of BYU players have said infamous things about Utah through the years, too, everything from, “They’ll be pumping my gas” to “I hate ‘em; hate everything about ‘em.”

The hate thing takes it too far, although some folks excuse it, calling that loathing spate, which is a contraction for sports hate. Sports hate is to be differentiated from hate hate, they say. I don’t know about that. But most reasonable people can agree that a strong desire to “whup So-and-So’s rear end” would not qualify as the defining line for hatred.

Too many fans get caught up in that, and, unfortunately, that’s just the way it’s always been. Pity. You can’t concurrently respect your rival while hating on them. You can concurrently respect your rival while wanting to whup ’em.

If that’s what you want, say it.

I’m not even sure I can get away with repeating that A-word in a Tribune column, but here’s to making the attempt at complete candor. Rising’s use of it is: 1) direct, 2) representative of the way the Utes feel, and 3) true.

“Butt” just doesn’t carry the same power.

Rising’s word adds a degree of color to a game that forever can use more of it, particularly now that the Utes and Cougars are back in the same conference again. If you’re going to kick something, kick …

Assuredly. Assiduously. Assumably. Assurgently. Assertively. Assentively. Assailably.

I don’t even know what some of those words mean, or even if they are actual words, but you get the assumed meaning here.

Cam Rising, the quarterback and leader of the Utes, very much wants to beat BYU. And, we can rest assured that BYU’s quarterback and leader, whoever that might be, wants to beat Utah with equal emotion and intent.

If that’s what they desire, they should go ahead and give it utterance. That’s what rivalries are all about. Fans on either side should celebrate that kind of talk, not complain about it. How many people would remember Joe Willie Namath with the same respect and exactness if the Jets quarterback hadn’t said what he said about the Jets beating the Colts before Super Bowl III?

Now, Rising would have taken the rivalry game to new heights, would have blown the lid off the game had he guaranteed that the Utes, come Nov. 9, would whup the Cougars’ tails. That’s the kind of fuel that makes rivalry games what they are, or what they can and should be: An opened can of … yeah, you-know-what.