Facebook Twitter

IT WAS A SPORTS WEEKEND TO REMEMBER

SHARE IT WAS A SPORTS WEEKEND TO REMEMBER

OK, Utah, you can now lean back in the recliner and find the remote. The busiest 36 hours of sports that the state has ever hosted is now history.

And for those 36 hours, it was a veritable sports smorgasbord, with a full menu of sports, levels, players and personalities.By the numbers, you had the NBA's No. 1 scorer and all-time greatest player, the NCAA's No. 1 quarterback in terms of passing efficiency, college basketball's No. 4-ranked team and college football's No. 8-ranked team. Plus the world's best alpine skiers.

The weekend was an alphabet soup: U., Y., WAC, NBA, NCAA, NAIA.

There were the names (Stockton, Pippen, Sarkisian, Van Horn), the nicknames (Mailman, Air, Worm) and the coaches (Majerus, Edwards, Jackson and Sloan).

And talk about a championship flavor - titles were on the line in Utah Friday and Saturday in WAC division football, WAC division volleyball, 4A and 5A prep football and four days of World Cup skiing at Park City.

And Saturday night's Jazz-Bulls game had a championship flavor for two reasons. First, it was a "what-might-have-been" 1996 NBA Finals pairing had the Jazz beaten the Seattle SuperSonics in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. And second, the two teams combined in the first half for the best two quarters of NBA basketball that anyone could remember witnessing. All this for a seemingly unimportant "regular-season" game in mid-November.

With rain postponing Friday morning's World Cup skiing in Park City, Utah's 36 hours of started Friday noon at Ogden's Wildcat Stadium, where Skyline successfully defended its 5A prep football crown against longtime playoff nemesis Orem. On the heels came East's return to championship football with the Leopards' 4A title triumph over Timpview.

Elsewhere Friday, the Utah Grizzlies hosted - and beat - the Kansas City Blades, while the Utah women's basketball team opened its regular season with a rare victory over Montana. More basketball openers included Weber State's men winning at home against Pepperdine, and the BYU men starting what could be a long, loss-laden season with a home defeat to Cal State Fullerton.

Saturday started with several thousand skiing fans lining the women's slalom course at Park City, where international patriotism ruled.

The weekend's featured event came mid-morning at Rice Stadium - the annual BYU-Utah football game, which many fans see as a life-or-death affair. It almost became that for KSL Radio sportscaster Paul James, who complained of chest pains when he started broadcasting Saturday morning. But he stayed at the stadium instead of checking into a hospital, signed a paramedic waiver that he was assuming full responsibility, and broadcast the game while wearing an EKG monitor to assess his heart rate.

Luckily for James, the game didn't end up being one that worried the faint of heart among the BYU faithful, even though there was a WAC Mountain Division title on the line and an ESPN national audience watching. The eighth-ranked Cougars broke a three-year losing skid in literally running over the Utes. It was the first time in recent memory that a BYU quarterback not only didn't break triple digits in passing yardage but was also outgained by not one but two running backs who both broke the 100-yard rushing barrier.

Utah had to console itself by beating a different sort of Cougars Saturday afternoon in the Huntsman Center, as the fourth- ranked men's basketball team hosted Azusa Pacific. While the NAIA opponent sounded somewhat like a foreign truck (Isuzu pickup), he Cougars made for an appropriate first-game foe before the leap-happy Keith Van Horn helped the U. along to its expected rout.

In Provo, BYU was opening its women's basketball season and closing its women's volleyball regular season - the latter with a WAC division title.

But the crowning moments of weekend came late Saturday night at the Delta Center, as the Utah Jazz downed the previously undefeated Chicago Bulls. Eight lead changes, 11 ties, 44 points from Michael Jordan, 36 from Karl Malone and - much to the delight of the home crowd - an ejection of Dennis Rodman in the game's final minute.

Championship football. World-class skiing. Season openers and regular-season finales. Playoff-pitch professional basketball. It was about all that the Wasatch Front could squeeze in a 60-mile radius during 36 hectic but memorable hours.