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About Utah: Sports fans, don't be blue! Being rabid is good for you!

The big game is over.

Your team lost.

It's the mourning after.

Now what?

Since the above question applies — in the wake of yet another Utah-BYU, blue-red showdown yesterday in Provo — to roughly half the state, let's turn for advice to Justine Reel, who knows more than a little bit about this sort of thing.

A professor in the department of health at the University of Utah, Dr. Reel has a Ph.D. in sport science and a master's degree in counseling. If anyone understands the day-after blues, it's her.

"It's important to step outside the game," Justine counsels. "Put it in its proper place. It's one season, one year, one game. And you, as a fan, had no real control over the outcome. Remember that it's entertainment and try to keep in mind that either team that did well is helping the conference."

Oh, and one other thing.

"They will play again next year."

Repeat that two times every hour — and go back to bed.

You'll be getting our bill.


Any present downer feelings notwithstanding, in Justine's educated opinion being a sports fan can actually, over the long haul, be an effective antidepressant.

"It can be very healthy (to be a fan) when the experience is used properly," she says. "Identifying with a sport and a team is a way to experience and express emotions that otherwise might not be so readily experienced and expressed."

Clinically speaking, there are three levels to this identification.

First is the "psychological element," allowing for "we as human beings to experience the whole range of human emotions, from joy to anger to everything in between, in an acceptable manner."

Second, fan attachment is "a way we can identify with each other, allowing a connection with others we may have very little in common with otherwise."

Third, it provides "a way of dealing with stress and tension without a strong personal impact; a way to have a catharsis in a safe way."

Justine sums up all of the above by saying, being fans "is a way we can take care of ourselves. It can be very healthy as long as we don't take it too far and let it become an obsession."


In Dr. Reel's opinion, by the way, we are rabid out here in blue-red country.

But she's definitely seen more rabid.

Justine grew up in Raleigh, N.C., along Tobacco Road, the celebrated college sports thoroughfare that transports the estimable rival emotions of Duke, Wake Forest, North Carolina State and North Carolina. Along Tobacco Road, everybody takes a side.

When Justine came to the U. for her teaching position five years ago, she says she was prepared to hear something similar to the chant she remembers from her Carolina days: "Duke is puke, Wake is fake, but the team I really hate is State."

"But I haven't heard anything like that here," she says, before adding diplomatically, "When it comes to fierce rivalry, well, we're getting there."

Which is another way of saying we have the situation somewhat in control. Around here, it's just a game. We're in it for the entertainment value. Whoever wins helps the conference. They'll play again next year. And we, as fans, had no real control over the outcome.

But only if our team lost.


Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to benson@desnews.com and faxes to 801-237-2527.