Max Hall has been at the center of the BYU vs. Utah rivalry for quite some time.
Hall's comments about "classless" Ute fans after the Cougars' 26-23 overtime win in 2009 has led to everything from T-shirts to bumper stickers. People on both sides of the Cougar/Ute divide point to his words in their clash of words and opinions wherever fans are found.
However, in the wake of Hall’s recent arrest for alleged shoplifting and possession of cocaine, it's refreshing to see a lot of people on both sides of this heated rivalry set football aside and recognize the big picture.
Some things are simply bigger than the rivalry, even for die-hard BYU and Utah fans.
Many people in both fan bases have been touched by the horrors of drug addiction. As hard as it is to lose a close football game to a heated rival, it's nothing compared to the pain and suffering friends and family members experience as they watch someone they love deal with substance abuse. This is a serious problem that touches most of us in one way or another regardless of which team we cheer for.
This problem is all too real for many former football players as well. Last May, a group of players, including former BYU quarterback and Chicago Bears star Jim McMahon, filed a lawsuit against the NFL claiming that the league supplied players illegally with risky and addictive narcotics to allow these players to continue to play through injuries. Many of these former football players have experienced addiction during and after their football careers.
No team is immune.
Several BYU and Utah fans took to Twitter in the hours after the news broke, and here’s a story on the immediate reaction from last night for the Deseret News. A lot of people also took the time to write in the comments section their thoughts on Max Hall’s arrest. Here's some of the responses:
Henry Drummond: "Time to drop the usual BYU v Utah trash talk and think about this man's family. Get into rehab Max. Get yourself cleaned up and make something positive of your life. This is one Utah fan that will be rooting for you."
afro14: "You know, as much as I despised this guy after what he said about the U and it's fans, it is genuinely sad to see someone struggle with addiction. I hope he gets help and overcomes his problem."
PAC12Fan: "I hate seeing this from anyone. Though he is on the most hated list for my Utes, I never want to see anyone cut their potential in life by using drugs. I own a meth cleanup company and see what drugs do to decent people. Hopefully he can get some help."
VegasUte: "As someone who has had a son go through addiction, I do not wish this on anyone. Good luck to Max and his family, I hope he gets well for himself and for his family's future."
mstar: "I usually like opportunities to have some fun at BYU's expense. Not this time. I too feel sad for Max. He had so much going for him. Addiction can hit anyone. I hope Max can get some help and get back on track with his life. Good luck Max. Another Ute pulling for you."
Meckofahess: "Classy comments from Ute and BYU fans. Nice to see that we can put the hype and rivalry stuff on hold when we see a sad tragedy happen to a fellow human being. This sort of thing can happen to anyone so it is a sobering thought for all of us to ponder. I hope Max can get the help he needs and overcome his challenges."
And so on. Utah fans could have chosen to pile on after what Hall said back in 2009. Instead, the overwhelming majority have not only held snarky comments back, but they've expressed their concern and hopes for a recovery for a former football foe.
That is class.
Is there a time and a place for rivalry talk? Sure. There's nothing wrong with a little good-natured ribbing. It's true that some fans on both sides can take things too far. However, fans on both sides recognize that this is something much bigger than football.
Let this be a wake-up call. Drug abuse during and particularly after a football career is a serious issue no matter who you root for, and many more without fame or fortune deal with this monster of a problem all over the world. Most fans at both BYU and Utah seem to understand that.
And that's something worth putting on T-shirts and bumper stickers.
Lafe Peavler is a staff sports writer for the Deseret News. Follow him on Twitter @LafePeavler.