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Big 12 Bitter


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Anyone who has spent more than 10 minutes living in Utah knows there are only several matters that stand out as the very most important to most Utahns: The rivalry between the University of Utah and the Team Down South, whether one consumes caffeine hot or cold, if one is willing or not to be seen doing yard work on a Sunday and, of course, where you stand on the issue of local grocers being petitioned to remove red wine vinegar from the condiments aisle.

Yes, many people are saying that banning red wine vinegar from grocery stores altogether is an even better solution. Maybe. A reasonable solution would be to simply place it at such a height that our easily influenced youth cannot read the label, but not many people are saying that.

And that's how rumors and nonsense get started. If just one person becomes Trumpian enough to take action against red wine vinegar because "many people are saying" it is categorically similar to, say, a wine such as Carson Ridge Cabernet Paso Robles, you can bet that Utah's nanny moms would erupt all over social media about the harms of little children being exposed to wine via the nefarious gateway of a salad dressing ingredient.

Those nanny moms will reach out to more nanny moms—Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat, set ablaze with videos, memes and barely decipherable character counts warning of the harm wrought of a godless red wine vinegar society. Instagram will fill with photos of green salads, all adorned with, and advocating for ranch dressing.

A news channel will pick up the storyline because that's what news channels do these days—they pay attention to Twitter trends and not much else (not counting weightloss programs and Dancing with the Stars fantasy tributes). The story will "get some legs" as it is said in the ever sexist broadcast media industry, until a local grocer gets a mic shoved in his face as he fumbles for a reasonable explanation why the red wine vinegar in his store is so near the Cocoa Puffs.

In no time, a special legislative session will be called with Governor Herbert toasting the "Red Wine Vinegar Children's Crusade of 2016 Act" by tossing back a shooter of Heinz White Vinegar appropriately provided by the Love White Vinegar lobbyists at his side. Everyone will be happy. Except for the folks who have used red wine vinegar their whole lives and have not once been tempted to drink a whole bottle of it in one sitting. Although late to the game, they, too, will take action, most likely in the form of—because this is Utah, after all—Tweets like these:

"I'll just get my @redwinevinegar in Wyoming. Screw Utah. Screw @balsamic too. Utards!"

"Why do the @mormons ruin everything? Take care of your own kids, stupid people."

"Don't worry, there's lots of #redwinevinegar in Utah's crappy liquor stores. Idiots. Privatize liquor."

That's the way it goes in Utah—eventually, no matter what the issue is, it will trickle down to social media or story comment sections, and become one more battle between the sinners and the saints. Either you're a Mormon or you're not. There are no Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Methodists or Atheists in Utah; all of those cults just fall into the heap of "Non-Mormon." If you are a Utes fan, you are presumed to be a Non-Mormon (yes, yes, yes, there are plenty of Mormon faithful who are Utes fans—they may not know it, but they are generically regarded as "cool Mormons" or, "yeah, he's a Mormon, but ..."). Nor are all BYU fans Mormon. Those who are not Mormon are called by their proper term, "Insane."

If you dine at Chili's or Red Lobster, you're presumed to be Mormon. If you enjoy fine dining and jazz music, you're presumed to be non-Mormon.

There are also a substantial number of people in Utah who are regarded as "Anti-Mormon." They are of the variety of persons who say tomatoe when Mormons say tomater. A fair number remain gainfully employed, too, at such enterprises as The Salt Lake Tribune, for instance. I have also been called "Anti-Mormon," and was even challenged on that point by a high-school classmate a couple of years ago when he ascended to the role of an LDS Stake President. I challenged him back by asking him to find a single instance when I'd written anything against his faith. He couldn't.

We're still buddies, just no longer drinking buddies.

And as buddies, I wish him the best getting his favorite school, BYU, past yet another LGBTQ controversy and being accepted into the Big 12 conference. It means nothing to me, as I've never been affiliated with BYU or anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. As above, though, "many people are saying" that it matters to them. At center stage is the petition from over 20 national groups, including the nonprofit advocacy and education group, Athlete Ally, stating that BYU is not qualified to become a Big 12 member due to discriminatory practices. BYU students pledge to an Honor Code that includes swearing off sex outside of marriage and the wording, "homosexual behavior is inappropriate and violates the Honor Code."

That petition questioning BYU's qualifications for Big 12 conference membership is now distilled, as always, as an issue between Mormons and non-Mormons. To see the degree, go to, cut through the code words and read the comments, (plus those on other social media), which personify the rift between Utahns very nicely, coarsely and rudely. Utah really is the place where you can either use red wine vinegar or you cannot, and where you must never consider the white wine vinegar compromise. CW

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