Nevertheless, I did have one good friend that I could cling to in rough times. He took pity on me and would wait for me to eat lunch. However, he had another close friend who was extremely cruel and took every opportunity to make fun of my clearly vulnerable awkwardness. He was of course, a huge BYU fan. He would take every opportunity to pledge his loyalties to that dreadful place. Knowing that I was a blossoming U fan, he would never miss a chance to poke fun of my horrendous team. It had been nearly 20 years since the Utes had beaten BYU and it did not seem likely to change in 1988.
Each and every day, this nemesis would poke fun at my nerdiness or tease me about my ever growing pimple problem. I was beginning to consider simply eating alone during lunch, or even finding my Chinese friend that spoke very little English. Either quickly became a better option than taking a constant pounding from the nemesis. The others at the table had picked up on my vulnerability and had often joined in the harassment. The entire time my so called "friend" sat silently while I was humiliated. Junior High was the worst time of my life.
November 22, 1988 was one of the best days of my life. As I watched the game unfold and the Utes cruise to the first victory, I could just feel Daniel's (That was his name, that evil, sinister boy.) shame and embarrassment melt into my body. I could feel him eat every last word about my beloved Utes. I sat at that game, in sheer disbelief that God could turn the tide in my favor, at least for one day. In my 12 year old eyes, God DID care about football and he was not a Y fan. The impossible had been done, a miracle had occurred that day and my social life was bound to improve. Utah 57, BYU 28. Surely the folks at the table would remember his guarantee and arrogance. If they didn't, I was going to make sure they did.
I spent the following Sunday clipping article after article about the Ute's thrashing of BYU out of the newspaper. I clipped and pasted them all onto a 3 foot poster, which I was going to present to Daniel during the lunchtime rush the next day. My plan was to get everyone's attention, unravel the ode to domination and hand it to him in triumph. The prepubescent males would whoop and laugh, hopefully directly in his face. My plan failed.
I was unable to garner much attention of anyone. I was not even a rung on the Junior High social totem pole. I was below the rungs. I was the dirt below the rungs. I was rung dirt. Rung dirt with bad acne to be precise. Wait, totem poles don't have rungs, ladders have rungs. I am totally mixing my cliche metaphors. What do totem poles have? Heads? Animals? Maybe some totem poles have rungs? That would be a really boring totem pole, just rungs of a ladder. It would make it extra easy for indians to climb though. I wonder if that is how that indians invented ladders? Interesting thought, me.
After trying unsuccessfully to catch the attention of anyone but my silent friend, I simply handed Daniel the home made poster and laughed at him. He sat, unflinching and in silence while he held the cardboard facial in his hands. He began to chuckle. I was a bit disturbed. He then stood up and in front of the group and while holding my hard work over his head, he shouted, "Oh my goodness, look what Abe did! Look how much time he spent on this crap! What a loser!"
The words stung, but not as much as the laughter. Daniel then ripped up my poster and threw it in the trash. It was like a sick scene from a painful high school movie. I sat down and buried my face in the table. I will say it again, Junior High sucks.
Every time the Utes beat BYU, I cherish the event with extra tenacity. With every victory over their rivals, it is as if I am renewed. I imagine Daniel, sitting in his parents basement where he probably lives, clutching the edge of his couch and yelling at the television. How could his cougars let him down? How could they lose to their lesser and evil rival again? Every time Utah beats BYU, I think, "My tithing dollars might go to the Y, but that doesn't mean that God is a Y fan." And then I think, "I hope Daniel is watching every minute of this."
A few days later I broke both my legs and was out of school for a year. (Of course, BYU beat Utah 71-32 the following year.) When I returned, it was nearly time for High School and I thought my issues with Daniel had come to an end.
As luck would have it, in High School I was the last to be cut from the basketball team. Daniel, on the other hand, was the last person to make the team. Also, the first time I asked a girl out to a dance, she rejected me. Of course, Daniel had already asked her. I spent the night alone.
In conclusion - GO UTES!