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A friend of mine recalls watching an Auburn vs. Alabama game on TV with her brother-in-law, a die-hard Tigers devotee. When Auburn lost, this brother-in-law walked into the next room and repeatedly banged his head against the wall while intoning the following prayer: "Why, oh why, dear Lord, did you make me an Auburn fan?"

What with the big game between BYU and Utah looming today (which also happens to be Jimi Hendrix's 68th birthday, so Happy Birthday, Jimi, wherever you are), I've been thinking about fandom. Why do we love the teams we do?

For the record, I am talking about true fandom here, which is constant and unwavering even when the team we adore trashes our heart like a fickle lover, then puts it out first thing with the morning garbage.

Obviously, geography is a factor. If you live in Utah, you probably cheer for the Jazz, which is why I would like to take this opportunity to inform the Fox Sports Network that living in Utah does not make a girl automatically interested in the Colorado teams. Dudes! What are you thinking? Just because Denver has mountains and we have mountains, I should care about the Broncos? Well, I don't. (Besides which, our mountains are way better than Denver's mountains.) On second thought, the FSN does broadcast Jazz games. So thanks for that, guys!

Family tradition also enters into the equation. If you grow up with relatives who cheer for a team, chances are excellent that you'll cheer for that team, too. When one of my co-workers transferred to BYU, her father, whose family has a long-term association with the U., made her promise she would still root for the Utes NO MATTER WHAT, after which he went out and got himself some intensive therapy in an effort to move past his daughter's stunning betrayal.

And then there is, for me at least, the individual player charisma factor. From the moment Peyton Manning sauntered onto my radar with his self-mocking style off the field and his deadly intensity on it, I started following the Colts. (I know. By my own definition, this constitutes a temporary crush instead of true love. But come on. It's Peyton! Manning!)

Some team attachments are less easy to explain, however. My second son has been a huge Steelers fan ever since the fourth grade — this, in spite of the fact that our family has no known connections to the city of Pittsburgh. When I asked him how this case of lifelong Steelers love began, he said, "Honestly, Mom, I don't know. I think I just liked the jerseys."

So there you go. Wave a black and yellow jersey in front of a little boy, and he's yours for life. Which brings me to this point: Sometimes the attachments we form in childhood are the most potent of all. We watch the teams of our youth on a Saturday afternoon, and suddenly we're 10 years old again, lying on our backs all sweaty from playing tag, staring up into the vast blueness of the sky while thinking, "Yeah, maybe I'll be a major league ballplayer when I grow up. Or maybe I'll play the guitar and be on the 'Ed Sullivan Show.' Or maybe I can build a rocket ship and fly straight to the moon."

Life is rich with possibility when you're 10 years old.

I've been watching BYU and Utah play since I was in grade school. Truly. And yes I'm sad that after this year, the matchup won't be the same. Also truly. But what are you gonna do? Nothing, I guess, except put on my colors this afternoon and hope that the best team wins.

Which, of course, is my team.

Ann Cannon can be reached at acannon@sltrib.com.

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