Since moving to Medford from Salt Lake City in 2012, I like to play a comparison game in my mind that I call Utah vs. Oregon. Like my mind, it’s pretty simple.
For example, college football: Since joining the PAC-12 in 2011, the University of Utah has upped its game a little but still pales in comparison to perennial near-national champions the U of O. And because Oregon, like Utah, lacks an NFL team, pride in the Ducks brimeth over.
On our arrival here, one of the first things we noticed were the ubiquitous “O” stickers, of multiple sizes and colors, seemingly attached to any glass surface on four wheels.
In Utah, “Y” stickers prevail, but BYU football still wanders anemically through the land without a conference to call home. Big win for Oregon.
Major League Soccer: OK, in popularity and press attention, it doesn’t compare to scholars playing pigskin, but I think I can throw Utah a point here. Real Salt Lake won the MLS championship in 2009. Of course, the Portland Timbers weren’t MLS members then, so that’s not quite fair. On the other hand, over the years Real has been a near arch-nemesis to the Timbers, and anyway, RSL has cooler uniforms. Point for Utah.
Trees. Need we ask? That’s why there’s a Douglas-fir on our license plate, duh. That was easy. Oregon 2-1.
Red rock. Duh! Again, the license plate thing. Utah has made Delicate Arch into a branding tool and, besides, as the second-driest state in the nation, it features millions of acres of the world’s most stunning sandstone. We’re back to a tie.
Gas stations. I’m old enough that I grew up with full service at the pump, but coming back to that was a bit of a culture shock. Despite sometimes having to wait a few minutes for service, staying in the car on a rainy day is a big plus. I’ve grown accustomed to the pace. Anymore, whenever I pop down to California, I’m all thumbs. Let’s see, which button do I push?
On the other hand, Utah has the marriage of self-service unleaded and the convenience store down to an art form. Some even sell hot baked goods and are virtually the size of a small Walmart. Diet Coke in a comeback cup is the state drink. But back here in Oregon, it’s hard to sell extra goodies when we keep people strapped in their cars. Gassing up isn’t as fun without the extra calories. Utah surges ahead.
Male facial hair: Yes, that’s an odd cultural difference between the Beaver State and the Beehive State. Sometime in the countercultural '60s, Mormondom’s brethren decided the best way to fend off hippies was to discourage beards. Personally, I prefer mine smooth, but it’s nice to go scruffy a few days and not stick out like Rip Van Winkle. Back to a tie.
I could go on, but by this point, I probably should make one. Despite the homogenization of modern life, America’s many places all have their own graces. Red-blue? A silly color scheme of recent invention. Our differences should be the source more of appreciation than polarization. And that’s one big point for America.
Ladd Brubaker lives in Medford.