SALT LAKE CITY — I really dislike the word "hate." Especially when it comes to sports. There's just too much hatin' going on these days.

The thought comes to mind now with the NBA playoffs winding down and the U.S. Open golf tournament on the docket this week and college sports right around the corner.

Throughout the playoffs, the one team most people in the country seem to hate is the Miami Heat. Ever since LeBron James and Chris Bosh signed with the Heat last summer and proclaimed a truckload of titles would be coming to South Beach, they became the most despised team in America.

The U.S. Open will not have Woods, who is sitting out with an injured leg. That means not as many people will be watching the second of the four majors because Tiger won't be there for them to hate, or at least root against.

Still, I can certainly understand why fans dislike teams and particular players and why they root against them. It's always fun to have a villain.. Disliking a team or player is almost as much of a motivating factor as which teams or individuals we root for. I know it is for me.

For years I have been both a Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox fan. Ten days ago I faced a dilemma when the two teams played each other for the first time in 93 years.

Even though I've been a Cubs fan longer, I found myself rooting for the Red Sox that weekend.

Why? It could have had something to do with the fact that they're a better team this year and contending for a title, while the Cubs are mired in mediocrity as usual. But the bigger factor was probably my dislike for the New York Yankees.

I don't like the team I loved as a kid, which motivates me to root for the Red Sox even more (imagine my delight last week watching the Red Sox pummel the Yanks three straight in New York).

The Yankees were my favorite team back in the Mickey Mantle-Whitey Ford days (I know, I'm old), but I started to dislike them during the Reggie Jackson-Billy Martin years in the 1970s. In the 1980s and early '90s the Yankees were mostly irrelevant.

But since the late 1990s when they won a bunch of World Series titles and started buying up top free agents to get the largest payroll in sports, it was too much for me, and the dislike grew even more. Plus I've always thought George Steinbrenner was a blowhard.

So now when I check the boxscores in the paper or on the Internet, I'm looking to see if the Yankees lost, as much as to see if the Red Sox won.

In golf, I've always admired the considerable talents of Woods. However, since about the time he won the Masters by 12 strokes in 1997, I stopped rooting for him to win. I don't mind having him around the lead in tournaments because I can always root for the other guy.

However, because of all his winning and his arrogant attitude, I don't ever root for him to win. Then when the cheating-on-his-wife scandal hit last year, that gave me even less reason to cheer for him.

Nevertheless, I'll miss seeing Tiger play in this week's U.S. Open. His presence makes any golf tournament more interesting, even if most of us don't root for him, because we can root against him.

Locally, the word "hate" has come up often in the BYU-Utah rivalry from Wayne Howard to Max Hall. For many, the rivalry is good-natured fun, while for others it has an ugly life-or-death nastiness to it, which is unfortunate.

I wonder if some of the hatefulness will subside now that the two schools are not in the same conference any more, sort of an out-of-sight, out-of-mind deal. In the past, fans have often rooted against their rival because it would help their own school to move up in the standings, which won't be the case any more.

With fewer overall games scheduled between the U. and the Y. going forward and no conference championships on the line, let's hope the rivalry can turn into more of a friendly one rather than a hateful one.

As for the Yankees, Heat and Tiger Woods, I hope they will each be successful to a certain extent, which will make Major League Baseball, the NBA and the PGA Tour more interesting.

It will also give us more reason to cheer against them . . . even if we don't exactly hate them.

email: sor@desnews.com