“Bell Week”

Jim Amidon — I wish I had a nickle for every call or email I’ve gotten this week that began with, "Jim, I know it’s Bell Week, but…"

Yes, it’s Bell Week. Coming in each morning I’ve seen smoke billowing out of burning trash cans, the freshman campus guards long gone and on their way to catch a little sleep before class. That smell — of the burning wood that keeps our rhynies warm at night — hangs in the campus air until about noon or so each day. Then it begins all over again as soon as night falls.

Bell Week. It’s the week when scores of former Wabash football players pick up the phone to call me or email me just to chat. Sure, they want to get caught up and tell me what’s new in their lives, but mostly they want to know the pre-game skinny. "How will Wabash play at DePauw?" "Is everybody healthy?" "What’s your gut telling you?" "How good are they?"

This is my 23rd straight Monon Bell Classic and they never get old; I never get tired of the hype and drama leading up to the big game. Nothing in my life — perhaps other than the birth of my daughter — compares to the emotion of the five or 10 minutes before kickoff of Wabash vs. DePauw. And imagine this: I’ve never played in a Bell Game!

Standing on the field and feeling the earth tremble as 8,000 to 10,000 fans jump up and down when the players charge out from the locker room is breathtaking. It’s right up there, I think, with watching the start of the Indianapolis 500 from the end of the main straightaway: you sort of hold your breath until all 33 cars come through. In the Bell Game, you hold your breath from the coin flip until the first big tackle, then settle in, focused and glued to every play.

I’ve never been able to explain why the Monon Bell Game is such a big deal to Wabash men, even those of us who have never suited up for one. Maybe it’s a male bonding thing or communal rite of passage. I don’t know. But I do know that when I gather with Wabash alumni of all ages and generations, talk quickly gets down to Bell Game memories. And trust me when I say those memories are vivid and alive in every single Wabash man.

Tomorrow, beginning at about 1:07 p.m., new memories will be seared into the minds of the Wabash fans in attendance. And we’ll spend our lifetimes recalling how great it was to be there.

DePauw to Hell. Bring Back the Bell!