With a grand total of 1,761,806 votes, the Bell Game Rivalry has taken the top prize in the USA Today Best High School Rivalries Contest. Old rivals became new friends, Conference opponents took to their computers, and folks from all over the United States came together to bring the prize home to Linn County.
While the nation is just now getting its collective heads around the importance of this ages-old rivalry, we locals have lived and breathed this rivalry for generations.
“I think it is a source of great pride for both of our communities,” said Brookfield Head Football Coach Nile Thudium. “The tradition behind it is what makes it so meaningful. Grandpas and Dads have played in this game; my Grandpa and Dad have specifically played in this game. I have played in this game, and someday soon, my son will play in the game.”
“It is a tremendous rivalry that is great fun for the fans, schools, players and coaches,” said Marceline Head Football Coach Paul Thomas. “As for myself it is one of the best games I have ever coached in.”
“I have been on both sides of the rivalry, having spent my first six years in Marceline, then I came over here,” said Brookfield Athletic Director Mike McBroom. “I played football my entire life and we had rivalries, but nothing elevated to the level of the Bell Game. The Bell Game goes back so many years. Entire families have played each other since 1909.”
McBroom continued: “A small community like ours, an hour-and-a-half from any large metropolis, has grasped a hold of this. It brings us unity. Not necessarily all year, but it can cheer us up. The rich tradition brings us together. We don’t have a Bell Game in other sports, but those are Bell Games, because of the Rivalry. You know who you want to beat. The blood, sweat, and tears of the people who have fought over the years to make sure the Bell Game is as important as it is.”
“The Bell Rivalry is a game that creates a lot of community excitement and spirit,” said Marceline Activities Director Kent O’Laughlin. “It helps join the school and community as one each year as the game anticipation builds. This enthusiasm is something that helps the pride of being a Tiger carry into the game.”
The voting process began a month ago, with the Bell Game Rivalry facing stiff in-state competition. With a decisive win there, the Bell Game went Regional, and again came out on top. In the finals, the local effort to win this contest made sure the victory was never in doubt.
At both schools, students were allowed the use of their smartphones to vote when they were not doing schoolwork. A lock-in was held last weekend at Brookfield High School to allow students to munch of donated goodies and vote. The library at Marceline High School was held open on Sunday for a day of voting.
Folks on Facebook from all over the Nation expressed their support for the Rivalry on the voting page. Old rivals worked together to win the local kids, and a rivalry that means so much to so many, some time in the national spotlight.
The rival teams even paired up for a parody video of the smash-hit “Gagnam Style” called “Bell Game Style.” This YouTube sensation showcased players, cheerleaders, and students from both schools rapping and dancing with homemade signs encouraging people to vote.