Thursday, January 16, 2014

No. 140 – Dance on a Volcano

Performer: Genesis
Songwriters: Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Steve Hackett, Mike Rutherford
Original Release: A Trick of the Tail
Year: 1976
Definitive Version: Seconds Out, 1977.

I grew up around Ohio State-vs.-Michigan, but to me there’s no better rivalry in sports than Wabash-vs.-DePauw. It’s a natural. They’re similar schools, about a 30-minute drive apart, and most guys who go to either school considered the other at some point. I did.

I used to talk up Wabash-DePauw to much mockery in Flint. Then, in 1993, Sports Illustrated did a huge feature on the 100th Monon Bell Game between the two, calling it “The Real Big One.” Dan saw that and was impressed to the point where he no longer scoffed at my claims (even if he didn’t buy them).

My sophomore year—when Genesis was my newfound musical love and Dance on a Volcano was a regular play—was when I really built a healthy hate for that team from Down South, whom we called the Dannies with as much derision as possible. (A Dannie, for those not in the know, is a hanky-waving fop whose girlfriend looks longingly to the real men up North.)

That fall, in 1983, Wabash lost the Monon Bell at DePauw in a wild game that went down to the last play—an incompletion by Wabash in the end zone from the 1-yard line. The play was made possible ONLY because a DePauw student’s dog ran out on the field after the previous play, necessitating a timeout that allowed Wabash to set up one more play. (When’s the last time you saw THAT happen in OSU-v-UM?)

Watching DePauw cart off the Bell—in my roommate Jim’s final game—was too much to take. And it hurt even more that one of the first basketball games where I was behind the mic was a game at DePauw with the Bell ringing over and over … as Wabash lost.

The tables were turned somewhat in the final game of the basketball season, when DePauw, who was No. 3 in Div. III, was wiped out on Wabash’s home court. (I might have eschewed professionalism at the end with a lusty YEAAAHHHHHH when victory was complete, but what matter is professionalism in the face of a glorious victory over the damn Dannies?) The next year, I added football to my broadcast duties, and as mentioned, I called my Wallies on to victory, bringing the Bell back to its rightful home. Order had been restored.

My senior year, the game was at DePauw, and the damn Dannies were favored and playing for a playoff spot. It didn’t look good, but Wabash won easily. Our running back, Bill Kaiser, ran the ball 58 times, which was, at the time an NCAA record. The kicker, Joe Bevelheimer, made five field goals, including a school-record 50-yarder. The final score, 28-8, was closer than the game indicated, and DePauw was knocked out of the playoffs. How sweet it was!

Steve and I called the game sitting one row behind Wabash’s assistant coaches in the press box. Needless to say—but I’ll say it anyway—there was so much tumult in the background, I had no need to do any cheerleading.

I didn’t call basketball my senior year, so that football game was the end of my personal relationship with The Rivalry but certainly not my interest. I still follow the Monon Bell Game each year, and it’s been all Wabash for the past five.

Not that I needed evidence, but it was during that time when I truly discovered that the hate swings both ways. In 2010, DePauw entered the Bell Game undefeated and about to make the playoffs for the first time. Wabash had been knocked out of the playoffs by Wittenberg the week before. The result: A 47-0 Wabash victory that was the biggest rout in the series in my lifetime.

As the score mounted, I went from gamescore to the radio. Wabash’s radio feed wasn’t linked on the Div-3 football site, but DePauw’s was. Even better. Nothing’s more nourishing than quaffing the bitter tears of a Dannie crying into his hanky.

The DePauw announcers were uberprofessional, expressing a proper amount of shock at the proceedings and respect for the Wally juggernaut. But at the end of the game, I got precisely what I wanted to hear.

The Internet feed was just the announcers: Any commercials went out over DePauw radio only. As the final seconds ticked away, the announcers called the action and then broke away for commercial. “You’re listening to the DePauw Tigers radio network.” Pause … and then the play-by-play guy’s disgust spilled out in all its glory: “I CAN’T EFFING BELIEVE IT. MY FINAL EFFING MONON BELL GAME!!” Then the mics were cut.

How sweet it is! After laughing my butt off, I typed out an email to the announcer, offering support for the rebuke sure to come. I could empathize: I used to call games for Wabash years ago, and I know exactly how you feel …

Except I didn’t. My school won MY final Monon Bell Game. HAHAHAHA!!!!

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