By Patrick Dillon @PDillon_SGN
STRATHMORE – Like most rivalries, The Bell Game, between the Strathmore Spartans and the Lindsay Cardinals, has had its fair share of extra circular activities over the years. Mostly they were harmless pranks, such as the “L” that sits on a hill behind Lindsay being changed to an “S,” or burning the initials of the rival school into the opponent’s field. To most in the communities, especially to those who never played sports, this is all part of the fun that makes the rivalry what it is.
But at times those pranks were taken too far and seriously damaged school property. Off the field violence surrounding the game caused one of the oldest rivalries in Tulare County to be cancelled for a few years.
In the fall of 1983, coaches, administrators, and players of both Lindsay and Strathmore high schools got together and began an annual rivalry breakfast. The goal of which was to promote a sportsmanship-like atmosphere around the game.
Two years ago, after the breakfast had fallen by the wayside, that tradition was rekindled with the same goal.
Last Wednesday morning at 7 a.m. a few select players, students, faculty and administrators gathered at Strathmore High School’s library to continue the breakfast. While snacking on bagels, fruit and sipping on their morning coffee they listened to their two head coaches, Lindsay’s Matt Mendonca and Strathmore’s Jeromy Blackwell, as well as two speakers talk about the rivalry.
Long time Strathmore head coach Dave McDaniel, who took over the job at Strathmore in 1983, spoke first. He talked about how the players in the game leave behind a legacy that is at the heart of a rivalry game. He even acknowledged that there was more riding on this year’s game, as Strathmore was playing for a league title.
“I want you to remember this Friday night,” encouraged McDaniel. “That you have 48 minutes to leave behind your legacy.”
Then McDaniel included everyone, from other students to faculty, that they too have a legacy to leave. Theirs is on how they conduct themselves in support of their team.
“This game is not about vendettas,” said McDaniel. “Be respectful, be honoring and put things in perceptive.”
After McDaniel was Lindsay High School coaching legend, and current Strathmore assistant coach, Scott Bowser. He talked about the mutual respect that both high schools have for one another, who like Blackwell, has experienced this game from both side lines.
“I would rather compete against a friend,” said Bowser.
Then he encouraged the players to look further than just sports saying, that sports are just a brief moment in their lives.
“This game does not determine who you are,” said Bowser.
The camaraderie that this event is supposed to demonstrate seems to be taking hold, even among two players currently enthralled in the rivalry.
Senior quarterback Nick Salas, who played in his third Bell Game last Friday, believes that it brings both schools closer together.
“Instead of it being a hostile rivalry it is more of a friendly rivalry,” said Salas.
Lindsay senior wide receiver Chris Orozco played in his second Bell Game this year and said they are all friends off the field regardless if they are Spartans or Cardinals.
Yet, when it came time for kickoff both Orozco and Salas admit that they wanted to win. But it has changed how they carry themselves in victory and conduct themselves in defeat.