The missing bell was a conversational leader that night at the Monon Stag in Indianapolis. Jim Wood predicted I would love the stag, everybody getting together and cutting each other up. But it was the low point of my week. The preliminaries were all right—Mont and Bowman were short and sweet; President Seymour produced a red-and-white Beat DePauw sign out of a torn-up napkin—but the toastmaster was excruciating. DePauw had wanted to sub its glee club as the main event, and it would have been a good idea.
On the morning of the game I was up early and over to the student snack shop for breakfast. I ran into two of the players, an end named Hiatt, who had six vials of experimental fruit flies stuffed in his fatigue jacket, and a safetyman named Haklin, the team captain. Hiatt said he had played in the game last year with a separated shoulder, "but there was so much infighting and name-calling going on I didn't realize it."
Haklin was having his team meal, a carton of milk and a blueberry Danish. He said a professor had told him all the games up to DePauw were "scrimmages," and "He's right. Last year when the seniors talked to the team before the game it was like war. They said, 'You better prepare yourselves. And you better win. For your sake, not ours. You'll take a lot of crap if you don't."
Haklin looked down at the empty milk carton he was squeezing.
"Next year I'll be in grad school, trying for a Rhodes scholarship. But I don't know what I'll do without football. I couldn't have made it at a big school, so I came here. I'm sorry it's over."
Upstairs, Dick Bowman looked out at the elephant-gray sky over Little Giant Stadium. "Damn rain," he said. "I hope it stays away." He said he planned no gimmicks for DePauw. A basic Oklahoma defense, the fashionable triple-option offense. "Fundamentals are about all we have time to teach."
He said he had four bottles of champagne on ice for the victory party. He said he realized it wasn't enough to get high on.
A Veteran's Day Parade in downtown Crawfordsville was the only competing event at game time. Despite the threatening weather, the Wabash crowd arrived early and filled its side. The DePauws were late coming and did not fill theirs. "They don't wanta see any more than they have to," a young humorist standing next to me on the sidelines said.
The Monon Bell came clanging into the stadium on the back of President Seymour's swaying 1938 Packard, eliciting a ponderous cheer. The DePauw band was thumping overhead as Tommy Mont faced his black-and-gold-clad warriors in the dressing room and offered them clemency for a "bad season." He beseeched them to play "the doggonedest football game you ever played." They whooped and crowded the exit to the field.
It might not have been that—the doggonedest football game ever played—but it was a fine one, lacking neither skill nor drama. I stood with Mont's coaching staff in the first half in a vortex of partisanship. A guard named Dalesandro came off shaking his head in wonder. "It's euphoria, man," he shouted, wide-eyed. "I think I'm moving like hell, but I ain't moving worth a stick."