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A Knight's Errand
By Lynn Bolt Rosendale '85

 
 
Calvin fans
Loyal Calvin fans already! (Click photo for larger image.)

The Calvin-Hope rivalry is something that needs no explanation to alumni of either college. In fact, the competition between the two has such history that in 1992 Sports Illustrated featured the Calvin-Hope menís basketball game stating that "a first-rate college basketball rivalry should feature two high-quality teams, a close series, fan interest that borders on fanaticism and a spirit of fair play."

Using those measures, the Calvin-Hope rivalry ranks right up there with the best of them. The all-time series is 73-71 with Calvin in the lead. Just five points (Calvin-9,475—Hope-9,470) separate the teams over 144 games. Since Calvin became a member of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association in 1953, Calvin and Hope have won outright or shared 44 of the last 47 MIAA titles.

The "fan interest that borders on fanaticism" was proven in 1997 when a sell-out crowd of 11,442 witnessed the game at the Van Andel Arena in downtown Grand Rapids, setting an NCAA Division III menís single game attendance record.

Calvin fan with balloons
Calvin alumni gathered in Boston to watch The Game.

But the fanaticism goes beyond a single game or even a single sport. Ask alumni from either college about the rivalry and a familiar nod of the head, chuckle or sly smile is the common reaction. Calvin especially likes to beat Hope in any competition and vice versa. And given that a mere 30 miles separate the two colleges, it is very common to find colleagues, business associates, church members and even families with divided loyalties.

One marriage with such a division is that of Jim Hertel í51 and his wife, Dee, a 1951 graduate of Hope. The couple was married eight years ago after Jim, a widower, was reintroduced to Dee, a widow, at a high school class reunion.

"I knew he had gone to Calvin, but I didnít hold it against him," laughed Dee, a loyal Hope supporter and long-time basketball season ticket holder. "The only thing Calvin I had ever gone to before I met Jim was the Hope-Calvin game."

The "mixed" marriage was something that Deeís parents were quick to point out by presenting Jim with a half-Hope, half-Calvin flag for his birthday.

"When I joined the family, they wanted to welcome me to the Hope clan," he said.

But flying the flag was a problem, because since the letter "C" and "H" are the same either right-side-up or upside-down, there was no right or wrong way to fly the flag.

"I thought the right way was Calvin on top and she thought the right way was Hope on top," said Jim.

So for the last eight years the positioning of the flag has been determined by the outcome of each Calvin-Hope menís basketball game.

"If Calvin wins, Calvin flies on top and if Hope wins, Hope flies on top," said Jim. "Itís made the outcome of each game a lot of fun. She cheers madly for Hope and I cheer madly for Calvin."

But the rivalry goes even beyond the flag in the Hertel household, said Dee, who one time found a piece of paper with the word "Hope" on it floating in her bathroom toilet after a disappointing loss by the Flying Dutchmen.

"Weíre pretty big fans," said Dee. "Iíve been to the nationals twice in Salem and Jim went last year."

When asked why neither spouse accompanied the other on the trip south, Dee replied, "Oh, I couldnít go down to nationals and see Calvin win and Iím sure Jim feels the same way. It probably sounds like we donít get along very well, but other than this, we get along great."

Bob Nykamp, a 1985 Calvin alum, and his wife, Sue, a 1985 Hope graduate, get along pretty well too except for the Calvin-Hope dispute.

"It gets pretty nasty around here on game days," he said, with a laugh.

In the Nykamp family, Bob is far outnumbered as his parents, in-laws and even his children are Hope supporters.

"My wife conditioned them," he said of his ten and 6-year-old daughters. "When Heather was a baby, she took this picture of her laughing with a Hope bib on and crying next to a Calvin teddy bear. Itís all because of those pictures. Iíve told my kids they can go to any college they want and Iíll pay for it as long as itís not Hope."

Sue claims that then their mother will pay for it.

Each year a surprise Hope or Calvin t-shirt or sweatshirt ends up under the Nykamp family Christmas tree given of course to a fan of the opposite school. But the most fun is on basketball game days when there are other side bets going on, said Sue.

"Back rubs, dinner outóthose kinds of bets," she said. "Thatís when we have a lot of fun."

Sue was the recipient of the winnings several times before last year.

"Calvinís national championship was huge," said Bob. "I sent my brother-in-law all kinds of newspaper articles and pictures. It provided great fodder for all that."

And what was it like in the house after Calvin won the national championship?

"What was it like? Itís still going on," said Sue. "There isnít a day that goes by that I donít get reminded of that."

And Calvin-Hope rivalries extend beyond family lines to business colleagues as evidenced by Tom Newhof í58 and Lou Hallacy.

As mayor of Holland from 1973-79, CEO of the Holland Area Chamber of Commerce from 1992-2000 and long-time Holland area businessman, Hallacy has some strong ties to Hope College.

Newhof, a Calvin basketball stand-out himself in the early 1950s, is a loyal supporter of Calvin basketball.

The two connected when Newhof, of Prein & Newhof, an engineering firm, did some work for the city of Holland in 1984.

"We really didnít know each other well, but the subject of the Calvin-Hope game came up," said Newhof. "Lou was telling me Hope wasnít going to do very wellóthey had no height, no talentóso we bet $1 on the game. Calvin lost and I paid him the dollar."

Then in 1992, the pair decided to up the ante.

"We went to our respective bookstores to buy a school flag," said Hallacy. "Now, the loser flies the winnerís flag in their office until the next game or for 30 days after the final game of the season.

"Last year a Calvin College flag was hanging in the Holland Chamber of Commerce for a couple of months," he said.

There have been some strange looks, Hallacy admits.

"People know that I have orange and blue in my blood," he said. "Iíve been asked, ĎWhat are you flying that here for?í"

Prior to last year, Hallacy had a nine-game flag-flying streak in his favor.

"Itís bad enough to lose the game," said Newhof. "Then to have to take the flag knowing you have to look at it every morning for the next 30 days, thatís even worse."

All in all, the rivalry has been a lot of fun, the two said.

"A few years ago Hope beat Calvin and Tom was out of town,"said Hallacy. "I had this all set up for him on his desk when he came back."

"Because the games are always so close, you always believe that you are going to be able to get rid of the flag at the next game," said Newhof. "I always figure Calvinís going to win."

One of the best outcomes, though, has been the friendship that has developed, added Hallacy.

"The Newhofs have become very good friends of ours," he said

It was out of friendship that another duo got entangled in a Hope-Calvin "controversy."

Karsten Voskuil, a 1996 Hope graduate and minister of youth and young adults at Central Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, and Laura Medema, a Calvin student and member of the church, are constantly reminding each other of their schoolís superiority.

"We rarely see each other without some kind of banter going on," said Calvin student Laura Medema. "It doesnít matter which sport it is."

So as a cross country runner on a team vying for a national championship this fall, Medema made sure that Voskuil knew about it.

Voskuil in turn said that if the Calvin women or men won a national championship in cross country, he would don a Calvin tie in church for a Sunday.

The menís team made a tie-wearer out of Voskuil, whose sermon on December 24th was about paradoxes.

"Itís a lot of good-natured fun," said Voskuil. "We have a little bit of tension between some of our members because being a Reformed Church we have a lot of Hope grads here, but weíre in the middle of the nest of Calvin College, so we have some Calvin grads too. My dad was a professor at Hope and my uncle is Glenn Van Wieren (Hopeís menís basketball coach) so Iím a pretty big Hope fan. Ironically, the senior pastor here, Daniel Meeter (í76), is a Calvin alum."

Was it difficult for Voskuil to put on the tie?

"I figured, ĎHey itís a free tie,í but no, I wonít ever be wearing it to a Hope College function. I do love John Calvin though. I think any time I read the Institutes Iíll put on the tie," he said.

And as far as making his point for the sermon, perhaps a better paradoxódefined as "one exhibiting inexplicable or contradictory aspects"ócould not be found.

It was Voskuil, afterall, who came to Calvinís basketball game against Wooster during the national tournament run last year, painted in Wooster colors, said Medema.

For the recordóCalvin won 82-53.

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