This February will mark men’s basketball’s 200th game of The Rivalry. A rivalry so strong, it has been featured in Sports Illustrated, ESPN, and The New York Times. In 1990, WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids preempted President George H.W. Bush’s State of the Union to show The Rivalry game. On Jan. 29, 1997, the game, held in the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, established an NCAA Division III single-game attendance record with a capacity crowd of 11,442.
Hope started its men’s basketball program in 1902, and Calvin students couldn’t wait to start their own team, so a group formed themselves into a team and challenged Hope to a game before Calvin officially started a basketball team. It wasn’t until 1920 that the first official rivalry game took place. They would not play again until the 1924–25 school year before taking a four-year break because of unruly fan behavior.
In the years since, the rivalry has spread to all things Calvin versus Hope, including a fundraising participation challenge for annual fund donors in recent years. Contests featuring the two schools in other sports also draw the biggest crowds of supporters cheering on their respective teams.
Calvin senior volleyball player Anna Kamp believes the rivalry has improved her game: “Playing in the Calvin-Hope rivalry games has been so fun. Along with being fun, I think it’s been really beneficial for our program because it creates a tournament-like atmosphere full of excitement and pressure. I love the way that it pushes both teams to be their best and play on a higher platform. I also think it’s important for the community and helps rally our student and support base. I am forever thankful for the opportunities to compete against Hope and how much it has pushed me to be a better player!”
Calvin women’s volleyball coach Amber Warners credits the rivalry for increasing the popularity of her sport: “I think the Calvin–Hope volleyball rivalry has had a direct impact on the growth of youth volleyball in West Michigan. To have two top-tier nationally ranked teams compete year after year with a couple thousand people coming to watch has created an excitement about the game of volleyball. We couldn’t do that without one another. I consider [Hope’s coach] Becky [Schmidt] a wonderful colleague and friend.”
As Warners hints at, despite the rivalry and our differences, there is much more that unites us. The Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church separated over issues that today not many of us associated with those denominations can name. We have professors at Calvin who are Hope graduates, and Hope has professors who are Calvin graduates.We even have Calvin and Hope professors married to one another.
It is encouraging to know that there are more than 60,000 Calvin alumni out in the world who understand how to practice civility among our differences, and that gives me hope. But come this February, when we meet for the 200th time, I’m all about beating Hope.