The Chili Bowl is a classic event here at Regent and brings out a diverse plethora of fans and spectators. However, each year’s game is unique and special, and 2016’s Chili Bowl was no exception.
A Fall Favorite
Ask any student at Regent which athletic event holds the most significance, and the majority will tell you that it’s the Chili Bowl. Appealing to students, faculty, alumni, and relatives of attendees, the event features music, bounce-houses, hot apple cider, award-winning chili, and a match-up between the two best teams from this years’ flag football season – Gibborim, and Team 7.
Saturday, Nov. 12, was the 13th annual Chili Bowl at Regent University. I had never been to a Chili Bowl before, so I greatly enjoyed the experience. While there, I interviewed an array of individuals, giving me a better grasp on the culture of the Chili Bowl, as well as the mood of the fans, players, and even the founder of Regent University, Dr. Pat Robertson.
The Chili Bowl began at 1:00 p.m. although fans started trickling in long before then. To provide entertainment for the early-comers, an all-star game was played at noon. There were eight teams in the league, and each team captain selected a few of their best players to represent their team. The game ended 7-6, and its closeness and intensity helped lay the foundation and set the atmosphere for the main event.
After this preliminary all-star match up, I had the chance to interview one of the players, Anthony Salgado, a Senior at Regent University pursuing a bachelor’s degree in animation. Anthony has attended the Chili Bowl before, but he never had the chance to get on the field, so participating in the all-star game was an honor for him. Like everyone in attendance, “Tony” was excited to watch the championship bout between Gibborim and Team 7. He said that he was rooting for Gibborim because Team 7 has been dominant for years, and in his words, that it was “time to put them into retirement.” Like many of the Chili Bowl’s attendees, Anthony was “pulling for the upstart, undergrad team.”
After meeting with Anthony, I interviewed former student Will Hatch, who has made a point of attending the Chili Bowl for each of the past four years. He said that his favorite part of the Chili Bowl is the fans – according to Will, everyone in attendance is always excited, good-natured, and friendly. Like almost everyone I interviewed, Will was also rooting for Gibborim, but his reasoning was slightly different from many others. When I asked him if he was supporting Gibborim because they were primarily undergraduate students and had far less league dominance than Team 7, he said that an upset “would be nice to see,” but was not important. His real reason for rooting for Gibborim was more personal in nature, and that is was “[Because] I have known Sam [Morgan, a member of Gibborim] since freshman year.”
Sam Morgan is a senior at Regent University, the coordinator of Regent’s Intramural Sports Board, and a valuable player on Gibborim’s flag football team. This game had special significance to Sam, who has been deeply invested in further developing Regent’s sports programs. “As a player,” he stated, “I am really excited to play in [the championship game]; as a coordinator working for Intramural Sports, it’s really cool to see that a predominately undergraduate team is finally in the Chili Bowl again.”
Knowing that Sam and his teammates were underdogs in the game, I asked Sam how he felt about his chances of winning. “I’ll be honest: It’s going to be a tough game,” he admitted. “It’s an undefeated team [Team 7], we lost to them the first time . . . but if we play our solid defense, and we step it up on offense, then we have a good shot.” No matter the outcome of the game, Sam was happy to be on Gibborim. “It’s a great group of guys,” he declared in celebration of his team’s comradery, work ethic, and brotherly love. “No one else I would rather play with!”
Gibborim vs. Team 7: New Faces and Seasoned Champions
Unfortunately for Gibborim, Team 7 controlled the game, winning 25-0. However, the fans still thoroughly enjoyed the experience, even though the majority of them were hoping for Gibborim to pull off an upset. After giving some time for Team 7 to celebrate their victory together, I approached their huddle to speak with the team captain, Chris Mack. While waiting for Chris to finish speaking to his family, I spoke to Regent Alumnus Richard Hellsby, who has been part of Team 7 since its formation 8 years ago. He said that winning this game was a huge relief to him, because Team 7 has been in the last six championship games, but lost the first four of them in heart-breaking fashion. Their first championship victory was last year, and this year they were able to repeat the achievement. Having experienced late game disappointments in the past, Hellsby mentioned that “[It’s] nice not to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory,” voicing the relief felt by the entire team.
Captain and Regent University staff member Chris Mack, who works in the IT department, said that it was comforting not to have the pressure of losing four years in a row, and that it was much easier playing as the defending champions. According to Mack, last year, there was immense pressure on Team 7 to break their losing streak,and it was hard for them to enjoy the game. For the reigning champs, this year’s bowl was a more relaxed, positive experience. Like Hellsby, Mack has been playing on Team 7 for 8 years now, and his teammates “are all brothers” to him. Continuing in the overarching, positive sentiment of the entire atmosphere, both Hellsby and Mack remarked that the guys on Gibborim are a fun team to play against and “a remarkable group of men.”
An Interview with Dr. Robertson and a Glimpse at the Future of Regent Sports
Even Regent University’s founder and chancellor, Dr. Pat Robertson, made an appearance at the Chili Bowl, and kindly granted me an interview during the first half of the main event. Dr. Robertson said that he greatly enjoys the Chili Bowl’s atmosphere and is “thrilled by the enthusiasm.” He also hinted at future developments, stating this event is “the beginning of a serious sports program that will be competing on an inter-collegiate level.” As many people who are involved with Regent University know Dr. Robertson has been dreaming of a full-fledged sports program at Regent University for some time now. This dream came one step closer to actuality this year with the genesis of Regent’s NCCAA track team. Additionally, Dr. Robertson hopes to soon have football, soccer, basketball, baseball, and other sports programs developed and refined at Regent. To him, the Chili Bowl is “a foretaste of what is to come.”
Trevor Smith is a staff writer for the Daily Runner.
Photographs by Nic Reynolds.