11/22/21 Mini Helmets

The mini helmets Hannah Mitchell’s family members pass back and forth each year.

Thanksgiving is a time for my family to gather, but there is a much more important holiday my family observes that week.

The Bucket game.

My family is a bit of a house divided. My dad Michael has a master’s degree from Purdue and my aunt Noelle went to Indiana for her undergrad. Both of them are avid fans of their schools and have raised their kids to cheer for their respective teams.

This has led to a fun dynamic in the family that has kept us close even when we’re all spread out and don’t know when we’ll see each other next. This has especially led to my dad and aunt keeping in touch around important points in each school’s seasons.

No family dinner would be complete without copious amounts of teasing from opposite sides of the rivalry and Thanksgiving dinner is no exception. There is no small amount of ribbing the whole time we’re together, but there’s something different about the teasing when the game is coming up and we all know what is on the line.

My dad and aunt have a tradition. The loser has to display the winning team’s helmet on their mantle for a year.

According to my dad, they wanted some way to replicate the traveling trophy nature of the Old Oaken Bucket. For 16 years, they have passed mini helmets between Colorado and Indiana to serve as a constant reminder until the next game.

“It gives us a way to channel that aggressiveness over the Indiana-Purdue rivalry,” my aunt said in a text. “We used to fight physically when we were younger. It kind of takes the edge off.”

Because the Bucket game wasn’t played last year, my dad was able to take the Hoosier helmet off the mantle for a year, but the game is coming fast this year. Soon the complaints of a mini helmet ruining Christmas decorations will come, whether that be from my dad or my aunt.

“I’ve enjoyed seeing my helmet on his mantle, and he has bought me several versions of the Purdue helmet over the years,” my aunt said. “I joked with him one year that I felt like I was in the helmet of the month club.”

We have not had many chances as a family to watch the Bucket game together. Some years we aren’t together for Thanksgiving and some years travel just makes it not happen, but we have had the opportunity a few times to enjoy the rivalry as a family.

The past games we have watched together both ended with Purdue victories. Obviously, my aunt shared her opinions on IU losing. She loves to yell at players and referees.

No matter who wins or loses, the Bucket game still ends with plenty of teasing, but also plenty of love and respect between the siblings.

And a mini helmet, ready to adorn the losing mantle until the two teams meet again.

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