At Taylor, we think we have an idea about everything surrounding Silent Night. Stories are passed along, and students share experiences together that form a re-telling of the game throughout the year in anticipation of the next game and in remembrance of the games of years past.
Prospective students, freshmen and those who haven’t attended the game hear the tales of what it's like to wait outside Odle Arena on the last Friday before finals, what it's like to sit in silence for a few minutes of gametime, what it's like to run onto the court with close friends in frenzied celebration and what it's like to sing carols with the entire student body as the basketball team competes on the floor in front of you.
Even before attending the game, odds are Taylor students know “what it's like.”
But what about those playing in the game, and specifically those playing against Taylor. What is it like for them?
“Shocking,” Grace Christian University (MI) redshirt junior Kellum Bridgeforth said.
Bridgeforth, who was a freshman when Grace Christian played Taylor in 2018, was also a part of the only team to ever defeat the Trojans in the annual Silent Night game.
When his team initially got the schedule, he didn’t realize what the game was and assumed it was like any other non-conference regular season game.
“A week prior, we started prepping with scouting reports and stuff, and the coaches told us it was the Silent Night game,” Bridgeforth said. “And I was like, ‘It’s just a regular game, right?’ and our coaches told us that it was actually a huge game. So we searched it up on YouTube, and I was just like ‘Oh, snap.’”
He said playing in the game easily made for one of his favorite memories of his basketball career throughout the different levels of play.
“It was really cool, definitely an experience that I’ll never forget,” he said. “It was just insane.”
Bridgeforth said he was usually the first one on the court for warmups during his freshman season, and when he was waiting in the locker room to head out for warmups, he had second thoughts about entering the atmosphere in Odle Arena by himself.
“That game I was like ‘Man, I’m gonna be the first one on the court and nobody else is gonna be there with me, like I don’t know,’” he said. “But I was like, ‘Nah, I’m just gonna go out’ and I went out there man, and like, ‘holy cow.’”
The crowd in Odle zeroed in on Bridgeforth, booing him and analyzing his pregame routine and warm-ups with intensity.
“I just remember I was scared to shoot, like I was only doing layups,” the GCU guard said. “My whole body just felt stiff, and I just knew that if I were to shoot, even a mid-range, I was gonna air ball it out there.”
However, once the game started, he and his teammates felt motivated by the atmosphere, even though it, again, remained what he called “wacky.”
Now, he and his teammates check in on Silent Night each year to see how other teams fare and to relive some of the moments they had a chance to experience firsthand as the opposition in a hostile environment.
Usually, opponents aren’t as successful as Grace Christian and Bridgeforth. Taylor followed up the 2018 loss with a dominating win over Ohio-Chillicothe in 2019 to push their record in the game to an impressive 22-1. This year, they’ll hope to make it 23-1 against Lincoln Christian University.