The greatest rivalry in Big Sky Country meets once again. Saturday, Nov. 18 marks the 117th Brawl of the Wild game and remains one of the oldest rivalries in the history of college football. Since 1897, MSU and UM have battled for victory, a triumph which yields the 16 year old, three-foot-tall bronze Great Divide Trophy. This masterpiece portrays the two school mascots — a bobcat and a grizzly bear — tearing towards a football that rests atop the grand prize.
This is arguably the most anticipated sporting event in Montana each year. As the Montana Kaimin published in a 2012 article examining the historical Cat-Griz relationship, “Middle schools schedule wrestling tournaments around Cat-Griz and owners change business hours to watch it. Score changes can be heard echoing from the mountains of the west to the prairies of the east. You can’t even hide from updates at Rimrock Mall in Billings, where the score is updated on the PA speaker.” Although the football game is clearly the main event, a new highlight has emerged over the past decades: Can the Griz/Can the Cats.
This feature, known as Can the Griz to MSU fans and Can the Cats to UM fans, is a statewide donation competition. Each year a few weeks before the long-awaited game takes place, both the Bozeman and Missoula communities hold a food-collection contest. As the Bozeman Daily Chronicle explained, “The goal is to collect more food and money for the Gallatin Valley Food Bank than University of Montana fans collect for the Missoula Food Bank by the Cat-Griz football game,” with UM fans hoping to achieve the opposite.
This competition has grown exponentially, with new records broken each year. According to the MSU website, in 2016 the Bozeman community donated a record 234,486 pounds of food, along with $92,688 to the Gallatin Valley Food Bank. Last year, the Missoula community also reached a new high with 177,876 pounds of food and $139,606 donated to their local food bank.
Heading into the 18th year of Can the Griz/Can the Cats, it’s important to reflect on how a competition between colleges can also unite communities for a larger cause. With the annual Brawl of the Wild comes not only classic football and die-hard fans, but also something bigger than ourselves. The excitement surrounding the Brawl of the Wild seeps over into the food drive, pushing each community to out-donate the other.
According to the Gallatin Valley Food Bank website, “1 in 7 Gallatin County residents (13.8 percent) live below the federal poverty level. The USDA estimates that until a family’s income is 185 percent above the poverty line, they are at risk of experiencing food insecurity.” Food insecurity and hunger can have severe consequences. These effects include low birth weights, weaker bone and muscle, increased risk of illness, lack of attentiveness in children, difficulty concentrating and diminished self-confidence and self-esteem.
The annual food drive during the Cat-Griz game is a major contributor in combating hunger in our communities. The 2016 Client Hunger Survey reported that “1 in 9 Montanans received food through an agency of the Montana Food Bank Network.” Each and every donation makes a difference for the thousands of people who desperately need help.
To support your favorite team, as well as the people of Montana, donate non-perishable food items to any of the several locations detailed on the Gallatin Valley Food Bank website. Money donations are also accepted, with $1 equaling one pound of food.
To prepare for the 117th Brawl of the Wild, bundle up, cheer loudly and donate lots. During this year’s game, keep in mind the most important score of the day is not reflected on the big screen, but rather in the families and communities that benefit from this great rivalry.