By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
It was like any other Thursday evening during football season.
Midwest City football players met at First Baptist Church for Bomber Brotherhood, a weekly gathering the night before games.
They ate, played games, and enjoyed fellowship with alumni. At the end of the evening, players spray painted their cleats metallic gold, a tradition before the first playoff game.
But it wasn’t just any other night.
It was the final chapter in the tradition started 30 years ago by Jimmie Tribble, youth pastor at the church. Tribble is retiring in January and announced this would be his final year of Bomber Brotherhood.
“I started watching Midwest City football when I was nine years old and I’d walk across the street from my house and watch through the fence,” he said. “I’ve had some really good times with some really good people here in Midwest City.”
On Thursday night, many alumni returned for what could be the final Bomber Brotherhood. Generations of Bombers shared stories about their playing days and what the Brotherhood meant to them.
Tribble greeted each one with a smile and hug, while also recalling highlights of their playing days. Over the years he’s also amassed an impressive collection of Bomber memorabilia including jerseys, helmets, shirts and newspaper clippings. He displayed the collection during the Brotherhood.
The Brotherhood started in 1994 in a small room on the first floor of the church. It has expanded to a large second-floor room with pool tables, ping pong tables, a TV and plenty of room to spread out.
Tribble said a former player Jason Owen, who died of cancer, asked him to start the program. Owens went to the church and wanted to have a Christian meeting for the players.
“It was his idea, and I provided a space for it,” Tribble said. “We started it and kept it going after he graduated. And more and more kids came.”
It started during the Bombers heydays. The team won back-to-back state championships in 1994 and 95 and was state runner-up in 1996. Over the years, other similar programs have popped up, but none are quite like the Bomber Brotherhood, Tribble said.
“Guys from here have gone all over the world and played football and no one has come back and said they had something just like this,” he said.
Chris Crawford was part of the early days of the Bomber Brotherhood. He played on the 1994 state championship team and graduated in 1995.
“This is what we looked forward to,” he said. “We had a team dinner and then we’d come here and share the Lord. There was nothing like it.”
Evan Luttrell played on back-to-back state championship teams. He too remembers the humble beginnings in that small room at the church.
“The room has changed, but it’s the same stuff,” he said. “Jimmie Tribble has been a fixture in Midwest City and has put a lot of time and effort into it.”
Darnell Stephens, a 2001 graduate, said he loved the traditions of Midwest City, especially the Brotherhood.
“When I was kid, I’d heard about the fellowship and hear about past Bombers that won championships and be part of Bomber Magic,” Stephens said. “It’s very special. It’s sad that it’s ending.”
Stephens said the Brotherhood provided a unique opportunity for players to connect and share their faith.
JJ Venzor, who graduated in 2005, was among the alumni that returned last week. He coached for several years and is now a principal at Choctaw-Nicoma Park Schools. Venzor went to the church and grew up with Tribble’s children. He said Tribble has a special place in his heart.
“Jimmie is one of a kind. He’s Midwest City through and through. He’s what Bomber football and what this community is about. He’s been here for the long run and words cannot describe what he means to this community,” Venzor said.
Tribble said it’s time for him to retire and enjoy more time with family.
“I’m 67 years old, I’m collecting social security, and my wife retired,” he said. “We want to try and do some things before we get too old. I just know it’s time.”
Tribble has followed an unconventional path in his career, opting to continue serving as youth pastor.
“I felt called to it,” he said. “It’s difficult and it’s something that not a lot of people like doing. I tend to like to volunteer for jobs that no one else wants to do.”
Tribble is also a fixture on the sidelines at the football games. On Friday night, he held out hope for a little more Bomber Magic as they hosted Bishop McGuinness in the first round.
“My phone was ringing all day about the possibility of them winning and having another Bomber Brotherhood,” he said. “I was really hoping we were going to do it again.”