When The Game kicks off in New Haven at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow, it will be 9:30 in the morning in Santa Monica. It is there, in “Yankee Doodle-LA style,” as their Web site calls it, at the Third Street Promenade, that dozens of Yale alumni and members of the Yale Club of Southern California will be watching over buffet breakfast.
Aside from the inevitably nicer weather, however, little about Cali’s satellite Yale bowl will differ from the real thing. The food will be plentiful. The taps (it can be assumed) will be flowing. The fans will be yelling. Even Harvard fans will be there, too (the 50-year old event is now a joint one for the Yale and Harvard clubs of Southern California). And, perhaps most importantly, all of the sometimes clever, sometimes coarse, and always plentiful humor of the ever-present Game cheers, T-shirts and traditions will be there in force.
The Game has been held 119 times, and it is to be expected that a lot of tradition is attached. It’s older than the Yale Bowl, older than Harvard Stadium, and older than the football programs of Penn, Brown, Dartmouth and Cornell. Some traditions have stuck with the game — “Down the Field” was written in 1904-1905, and “Bulldog” was penned by Cole Porter ’13. But others, it seems, have faded, like a bladderball into the night.
Richard “Dicky” Shanor ’05 said that The Game is, without a doubt, the greatest game of the year, and that Yale’s band and mascot were much better than Harvard’s.
“Everybody on the team really looks forward to the game,” Shanor said. “And I definitely think our band puts all other bands to shame. Our mascot outdoes theirs. Crimson? Their mascot is somewhat of a mystery.”
Fight songs and cheers
When it comes to fight songs, the 120th Game will be unique. Nov. 22 is the 40th anniversary of U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. The marching bands of the two schools will forgo their pregame traditions that include the Harvard Marching Band’s “10,000 Men of Harvard,” and the YPMB’s entrance medley, which includes “Boola Boola,” “Bulldog,” and “Here’s to Good Old Yale.” Instead, the two bands will combine to play a tribute to the slain president, who holds a degree from each school.
Those excited about exercising their vocal chords, however, should fear not. Not only will “10,000 Men of Harvard,” be played later in the game for the Cantab faithful, but “Bulldog,” will inevitably come after every one of the Elis touchdowns. “Down the Field” and The Game staple “Goodnight, Harvard” (written in 1915) are also certain to be sung as the Bulldog victory looms. Even Porter’s lesser-known creation, “Bingo, That’s the Lingo” (Bingo, Bingo/Bingo, Bingo, Bingo/That’s the lingo/Eli is bound to win) should make an appearance.
Not all Yale fans, however, are satisfied with YPMB cheerleading.
“I recommend we adopt the following cheer because I’m tired of the lame-ass YPMB cheers,” Aaron David Goldhamer ’04 said. “The cheer would be ‘punish them, punish them, punish them, for crimes they did not commit.’”
Of course, chanting, the ever-popular fight song alternative, is also a game tradition. In recent years, Yale students, who enjoy a full week of Thanksgiving break following The Game, have taken to taunting Cantabs with the fact that they have “School on Mon-day, School on Mon-day,” to which Harvard students reply with their infinitely clever and inventive “Safe-ty school,” a favorite at all Harvard games and at least partially a reference to a period in 2002 when several alumni bought the domain name www.safetyschool.org and linked it directly to Yale’s Web site.
And “safetyschool.org” must bring us, of course, to the great tradition of coming up with somewhat clever, always crude slogans and throwing them on a T-shirt to make a boatload of money. Harvard classics include “Yale: Harvard for Dummies,” “We’ll Kick Your Ass Today/And Fire Your Ass Tomorrow.” This year, the Eli slogans seem to have risen to a new level of sexually provocative genius, with “Harvard Sucks, but Yale Sucks Better,” “Ver-i-TAS my salad.” The classics “Huck Farvard” and “Yale rules, Harvard sucks, and Princeton doesn’t matter,” are as perennial as tailgates that dominate pregame activity. Then there are the more creative. Two recent T-shirt crazes included references to Ted Kaczynski — who graduated from Harvard in 1962 — (You’d have to be crazy to go to Harvard) and the cult online character Strong Bad. And both schools, of course, sell T-shirts poking fun at each other’s mascots.
Harvard became the Crimson in 1910 — after wavering briefly between crimson and magenta. While he was at Harvard, class of 1858 rower and future Harvard president Charles W. Eliot distributed crimson scarves to his teammates so spectators could distinguish Harvard boats from others on the water. It became the color for all Cantabs after a student vote in 1875. The student newspaper (called the Magenta at the time) changed its name as soon as the school’s color did.
Handsome Dan, Yale’s bulldog mascot, has no relation to Magenta. Yale was the first University in the United States to adopt an animal mascot, and the current “Handsome Dan” (who has held his post since 1996) is number 15. Word is not yet out as to whether the “big dawg” himself will be attending tomorrow, but he will at least be sung about after every Eli touchdown.
Robert Legg ’07 said he is very excited about going to his first Harvard-Yale game, and he thought the whole school should attend.
“It’s essential that all Yalies attend the game,” Legg said. “I haven’t been able to sleep for the last week I’ve been so nervous looking forward to it. It should be a great game. Both Y and H have good teams this year, and I’m looking forward to a victory.”