Book lends perspective to rivalry — ‘The Only Game That Matters’



The result of a recent collaboration of a Connecticut College alumnus and a Boston University graduate has little to do with either of their schools.

“The Only Game That Matters,” by Bernard Corbett and Paul Simpson, follows the story behind the deep-rooted rivalry between Harvard and Yale and focuses on a broad range of issues on the topic from the beginning of the rivalry to the history of athletic recruiting at the schools. Both of the authors were present on Tuesday evening at the Yale Bookstore to sign copies and answer questions about their book, which just landed on shelves in book retailers and made its Yale debut at the Yale Bowl at the Oct. 16 football game against Lehigh University.

“It is not just a chronology of the Harvard-Yale game through the years,” Simpson said. “It tells of different players, of the game through times of World Wars and Vietnam, of recruiting players, and mainly of the connection between the two schools.”

The deep rivalry, according to the authors, is based mainly on the fact that Yale was founded by graduates of Harvard who had moved to New Haven and built a school so their children would not have to move to Cambridge.

According to both of the authors, a fascinating issue that the book expands on is how what Americans call football today was conceptualized by Harvard and Yale in 1875 as what is referred to as the concessionary game. At the time, Yale played a sport much like soccer against Columbia, Princeton and Rutgers universities. Harvard was playing a game similar to rugby in intramural leagues in Boston.

“Harvard did not want to join the league because they wanted to continue playing by their rules, but eventually they did,” Corbett said. “When they joined, they challenged Yale to a game of concessions in which they sat in a room, much like a war zone, and they both conceded rules until they reached a compromise.”

That game is now known as football. The book backs this up by research preformed at both institutions about the history of the actual sport and its birth.

“If not for this rivalry, football may never have been born, and then we would be stuck watching soccer instead of football and the people would be falling asleep in the stands,” Corbett said.

Corbett and Simpson began their research in 2002 and had a book contract by October of that year. The final draft was completed in February 2004, and they are currently on their book launching tour.

The book signing was attended by approximately five people even though it was well-advertised, according to Yale Bookstore officials.

“We advertised this in various newspapers and publications, as well as around campus through flyers,” Richard Carlson, director of community relations for the bookstore, said. “We hope that the turnout is due to poor weather, but we anticipate that once The Game comes closer, the interest will be higher.”

According to Carlson, the book sales were favorable at the Lehigh game where “the focus of the day was football.”

Both authors reside in Boston, where Corbett is a Harvard football radio commentator, but both writers assure neutrality and an unbiased book.

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