Lehigh University is gorgeous. The school is set into the beautiful hills of eastern Pennsylvania, and the football stadium is in the middle of a huge, wind-swept valley. Lehigh was especially beautiful this weekend, with the leaves starting to change and the clouds sweeping across the sky. The architecture is wonderful and the dorms are modern, but not Saarinenean. The frat houses are like mansions — clean mansions, with free beer at that. Even some of the students are good-looking. But while the campus was awesome, watching the Bulldogs play there was not.
If you weren’t there, it went basically like this: Yale jumped out to a 14-6 halftime lead and tacked on another touchdown at the beginning of the third quarter. Then the Mountain Hawks scored 15 unanswered points to send the game to overtime and then seven more to win it, in stunning fashion, before an ecstatic home crowd.
The four of us who had traveled down for a weekend of football and debauchery had seated ourselves, perhaps provocatively, among the Lehigh fans on a hill at one end of the field. Our choice of seating was plagued by a number of problems, the most hilarious being that every time someone kicked a field goal or an extra point, several dozen screaming children would lunge for it, leaping over us and clawing at each other for the chance to – get this – hand the ball back to the ball boy.
But our lack of judgment became even more apparent as the fourth quarter wound down and it became clear that the Bulldogs weren’t going to be able to respond to the Mountain Hawks’ game-tying touchdown and two-point conversion. The crowd noise was almost deafening, but as faithful partisans of mother Yale, we had only one choice — to move further into enemy territory and support our team in the Hawks’ packed alumni weekend stands.
The only place in the stadium more intense then the hill behind the uprights was the “Hawk’s Nest,” Lehigh’s much-less-diverse excuse for a “Dawg Pound.” Unfortunate enough to find ourselves under the gaze of dozens of crazed Ralph Lauren wannabes, we four Yalies were subjected to ruthless and hurtful taunting: “Hey, why don’t you go study! I’ve got a book in my pocket!”
While the idiots behind us continued with their clever, spur-of-the-moment attacks, the Bulldog offense collapsed in overtime and the Hawks won. But what we didn’t tell the Lehigh fans as we booked it away from the field was that although we were disappointed, we weren’t that upset Yale lost. For one, we were almost all Red Sox fans, and thus used to watching our team blow games. But more importantly, we knew that while the Mountain Hawks may have been happy with their win, the loss made little difference for the Elis, whose playoff ban for football turns non-league games into little more than exhibitions.
So, with our team still undefeated in the only league that matters for them, we started for home, heads held high. But Yale plays Penn this weekend, and Harvard in November, and I am worried.
Like many Yale sports fans, I have spent most of my sports-watching time here following just three sports: football, men’s basketball and men’s hockey. Every year, the Bulldogs come up just short (or, in the case of the 2004-2005 hockey season, very short). Like almost everyone in the class of 2006, I’m worried that ours will be only the second graduating class never to see a win in The Game. But I had the same concerns last year, and I found something to bury my pain in: women’s sports.
Yale has some great women’s teams. Women’s hockey and squash fans do not have to spend every fall crying over Jack Siedlecki’s “play-calling” and the football team’s second-half collapses, or every winter watching the basketball team lose to Brown. These teams win.
Of course, the problem for most people is that they cannot bring themselves to watch women’s sports. I blame part of this on chauvinism, but I blame most of it on the pathetic excuse for entertainment that is the WNBA (Jay Mohr’s Sept. 14 Sports Illustrated column can elaborate. Best line: “The opinions of Jay Mohr do not reflect those of SI.com, just the men who read it.”)
As anyone who has ever watched the Lady Vols play the Huskies knows, the WNBA is not representative of the entertainment value of women’s basketball, let alone the entertainment value of women’s sports in general. Squash, sailing, soccer, volleyball and hockey; some of Yale’s best varsity teams are women’s teams. If you want to see Yale teams that win dramatically and often, go watch these girls’ games. Make no mistake, this is intense competition. Women’s hockey’s playoff wins against Princeton last year had some of the best sports moments I had ever seen, notably then-freshman Helen Resor’s sick penalty shot. But don’t pull a quagmire and go because you like watching hot girls play sports, you pervert. Go because you like sports, period, and because you like teams that win. You might not be able to appreciate the beauty of the female form at a regatta or a hockey game, but you will definitely be able to appreciate the beauty of beating Harvard.
Maybe they’ll even play Lehigh.
Nick Baumann is a senior in Morse College and former Sports Editor for the News. His column on Ivy League and Yale sports appears on Thursdays.