As of last Thursday or Friday, I would have told you that there was a new “Game” in town, that Harvard didn’t really matter, and that, because of new tailgating regulations and Yale’s chance to clinch a share of the Ivy League title at home, there wasn’t even any need to go to Cambridge this weekend.
Well, I was wrong. Instead, I’m counting the minutes until classes end for the break and I can head north.
It was almost cute to see the Princeton band run onto the field on Saturday in their Oompa-Loompa-esque orange attire and barbershop quartet hats. It was like they’d never actually won anything before in their whole lives. But that won’t be the case if it happens in the bleak, concrete doldrums of Harvard Stadium. I’m not even sure Harvard has a band: They may just be too good for something so jovial and immature.
Indeed, anyone with a pulse in his body should be pumped up for this one, and for good reason.
First, it was reported yesterday that U.S. News and World Report has added a criterion to their university rankings for next year. As you know, Yale finished behind both Harvard and Princeton in its most recent edition of the rankings. This can’t be right.
So, this year, U.S. News editor-in-chief, Mortimer B. Zuckerman (that kind of sounds like a Hahvahd name: “Yesss, Morrrtimer, please pass the fresh fruit preservatives, I think my toast is a little dry”) has decided to factor results from head-to-head Ivy League football match-ups into the magazine’s poll. So the University and President Levin would both stand to gain from the little boost that beating Harvard would bring.
But seriously, over the past five years, while they have found little success against the Crimson, coach Siedlecki’s Bulldogs have at least entered The Game with a chance to take home the H-Y-P. This year, in the words of Borat, “Not so much.” With its win last weekend, Princeton snapped a four-game losing streak against Yale and locked up the H-Y-P. So, now, Yale could lose to both the Tigers and the Crimson for the first time since a 2001 campaign in which the Bulldogs went 3-6, their worst record since Coach Sid’s first season in 1997.
But don’t get down. The Ivy League, or at least a share of it, is still Yale’s to win. They control their own destiny, which is all any team can really ask for. The Bulldogs have the chance to go up to Harvard, smack them in the mouth and come home with plenty to show for their efforts. After all, Yale has never lost to Harvard six times in a row. Well, they’d never lost to them four or five times in a row, either, but that’s in the past.
Also keep in mind that Yale has really controlled this series since its inception in 1875. The Elis hold the overall series lead, 63-50-9. Moreover, Yale teams have had relative success in years that end in “6” (1976, 1986, 1996, and so on). Since 1876, the teams have met twelve times in such a year and the Bulldogs are 9-3 in those contests. The teams did not play in 1896. People were still too excited about William McKinley’s victory in the presidential election that kept the Prohibition Party out of office.
But what really makes this game so important is that it’s a chance for some redemption. It’s a chance to right the ship and to revive a winning attitude.
What I like most about college sports is its cyclical nature. There is a seasonal flow to the success of any program. Teams are forever falling and then rising to power again. This is mostly the result of the graduation of seniors and the entrance of new freshmen each year.
Before they leave, however, it’s any player’s hope not only to win a league title but also to establish his or her legacy. Wouldn’t it be nice for this group of seniors — guys who have poured out their hearts for this team and this University — to leave their mark by giving the freshmen a winning attitude toward the football team?
After all, these are guys we know and see around campus. Wouldn’t it be nice for them to turn this puppy around?
For better or worse, the Yale football family measures its success by its record against Harvard. That hasn’t happened recently. And it’s time it does. This year’s is a very talented, very motivated team. But that hasn’t ever really been the problem. Rather, it’s on the shoulders of these seniors to restore the proper attitude to this program.
A win over Harvard would do that. It would shut people, including myself, up and jolt the program out of its half-decade winter and into a new spring.
Nicholas Thorne is a junior in Pierson College. His column appears on Wednesdays.