This past week, I rushed the Yale Bowl field in a Thomas the Tank Engine outfit, alongside a troupe of 8-year-olds seeking autographs. The kids shouted, “Thomas, show us the quarterback!” I found a worn-out, but victorious, Patrick Witt ’12 and introduced him to the awe-struck children.
“It’s gonna feel incredible when we storm the field at Harvard, Pat.”
Few people failed to appreciate the world class sporting event known as the Yale-Princeton tailgate. The “Player of the Game” award went to some kid in a blazer who gargoyled a keg of Natty until he more or less passed out in the back of a U-Haul. (Congrats, bro.) Freshmen and their FroCos happily coexisted over 7-8loko, while undergrads joined alums for high-quality alcohol and snacks after the Yale Police Department took the taps off communal kegs at noon. The most extreme tailgaters didn’t enter the stadium before the third quarter, if at all. While they sported “Pi Phi Loves Our Bulldogs” stickers and the numbers of Yale football players on their torsos and t-shirts, the outcome of the football game was much more important to the 8-year-olds in the stands.
For them, our players are heroes; for us, our players are large shirtless men, dancing atop DKE’s wooden bar on a Saturday night.
Over my three years as a Yale student, I’ve never seen an article by a non-scholar athlete praising our football team for their ability to manage full academic schedules and mentally and physically grueling practices. Students question the place of offensive linemen without remarkable SAT scores in the Yale student body, and assert that Division IAA football is hardly a significant aspect of Yale life.
Citing tradition, members of the Yale Party of the Right sing anti-communist and borderline anti-Semitic tunes (really, “Deutschland Über Alles”) and over-achieving juniors cringe at the thought of being snubbed by a landed senior society. So why overlook the historical importance of football at our university?
Forget Louis’ Lunch and Pepe’s, Yale was the birthplace of American football. College Football Hall of Famer Walter Camp 1882 is considered alongside John Heisman and Pop Warner as one of the fathers of the sport. Each January, the best college football players in the nation travel to Yale for the Walter Camp Awards, before taking their massive frames to New Haven’s most historic club — Toad’s Place. And while few undergrads think anything of it, award show attendees appreciate the importance of football at Yale and the legacy of Walter Camp.
Sure, the outcome of the Yale-Harvard game will have no impact on the Division IAA championship, let alone the BCS and Division I award-show circuit. But football is much more central to Yale’s identity than it is to Harvard’s. Harvard doesn’t have the equivalent of the Yale Bowl and the hometown of their starting quarterback was the setting for the crappiest musical of all time — “Oklahoma!”
So, instead of whining about the mediocre tailgate that Harvard will produce, look forward to the spirited tradition that is The Game. Look forward to rushing the field and congratulating our players on an incredible season after we trounce the Crimson. Look forward to sharing a smile with some old alums who’ve traveled hundreds of miles to see our team play against their biggest rival. And thank G-d that you’re a Yalie and not a miserable douchebag who thanks his lucky stars that his father’s checkbook got him into Porcellian.