‘The only game that matters is the next one, and it is the biggest of your career.” When we strap up on Saturday we recognize we’re playing for more than just a win or loss. As athletes, we are expected to prepare for every team as though they are equal, and while the preparation for Penn, Princeton, Dartmouth, Harvard, etc. may remain the same, we would be lying if we did not recognize the magnitude of The Game.
The Yale-Harvard rivalry is one of the most storied traditions in all of college football, but the rivalry extends further than the athletic field. Harvard and Yale compete in everything from prospective students to endowments. As football players, we have the honor of competing in one of the purest forms of direct competition on Saturday, the same form of competition that men have been competing in for more than 120 years. We compete not only for our record but for the honor of the school and those same men who came before us. Generations of Yale football players have experienced this same day in November and failing to recognize what came before us would not be doing justice to this tradition. While the tradition that accompanies the Yale–Harvard game is extensive and noteworthy, this year’s game holds a significant personal value for us seniors.
Saturday marks the culmination of our football careers. For well more than half of our lives we devoted our bodies and minds to the sport that has helped shape us into the men we are today. More than 30 days of preparation goes into one football game. These 30 days are filled with meetings, off-season lifts, and early morning practices. It would be dishonest to say that we enjoyed every minute of the training. However, our coaches constantly instilled in us an attitude of “you get what you earn.” It is this attitude to persevere that has not only helped us succeed on the athletic field but will continue to push us to succeed in all aspects of life.
Football also provides a unique opportunity to push oneself individually while continually working towards a common team goal. Having spent much of the past four years training and hanging with our teammates, Saturday marks the last time we will suit up next to these great men. Building the camaraderie in the locker room and on the field is what makes playing on an athletic team so rewarding. The bond created during early morning off-season work outs and during game days is inexplicable. While Saturday will be the last time many of us get to experience organized athletics and the joys of playing with 100 of your best friends, winning is certainly at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
As a senior, we have fallen short in our previous three opportunities to defend the honor of our school and program. This is the last year as a senior class that we will have the chance to declare victory over our Cambridge rivals. We do not know what it feels like to walk off the field at the end of a season with the sweet taste of victory. As football players, we instinctively revert back to our performance each Saturday as a way to measure ourselves as men and athletes. This Saturday will forever remain as the last opportunity we have to live up to our own expectations.
A win on Saturday would erase any reservations about past individual performances or previous losses. It would allow our senior class to remember our senior campaign as the time we beat Harvard. It would certainly be the icing on top of a cake that includes tough lessons, irreplaceable memories and life-long friendships.
As we reflect on the previous four years, it is hard not to smile. The laughs we shared and pain we endured have defined our time here at Yale. Speaking for our senior class, I can say it has been an honor and a privilege to put on the Yale blue and white. We hope we have represented the school with honor and dignity in the way Yale men before us have done. The walk off the field on Saturday will be filled with many emotions, but I hope the joy of winning overrides them all.
Adam Money is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College and Chris Stanley is a senior in Berkeley College.