For Reuben Hendler ’13, Harvard-Yale rivalry didn’t start with The Game or even with his acceptance letter to Yale. He has lived with the conflict his whole life.
Hendler is one of the many Elis whose parents have ties to Yale’s northern counterpart. His Harvard-educated mother calls her relationship with his Yale-educated father a “mixed marriage,” and Hendler said he and his brother Micah Hendler ’11 grew up with their parents’ friendly competition.
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When Hendler was about seven years old, his dad took him and his brother to a Harvard football game.
“[He] had us sing ‘Bulldog, Bulldog, bow wow wow’ [on the Harvard side of the stadium] … which I think kind of ticked my mom off a little bit,” he said. “She didn’t really appreciate that.”
At The Game this weekend, plenty of Yalies will cheer across the stands from family members with Harvard loyalties. Bulldogs and their Cantab parents agreed that Yale throws itself into the rivalry with more energy than Harvard. Five Yalies interviewed attributed their alma mater’s enthusiasm to Yale’s historic inferiority complex, but others said they think Yale is just more spirited than its northern nemesis.
Matt Jackson ’14, whose mother was an undergraduate and then a law student at Harvard, said he thinks Yale sometimes feels like a younger sibling.
“It’s almost like an older brother-younger brother sort of thing,” he said, “Harvard is 65 years older, Harvard had whatever marginal higher name recognition, so this sort of faux rivalry spirit developed to deal with that.”
Today, Jackson said, he thinks both schools are great, and the playful animosity stems from their shared history rather than from current differences.
But his mother, Amy Jackson, said she thinks Yalies feel a connection to their school that is not as widespread at Harvard.
“Everyone we talked to who went to Yale would say ‘I love it!,’” she said. “They’d always use that verb, and I don’t think you hear that from every kid who goes to Harvard.”
Will Horowitz ’12, a staff reporter for the News who hails from a long line of Harvard graduates, said he chose Yale for its vibrant social scene. Horowitz added that he does not see a significant academic difference between Harvard and Yale, so the social distinctions between the two schools were important to him when he chose where to apply.
“The people I met [at Yale] just seemed more like normal humans,” he said. “I felt like it was a more normal college experience.”
Horowitz said he did not apply to Harvard after getting into Yale early, adding that the rivalry between the two schools is a “non-issue” in his family, and he never felt pressured by his parents to choose one university over the other.
Susan Harr, Harvard graduate and Horowitz’s mother, agreed that she cared more about her son’s happiness than about having him at her alma mater.
“I really wouldn’t care where [Will] went to school, as long as he was happy,” she said. “I do feel kind of astonished to have given birth to someone who went to Yale, but of course, I do think that it’s kind of astonishing to have given birth to anybody.”
All students interviewed agreed that their Cantab parents were supportive of their decision to go to Yale — even during Game season.
Ashby Cogan’s ’14 Harvard-educated parents were quick to switch sides when she became an Eli. Cogan, who chose Yale for its strong arts programs and because she was afraid of Harvard’s “ugly weather and ugly buildings,” said her parents embarrassed her by purchasing “Huck Farvard” bracelets on move-in day. Her dad wanted to show “solidarity,” she added.
Madeline Emery ’11, whose father and stepfather both attended Harvard, agreed that the rivalry is always “tongue-in-cheek” and in good fun at her house. She added that her stepdad likes to wear his “Yale Dad” hat and Harvard T-shirt at the same time, particularly when the Harvard Club and Yale Club of St. Louis get together to watch The Game.
But during the 2009 Harvard-Yale Game, Emery’s stepfather showed his true allegiance, she said.
“My stepdad texted me when Harvard got in the lead at last year’s Game with smiley faces,” she said. “It was really depressing.”
Ultimately, the students interviewed agreed that they are happy to be Yalies, however The Game ends.
Hendler, who described himself as an “ardent supporter of Yale,” said that although he thinks the two universities are similar, there is one key difference: “Yale’s obviously better in every way.”
The 2010 Harvard-Yale Game will be held this Saturday at Harvard Stadium. Tickets are $20 with student ID and $35 for each additional guest pass.