To the average Yale fan, Saturday’s Yale-Harvard game — what will be the 129th installment of the oldest rivalry in modern football, an age-old grudge match known simply as “The Game” — is an exciting social event. It represents the end of three long months away from home, toiling in basement libraries and the beginning of Thanksgiving break. It’s a chance to trash talk, don funny T-shirts, call up the old prep-school cronies from Hahvard and responsibly tailgate.
To the 92 members of the Yale football team, it represents something more complex. Simply stated, The Game is not just a game.
It is the embodiment of a tradition we constantly strive to uphold, a desperate effort to defend the honor of Yale, and to prove to ourselves and the Old Blues alike that yes, we are worthy to wear the Y. It is the culmination of four years of constant, unrelenting effort.
Of winter workouts. Of crawling out of bed feeling defeated at 5:30 in the morning. Of iced-over cleats and rolled ankles, of up-downs and broken fingers, mat drills and suicides. Of silent Commons breakfasts after morning lift. Of one more, just one more, always one more.
It is a representation of Yale Football, a program that takes 30 boys from around the country each year and molds them over four years into men. It is often said that football is a microcosm of life, and it’s true. Everything we have learned in our four years at this great university can be attributed in some way to football. Because only when faced with adversity does the true character of a man emerge, and only then is that man able to learn about himself. Football has stripped from us any inkling of entitlement and left us with an appreciation for hard work and merit. It has taught us the importance of passion and the meaning of sacrifice. That the only way you can judge a man is by his actions and not his words. That in the end, grit and courage is more definitive than talent.
It is a representation of the relationships that were forged through a passion for football and strengthened by way of blood, sweat, tears and a burning desire to win. It is a moment in time where brothers stand arm-in-arm, ready on a field of battle to win glory for the Elis. It is the transformation of a group of strangers into brothers, united by a passion for football and mutual recognition of the hard work and sacrifice required by the game and the University. Over the past four years, we have been repeatedly tested — and each senior who will play his last game on Saturday has repeatedly answered the call. These are the men who will join us at weddings, childbirths and funerals. These are the men who made playing football special. These are the men we’ll remember.
And finally, it is the end. It is the end of this football journey that has afforded us so many opportunities and molded us into the men we are today. It is the last time that we’ll strap up our shoulder pads, buckle our chinstraps and fight for the glory of Yale. It is the last time that this group of men will stand together, determined and resolute, fixed on a singular purpose, and lay it all on the line for each other. It is our final opportunity to proclaim to the world that we are men of Yale Football. Calvin Coolidge once said, “No man was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave.” We are blessed and honored to have been a part of the great tradition that is Yale Football and can only hope that we have earned a piece of its legacy. For God, For Country and For Yale.