This weekend thousands of Elis, Bulldogs, Yalies and people that were at one point affiliated with Harvard University will flood the streets of Cambridge. As a freshman, I know little more than one thing about this experience: It’s important to people. Since The Game is one of those many ingredients that shape the popular conception of both Yale and Harvard, I had lots of strange notions of what it might be all about.
First of all, since Bulldog football’s inception in 1776, our relative athletic prowess has taken a slight turn for the worse. The Yale-Harvard game was the second American football game ever played. So, I think understandably, in my mind’s eye, The Game was still stuck in the early 1900s, where the players wore stylish leather hats and the fans spectated through monocles. Many share this misconception. Even Google seems to view the great tradition this way — an image search for, “Yale-Harvard Game” will return black-and-white photos, programs and pictures dating up to about the ’60s. Today, on the other hand, our offense stands with a proud ranking of 167 on sportsillustrated.com. The fatal, tactless error that accounts for our fall from pigskin glory: teaching everyone else in America how to play football. It was so much easier when the other teams only vaguely knew what was going on. Too many Yale athletic programs have been struck down in this unceremonious fashion.
Why, then, does this game continue to throw campus into such frenzy? To understand why this game is so important, I first looked at what the universities claim to find important: I read their mission statements. Hahvahd, unfortunately, doesn’t have a mission statement. If I were to guess why, it would be because their mission is too vast and important to express or fit onto a letterhead. That having been said, Harry R. Lewis, as dean of the college in 1997, offered a statement enumerating some of the goals of the university. Among them were, “to advance knowledge, to promote understanding and to serve society.” Correspondingly, the mission statement of Yale College says of the Yale experience, “the aim of this education is the cultivation of citizens with a rich awareness of our heritage to lead and serve in every sphere.”
Of course! Yale and Harvard aim to lead the global community. That’s why on Saturday morning 30,323 fans will rush towards the Harvard Stadium seats — for everyone else. Every year, when we fill the Bailyn-esque bubbles of the Yale Bowl and Harvard Stadium solely to uphold the foundation of football. You’re welcome, football. Put it this way, if the NCAA were England, the Yale-Harvard Game is the Queen. It’s been slowly losing power since America was founded. It doesn’t do or mean much anymore, but it used to be important, and our annual Jubilee makes the Queen and our elders happy, so we do it.