November 18, 2000 is game day at Harvard Stadium in Cambridge, Mass.
This is not just any game day, however; this is the day of The Game — Harvard-Yale 2000. This is the day I have been looking forward to since the day I committed to Yale. This is the day that has been in the back of the mind of every player on the team since the first day of summer double-day practice. This is the day that gives every student on campus a chance to be a Yale sports fanatic, even if they’ve never attended a Yale sporting event before. This is Harvard-Yale, one of the oldest and most storied games in college football.
The hype surrounding The Game surpasses that of any other regular season match. The number of pre-game tailgates is tripled, particularly impressive for an away game. Bulldog fans are everywhere, wearing “Harvard Sucks” T-shirts that have been sold in the dining halls for the past couple of weeks.
As we walk into our locker room, I see kids with Harvard or Yale shirts with their fathers and grandfathers wearing the same shirt. I see first-hand how deep this rivalry runs and how important it is to so many people.
The locker room offers a final sanctuary to prepare myself for the game. I take my time taping, dressing and going through all of my pre-game rituals. I want to let the atmosphere soak in. Looking around, I know that this is the last time that the seniors will be putting on the Yale blue and white. As the team walks out to the field together, the atmosphere grows more intense.
By the time warm-ups are over, I can’t wait any longer — we are all ready to play.
As we run out onto the field in front of 35,000 screaming fans — waving college banners and singing “Boola, Boola” — the chills begin running up my spine. In all of the big games in high school, games in front of 7,000 fans, games for state championships, nothing was like this.
The Game itself is different even from the other games this season. The runs are a split second faster, the plays are bigger, and the hits more violent.
In this year’s Game we are able to come from behind in the fourth quarter to pull out a win with big runs by Rashad Bartholomew ’01, huge turnovers caused by our defense, and a catch by Eric Johnson ’01 that makes ESPN Sportscenter’s “Plays of the Week.”
After the final whistle blows, signaling our third straight victory over Harvard, I still have more to learn about the importance and meaning of this game.
As I slowly walk back to the locker room with my teammates, people I have never met before run up to me and hug me, just because I am a football player on the team that beat Harvard.
I look around on the field and in the locker room, and I do not find a senior without tears in his eyes.
I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to play in that game with those seniors, and I am grateful that I have three more opportunities to be a part of The Game.
Barton Simmons ’04 plays defensive back for the varsity football team.