The Game has captured our attention since 1875. As the crimson hordes descend upon fair New Haven, students and faculty should rapidly take the mothballs out of their sweaters, refill their flasks, and converge upon the Yale Bowl to take part in the great Collegiate rivalry.
This should not be a week of humility for Yale students; instead, they should proudly cheer the Bulldogs to victory. Traitors among us argue that Harvard surpasses Yale as an academic institution; such people play games of apologetics to explain why it does not matter if Yale wins.
Yet while our Alger Hiss wannabes say that three years is enough, we deserve to win again.
The tradition of Cantab weakness goes back to the earliest days of The Game. According to an 1881 issue of the Harvard Advocate, “It has been the custom since the beginning of football contests between Yale and Harvard for Harvard men to accuse Yale men of uncalled-for brutality.”
The article continues by noting that “there can be no excuse for the use of teeth in football.”
Perhaps this quotation places the Bulldogs in a somewhat violent pose, but as the article said, “Yale plays no more roughly against us then she does against other teams.”
Indeed, in the beginning, Yale held a high set of standards for The Game; so much so that one year later Harvard noted the need to “adapt [themselves] to the Yale game.”
Like so many innovations, American football is largely a Yale phenomenon. Before the Super Bowl caught our attention, parents would read their children stories of Yale athletes. The ever popular book “Stover at Yale” spawned numerous companions, like “Andy at Yale,” the “Frank Merriwell” stories, and the Tip-Top Weekly magazine, known for its patriotic and pro-Yale covers.
Although younger than its northern foe, Yale captured the American imagination not only through football but through every aspect of collegiate life. Its athletic excellence served as a model for young men, eager to mark their place in the world. Alumni who became leaders in public service carried their Yale degrees to high office, reflecting proudly upon the school.
Children sought to attend Yale not merely for the education it provided, but also because it was the American university that produced their childhood heroes.
But while one might trace the appeal of Yale to such causes, there seems to be a more innate difference between the schools. Harvard students, proudly flaunting their so-called intellectual supremacy to Yale, never developed the intricate fraternity that exists in New haven.
From the founding of the first literary societies in the 1700s to the senior societies and fraternities of later days, life at Yale has never revolved around books. Instead, the locus of student activity has been conversation, song, and athletic matches around the Old Fence.
This fraternal and virile quality becomes clear in an early Yale football cheer:
Though Harvard has blue- stocking girls,
Yale has blue-stocking men.
We’ve done fair Harvard up before,
We’ll do her up again.
And although the Harvard foot ball team
May try what they can do
They can never on their tintype
Beat the grand Old Blue
Harvard is the weaker school, only surviving at the whim of her younger brother.
Such language even has literary merit, as F. Scott Fitzgerald acknowledged in “This Side of Paradise.”
“I don’t know why, but I think of all Harvard men as sissies, like I used to be, and all Yale men as wearing big blue sweaters and smoking pipes.”
Fitzgerald presents Yale as breeding the strapping gentleman, whereas the Harvardian is effete.
Such difference is even more pronounced among administrators; note Dean William DeVane’s comment “that a discerning person can tell a Harvard Man [from] a Yale Man — the Harvard Man — reads more books, the Yale Man is frequently a leader for social improvement in his community.”
Surely one of Yale College’s most famous deans would not have made such a bold claim were it not true.
Harvard may be the school of readers — those who lock themselves away and study. Yale, though, is the home of those who study through interacting with their peers in a social structure more complex than that of most cities. Yale students are leaders; Harvard students follow.
We are good; they hardly earn the adjective “bad.”
As an alumnus from the Class of 1951 recently said to me, “I hope you’ll enjoy The Game, and that you’ll be rooting for the good guys — who, if I remember correctly, are usually those from Yale.”
Remember that the good guys always win. Boola Boola.
Justin Zaremby is a junior in Calhoun College. His columns appear on alternate Tuesdays.