For some Bulldogs and Cantabs, The Game is the first time they will compete in front of a crowd of 50,000. For others, it is the last. And for all players, the Game represents one of the most important football match-ups of the year. Some will leave Harvard Stadium elated, others crushed.
But everyone who plays on Saturday can agree on one thing: players need to find a way to unwind when all is said and done. Although neither the Yale nor Harvard team plan formal Saturday night festivities, the players all find some way to let off steam after the pressure of The Game.
Most Yale players will spend Saturday night in Cambridge, defensive back Barton Simmons ’05 said, either celebrating with teammates or drowning their sorrows.
“There definitely would obviously be a lot less festive of a mood if we lost,” Simmons said.
He noted, however, that because of the number of alumni, family and friends that attend the game, most Elis will rally and hit the streets of Boston. The team has no set plans, Simmons said, but most team members stay in touch and try to meet up throughout the night.
The most popular place for the Bulldogs to go in the recent past has been the Black Rose, a bar in downtown Boston. But Yale players have not as of yet established a formal tradition for post-game partying. Simmons said it is difficult to create a long-standing tradition since The Game alternates between Cambridge and New Haven.
Yale players are not alone in their lack of traditional partying rituals for after The Game. Harvard players tend to congregate together at a football party, senior Crimson defensive end Doug Bennett said.
The most established Harvard traditions, however, are the ones that happen in the locker room.
After each win, Bennett said, the team goes back to its locker room, sings the fight song, and then listens to a song that has come to have enormous meaning for them — “Dancing in the Moonlight.”
“It started, I guess, when an offensive lineman made a mix CD our freshman year, the year we went 9-0,” Bennett said. “After every win we would listen to that song, and it became a tradition. So any time we win a game we listen to that song directly afterwards. Seeing defensive linemen dance to that song is pretty amazing.”
Yale players have their own tradition for after wins too, Brandon Dyches ’06, a defensive end, said. The team sings “Boola Boola,” but, according to Dyches, it is their “little bastardized version” of the cheer.
Locker room traditions aside, members of both teams are looking to enjoy their nights, no matter the outcome of The Game earlier in the day. But with both teams prowling the Boston night life, they are bound to encounter each other at some point. Most players, however, say that any run-in would be an amicable one.
Bennett said once they step out of the stadium, Harvard and Yale players share more similarities than differences.
“On the field they’re supposed to be our enemies, but we’re all Ivy League football players and we show respect for any other team,” he said.
Harvard captain Ryan Fitzpatrick said he did run into the parents of Ralph Plumb ’05 after The Game once and they were generous with their praise and nothing but friendly.
Most Yale players agree that running into their opponents would not pose any sort of problem, but not all players necessarily share that opinion. Dyches jokingly said if he saw a Harvard player, he would punch him in the face.
Jokes aside, most seniors get a bit nostalgic when game time rolls around.
“I’m trying not to think too much about it being my last football game, but it definitely adds to the emotion going into the game,” defensive lineman Willie Cruz ’05 said.
Players have a special affection for the rich history and traditions that go along with The Game. Always the last competition of the season, for some The Game represents the culmination of a football career.
“For the seniors, this will be the last game we every get to play together, and it’s sad to think of it that way, but it’s also very exciting in the sense that it’s such a big game and there’s so much tradition surrounding it,” Fitzpatrick said. “One of the greatest things is the fan base and support you receive.”
Though some Yale players would rather host the Crimson at the Bowl, they too feel the same enthusiasm about The Game.
Simmons said any match against Harvard is one fraught with tough playing and raw emotion.
“I’m excited more than anything else,” Simmons said. “This is sort of the one game you look forward to throughout the year. Especially this year for me, since it’s my last game. Plus, Harvard being 9-0 gives added incentive to try to win. Ideally I’d like to play my last game at home, but there’s still a really good atmosphere at Harvard, and they have a nice stadium.”
And while the game will not be played at Yale, Elis do not lack fan support, as so many Yalies make the trip to Cambridge for the weekend. Although he loves the Yale Bowl and being in front of his home crowd, Cruz said he likes to play games on the road. He said he is especially excited to play at Harvard because he has only played there once before and there should be a good Bulldog turnout.
Whether at Harvard or at Yale, The Game is always one of the high points of the football season — for both fans and players.
“Right now, I’m really excited,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think that the sadness will set in once it’s all said and done. For now, I’m just enjoying it while it lasts.”