It’s true: Most Yalies are not going to Cambridge this weekend with very high expectations. On the field, the Elis, despite one of their best senior classes in recent memory, have struggled against lesser Ivy foes, while Harvard is the only remaining undefeated team in Div. I-AA football. The long, sad saga of this year’s tailgates has left us knowing more about Massachusetts state law and the Harvard Undergraduate Council than we ever wanted. Add to that a dose of Crimson hospitality — an all-Cantab concert instead of the usual Battle of the Bands, for example — and we can understand why many Yalies expect to be disappointed by this weekend.
But Yalies will still make the 130-mile trek to Cambridge, just as we have done every other year for the last century and a quarter. And they will make that trip because what happens at The Game, both on and off the field, still matters.
The Harvard-Yale game no longer decides national championships — the teams are not even eligible for postseason play — and it doesn’t capture the national attention it used to, either. But the action on the gridiron is still the premiere event in Ivy League sports, whether the teams are 9-0 or 0-9. That’s why seniors who usually care more about The Tailgate than The Game are now fretting over the possibility they might become the first class since 1923 to graduate without a victory over the Cantabs.
But if anyone ever wondered whether the Elis stand a chance this weekend, just look at what two other Yale teams have done in the past week. The women’s hockey stunned the Cantabs, ranked third in the nation, for the first time since 1984 — ending a losing streak that began only months after star goalie Sarah Love ’06 was born. Volleyball, stuck in the middle of the Ancient Eight, has now dashed off seven straight victories to earn a share of the Ivy League title. These reversals show that in the Ivy League, anything can happen, especially with a talented team. With Yale’s all-time career leaders in rushing, receiving and passing yards all on the field for their final collegiate games Saturday, there is no doubt that the Elis are capable of pulling the kind of upset that has made The Game so exciting.
But The Game also matters because it provides an opportunity to show that we are proud to go to Yale, and not just because of where it ranks in U.S. News & World Report or how renowned the professors who teach our seminars are. There are many reasons why students come to Yale, and the party scene is probably not one of the main ones. But it is still refreshing to have a weekend where painting your face blue and yelling yourself hoarse is perfectly acceptable, and where football and tailgates take precedence over senior essays and section. A re-emergence of Harvard’s puritan roots in its latest Game policies should not change that.
This weekend, we get to celebrate our school for the reason college students are supposed to — because it is fun to do. And besides, someone needs to teach Harvard how to have a good time.