I love everything about the Saturday of The Game. I love the tailgate, I love the halftime show, I love the Saybrook Strip. I love the feeling of coming back to a warm shower and a big dinner. I love curling up that night, tired and already a little hung over, to watch a movie with friends before everyone goes their separate ways for Thanksgiving week.
What I do not love is the Friday night before The Game.
There is a general feeling, I think, that the night before The Game has to be Awesome (with a capital “A”). If it’s here at Yale, then we feel a need to show Harvard just how hard we party. If it’s at Harvard, we feel a need to show Harvard just how hard we can still manage to party even with their lackluster scene and puritanical rules. Either way, it’s our last weekend before break, so the whole weekend is supposed to be a constant overstimulus of alcohol and loud music and hooking up.
I promise you, I am not one of those people who feels the need to criticize everything. I am, in fact, the last person I would describe as too-cool-for-school, or in this case school spirit. But in the past three years, while my pre-Game Friday nights have surely been memorable, there is not a one that I would say was outstandingly fun.
Freshman year, at Harvard, I spent the majority of the evening playing Risk with my Cantab friend and the other Yalies he was hosting.
Need I say more?
Sophomore year, I tried a little harder and went to the 12-Pack party for all of five minutes before it was shut down. I then made my way to the TD annex, where the party again fell short and my Harvard guest and I ended up playing Michelle Branch songs on the piano for a surprisingly (and almost alarmingly) large audience.
Yes, Michelle Branch.
Junior year, my Harvard host was actually going to be gone all night working at a homeless shelter. The night before the Game, and he had decided to go and be a good samaritan.
“I’d ask you to come with me,” I remember him saying. “But it’s my first time there, so I really don’t think I should bring guests.”
I, of course, was crushed.
I have, however, always been one to bounce back, especially when there are alcoholic functions to be attended. What can I say? I’m a trouper.
After first taking the T out to MIT for an off-campus party and attempting a few of the bigger Harvard parties, I eventually found myself at my end destination: one of the Finals Clubs.
Now, to the best of my understanding, a Finals Club is kind of like a cross between a secret society and a fraternity that serves as a place to go at 1 a.m. when all the other Harvard parties have been shut down. They’re kind of like Beta Late Night, except with considerably less jungle juice and considerably more exclusivity.
This exclusivity means that the all-boy membership can invite whomever they want — meaning all girls — and afford a bouncer to keep out anyone not on the guest list — meaning any boys other than themselves.
Housed in basically a small mansion, the whole setup was utterly fabulous. But my friend who had invited me was off fighting with his girlfriend, leaving me lonely and disoriented in a corner of the room, not wanting to put myself at the mercy of the lecherous scene.
To top off my night, after I returned to my host’s empty room, the fire alarm went off, putting me back outside in the cold with, of all people, my semi-recently exed boyfriend who was also staying in Elliott House.
Suddenly, the homeless shelter wasn’t looking so bad after all.
But as bad as Friday nights are, the Saturday morning tailgate always makes up for them. Tailgates are the happiest place on earth. Nothing can go wrong at tailgates.
This statement is, of course, blatantly untrue. Lots can go wrong. Freshman year, I spent the first half of The Game sprawled out in a hallway in the Harvard Business School trying to sober up. Sophomore year, I got into a belligerently drunk — and potentially violent — fight with some Harvard guys. Junior year, in the midst of my revelry, I ran into my high school math teacher, a Harvard alum.
But for some reason, these are not the incidents I remember when I think back on Games past. When I think about the tailgate, I think about frying eggs and playing country music from the top of U-Hauls. I think about a kind of calm, drama-free experience.
This year, everyone is all aflutter because new rules mean no huge parties Friday night and no tailgating past halftime. I could care less, really, about either of these new regulations.
In fact, for my purposes, they are rather complementary. Now there will be all the more reason to go hardcore on Saturday — getting there at the beginning, and in shape to experience the tailgate to the fullest — and all the less reason to try to go so crazy Friday night.
For that matter, I wonder if the New Haven homeless shelter needs help on Friday. I’ll probably be free.
Claire Stanford is well-layered at The Game, anticipating the Saybrook Strip.