First, the obvious: Harvard University’s recent announcement that its student groups must write essays to apply for tailgate space at The Game is unfortunate, even a bit ridiculous. We understand the pressures on Harvard from the Boston Police Department — Connecticut, too, recently took a harder line against underage drinking. But the idea that students should have to write an essay explaining why they are, in the words of Harvard’s fun czar, John Drake, a “valuable fit” for the tailgate seems to show that this rule, like most of the other rules Harvard has promulgated for this year’s nearly dry Game, is itself not a “valuable fit” for the day.
The Harvard-Yale Game, both the football and the tailgate, is not about whether or not students can drink, though drinking has long been a defining part of the day. The tailgate is an opportunity to revel in our first break all semester. It’s about camaraderie and spontaneity and pride in an institution that, during the prior month’s midterms, may have inspired little joy. We won’t deny that a little spiked hot chocolate can go a long way, but turning the discussion about The Game into a discussion about the permitted proof of one’s cocoa really misses the point.
But since Harvard and Yale began regulating the tailgates, students, and to a lesser extent alumni, have become more and more frustrated in the weeks leading up to each game as the universities begin deciding upon and announcing that year’s slate of new restrictions. It’s unfortunate that the attitude going into November’s big day is increasingly one of frustration, where the football itself takes a backseat to wondering just how much fun we’ll be allowed to have that year.
We’re not going to wax nostalgic about the good old days before the two universities decided they needed to save us from ourselves by regulating pre-Game libations. But it’s valuable to remember that, even if we are not all 21, we have proven ourselves reasonably responsible. Despite the claim of the Boston police captain that the 2004 tailgate made him “embarrassed to be a policeman on that field seeing what I had to see,” last year’s Game yielded no arrests and only 30 people of a crowd of 55,000 needed medical attention for excessive alcohol consumption.
The paternalistic attitude Harvard takes when it asks students to apply for tailgate space is unfortunate. Tailgates, unlike so much else in our academic lives, should not be so rigidly regimented. The essay, thankfully, only applies so far to Harvard student groups, and we hope that Yale, in developing its own system, does not follow our rival’s playbook. We understand that the wishes of the Boston police were the determining factor in many of the new policies, but we urge Yale not to continue the trend of over-regulating this year’s tailgate. Leave applications to the dean of admissions.