It’s that time of the year again, time to break out the old pigskin, eat a barbecued sandwich, and maybe enjoy a beer or two, all on Sundays.
At most universities across the country, Saturday is a time to cover your body in paint, start drinking around 8 a.m., and get into the stands hours before kick off to secure your seat.
At Yale, however, this is not the case. We get up at 8 am, yes. Some people paint their bodies, maybe. And people do even make their way into the stands at some point — around halftime.
But we have our own, particular priorities at Yale. Historically, one of these priorities is not actually watching football games. Instead, we prefer a ritual by the name of tailgating. It’s that special time when you rent out your U-Haul (without the $5 insurance), load up on booze the night before and dress like an asshole. Your breakfast consists of a healthy mix of vodka, natural light and Pop-Tarts. You slouch in the back of the bus, sipping on a beer, actually thinking that the bus driver would give a shit if he saw you. Once you arrive to the practice field, you make your way over to the line of U-Hauls and commence your tailgating. Nothing profound. You talk to your bros and broettes, you dance to generally bad music, and you drink. Occasionally you spot a grungy 50-year-old man getting a beer. Kick him out? No! He’s part of the ambience. It’s only after observing that fewer people are at the tailgate when you realize that a half of the football game has already been played. Oh, and the keg just ran out.
Once upon a time I was a naïve freshman football player at Yale. I had lofty dreams of winning Ivy League championships and becoming an all league player. But then I got to Yale and realized that no one* cares. So I lost 75 pounds and quit. As a player, when you step into an empty stadium that fits roughly 60,000 people the day before your game, you kinda get goosebumps. It’s pretty fucking cool. Now when you are in that same stadium the day after and it’s a sixth filled up, it’s not that impressive. Granted, I was doing a lot of looking up to the stands when I was on the team because I never played, but this is kind of the point I’m getting at. The football team, or the players that actually play, doesn’t play for you. If the team was dependent upon our support, they’d feel like the North Korean soccer team after the World Cup. They would literally be the most depressed people on this campus. Luckily, they don’t require student attendance. Would they like more students to come? Of course, but they will survive without us.
Being a muggle (athlete term- non athlete) versus an athlete is an entirely different existence at Yale. When you’re playing pretty much any sport at Yale, that is what you do and who you are. You don’t have much time to do anything else. I’ve picked up my fair share of activities since quitting but all of those combined barely meet the time commitment required by football. As an athlete, Payne Whitney is no longer a place where you go to work out occasionally, it is your home. That teacher of yours, the witty one with glasses that you think would be cool to get coffee with, he no longer exists. His name is now Emil Johnson, and if you’re late to a lift, you’re doing sled pushes for an hour. I had the privilege, in my semester and a half of football, to do this seven times. I only threw up once. With this experience, it gives me a great deal of respect for any athlete at this school. That being said, I would never trade my position with any of them, not a fucking chance.
So how is the team going to do this year? I have no idea. Ivy League football isn’t very easy to predict. Dartmouth blows. Columbia sucks. Cornell’s inconsistent. Penn’s decent. Brown’s been good recently. Princeton’s whack. And Harvard beats us. There is no Brett Favre in the Ivy League. There isn’t a Tim Tebow, either. (There is a Jeffrey Fell, though, a damn good player if I do say so myself.) Each team has their own tools that they work with, but nobody has any real stars on any team. That’s what makes Ivy League football interesting and also pretty damn boring at times. To personally make a prediction for this year wouldn’t be appropriate as I attend about half of the home games, approximately 25% of the season. I want them to do well. Fuck, I want them to win every game. This will most likely not happen, but in the case that it does, I will act as though I was with them every step of the way. I may even try to sneak in to drink champagne with them at Toads, an event that occurs after every home victory. My gut feeling for the season: it’s gonna be fun, whether I’m getting shitfaced in a U-Haul or watching the team, hopefully, beat Harvard in insufferable weather.
*I know that some people legitimately care, and you guys are great, but I’m talking about the general majority of the school.