This column is part of a Friday Forum on athletics. Read the next column here.
The football team fought hard in Cambridge last week. They battled every play and never gave up. True, the final score didn’t end up the way any Yalie would have hoped, but I went home to family and turkey and a comfortable bed telling the tale of an incredible football game.
It was the best game of college football I’ve seen in a long time. And I watch a lot of college football. I do realize that I’m biased because I had a lot invested in this year’s game. It was my last chance to have a victory over Harvard before I graduated, and I consider a lot of the members of the team my friends. But that meant that, after enduring the arrogance of numerous Harvard students claiming superiority, I just really wanted a win to rub in their faces. I didn’t get that from this year’s game, but something else did happen in that stadium on Saturday.
A Harvard player intercepted the ball and ran 90 yards to put Yale behind 24-7 at the end of the third quarter. At any other Yale football game in my memory, this is the point at which cold hands and calls for naps start being too much to ignore. In other words, the stadium clears out. But not at this game. After Yale had gone down 17 points, something incredible happened. Yalies started chanting: “I believe that we will win. I believe that we will win.” Jumping up and down, signs raised, Yalies united behind our team. We believed in Varga, Randall, Little and Cook. We believed in our offense, our defense, the first string and second.
So we stayed. And then our boys put on a show. They rallied back to tie the game 24-24 with a little under four minutes left in the fourth. In those minutes, during the comeback, I have never felt more a part of Yale, the communal Yale, not my student groups, not my college or my year but the whole thing: Yale. I’m sure there are many Yalies who were at that game who would agree with me and I implore them to linger on that moment. Because we should make moments like that happen more often.
Athletics provides opportunities, unlike many others, to unite students across classes, colleges and social groups. Andrew Sobotka ’15 and Hal Libby ’15 began a crusade to increase attendance at Yale Athletics when they founded the Whaling Crew in 2011. They have organized tailgates, sign painting parties for College GameDay and even buses to far-away games. Last weekend was a triumph for the Whaling Crew. The Whaling Crew philosophy might actually be taking hold. You can cheer for a hockey player or a women’s volleyball player (Shout-out: Ivy Champs five-years running!) without knowing them because you’re cheering for Yale. Come out to games, stay till the end, cheer on your teams. Who knows whether there might be another moment like I experienced up in Cambridge at the next hockey or basketball game.
One op-ed will likely not increase attendance across Yale sporting events in any noticeable capacity (although I hope it does!). But since I have this podium, I implore you to do one more thing: Congratulate your football team. Whether you know them or not, when you see a guy in those awesome camouflage Yale hats from the Army game or any other football gear, go congratulate them on a great season. Because they fought. By congratulating them, you are showing them that you believed. You believed enough to wait in enormously long lines at Ray Tompkins before The Game. You believed that they had a shot to win but you also believed in the abstract Yale that they represented. Even down 17 points in the third quarter. And even when leaving the stadium, passing the disappointed team returning back to the locker room with the scoreboard not in our favor, you believed enough to sing the fight song: “Bulldogs, bulldogs, bow wow wow!” It was an incredible gesture of support for our team, one that made me proud to be a Yalie, and one that motivated me to write an op-ed in the first place.
It is a sentiment I hope to see many more times while still on this campus. So if you felt that belief at any point last weekend, go out and support your athletes again. Because they get up for early morning lifts, they miss parties and they show up and fight to the end of every game, not just Harvard-Yale. They believe in Yale. And so should we.
Samantha Pillsbury is a senior in Calhoun College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.