Like many of my fellow students, I spent this past Saturday cheering on the Yale football team against Cornell. The weather was pleasant; the camaraderie was emotive and of course, thanks to a stirring game-winning pass, my hopes for a Bulldogs victory were fulfilled. The day was a great success! Nevertheless, I still have one lingering disappointment.
As the first quarter was wrapping up, I headed to the concession stand in search of a delicious, ice-cold Budweiser. It was my first game as a 21-year-old and I was eager to enjoy my rights as an American. The tailgate had put me in good spirits, but a rough start by the Bulldogs, combined with the natural forces of alcohol metabolization, had rendered me in need of a pick-me-up. You can imagine my immense dismay when I made it through the line to order only to be told that Budweiser and all other alcoholic beverages were unavailable inside the stadium.
I am sure that Yale’s prohibition of alcohol at college sporting events is a well-intentioned policy. However, as the saying goes, even good intentions can pave the road to hell. In practice, the ban accomplishes little beyond diminishing the experience and good cheer of alumni and students of age. It also deprives the University of revenues which, though insubstantial given the University’s multi-billion dollar operating budget, could go a long way in mitigating athletics costs.
Recognizing as much, in 2014, 21 schools across the country and of various sizes allowed the sale of beer at football games, according to an ESPN article from last year. The upshot was not the disaster that the puritanical anti-alcohol zealots would have you believe. Schools did not report an increase in bad behavior. Alcohol sales accounted for almost half of their concession revenue. In some cases, attendance increased dramatically.
Now, let’s be honest. If students want to get drunk before a football game, the lack of alcohol inside the stadium will not be the factor that stops them from doing so. Common sense and a five-second look into the student section are all that’s needed to know that football games are not so much a spectators sport as a “darty.” Of course, not all students choose to participate in this drinking, but many do. The beer prohibition leaves students over the age of 21 with a series of suboptimal choices. They can drink extra at the tailgate in search of a longer-lasting “buzz,” thus increasing the likelihood of binge drinking, or they can drink a responsible amount and end up sober and sleepy by halftime (when, it is worth noting, many students choose to leave).
So let them drink beer!
A lift on the beer ban can be done in a way that undermines the likelihood of poor choices and also keeps drinking under control. Hard alcohol should still be prohibited. Fans of age should be given wristbands. Students could actually pace themselves. The stands at halftime would not be marked by people fleeing as if on a sinking ship. The crowd would be more ebullient, with a greater frequency of chants and songs. Maybe there would even be fewer fans dressed as empty seats.
Our football team, and our athletes more generally, do not get all of the support they deserve. They sacrifice countless hours to be at their best when they put on our school’s uniform and often receive very little fanfare.
Beer at sporting events cannot solve this problem entirely. However, creating a more festive and less restrictive environment within the stadium can be a first step. In chemistry, alcohol is a solution. Allowing beer to be consumed during games would undoubtedly help ‘solve’ the question of how we can maximize our enthusiasms in support of Yale, while also generating revenue for the school. Plus, compared to the status quo drinking options, it would facilitate more responsible decision-making.
So let us hope that sometime soon, the authorities will reverse their unnecessary and misguided policy. One day, I hope we can all toast to that.
Michael Herbert is a senior in Saybrook College. His column runs on alternate Wednesdays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .