Ah, The Game. My favorite confluence of Harvard and Yale, second only to the Ivy League Snapchat story. It’s a time where Yalies from across time and space convene at the Yale Bowl to watch basketball or something, drinking in the crisp November air and even crisper Natural Ice.
Perhaps the most valuable part of The Game is not the 11 or so minutes of playtime, but rather the hours of debauchery leading up to the kickoff. For any true Yale student, the tailgate is the focal point of the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and just as our boys are uniformed in that grey-tinged Yale Blue, the tailgate attendee requires a certain uniform. Tailgaters trade helmets for wigs, shoulder pads for cutoff sleeves and navy for neon. The outfit is essential.
Over the past few years, I’ve curated a unique tailgate outfit drawer of my own — some items were inherited, some were procured with great intention. The most iconic article is a billowy fur coat. At 6-foot-3, I cannot keep it from dragging on the floor with a regal flourish that would make Louis XIV envious. Jaws drop at the sight of this coat. It’s just that striking.
I have few clues as to the coat’s provenance. “Pastor Pearlie Freeman” is emblazoned on the inner lining. A quick Google search shows that Pearlie spends her Sundays ministering on Chicago’s northwest side, but otherwise the coat is shrouded in mystery.
I picked up the coat for $20 in the secondhand wilderness of St. Charles, Illinois, out shopping with my cousins after our holiday feast. I knew right then I would bring the coat back with me to complete my freshman year at Yale, to show to my suitemates and anyone else who’d get a kick out of it. Months later, it was announced that Macklemore would be gracing the Spring Fling stage. It was then that I knew the coat was blessed.
Of course, I wore it to Spring Fling, and before performing “Thrift Shop,” Macklemore called me out, saying he wanted to wear the coat on stage, so I stripped it off. The coat surfed over the crowd to the rapper. He put it on, talked about how bad it smelled, threw it back and the coat and I were reunited. Freshman year had ended, and I feared the coat’s story had ended along with it.
But then, during my sophomore year, The Game was at Yale, and the coat reared its head once again. Thereafter, my coat would travel among friends who needed it for a party here or a photo there. I feared that maybe the coat was taking on a life of its own. Did people only like me for my furs? Or did it exert some magic, seductive power on them as it did on me?
This past summer, comedian Brandon Wardell tweeted, “summer is hard 4 ppl [sic] who have a collection of cool jackets as a substitute for a personality.” I feared that maybe I was one of these people, substituting decadent pelt for persona, an anxious freshman looking to impress his friends.
Yet presentation does not have to come at the expense of personality. Steve Jobs had his turtleneck, and Hillary has her pantsuit. Our tailgating outfits are not substitutes for our identities, but rather reflections of them.
Over the past few years my coat has developed a little bit of a reputation, so much so that more confidants than I could count on one hand have asked if it will be making an appearance this time around. One friend sarcastically said, “If that coat could talk!” Well, it would probably talk a lot about my time at Yale. One mentor of mine went even further, stating, “It’s so fun. It’s so Yale. It’s so you.”
Sometimes I wonder if Pastor Freeman ever wonders what her coat is up to. If she doesn’t, though, at least heaven does, smiling down on Yale and the coat. I’ll see you at the tailgate, fur and all.
Austin Bryniarski is a senior in Calhoun College. His column runs on Fridays. Contact him at email@example.com .