This past Monday morning, hundreds of eager Yalies lined up for tickets to the illustrious Game, ready to cough up $25 or even an additional $75 for guests when purchasing tickets — an interesting way to make up Harvard’s $1.9 billion dollar endowment loss this year, huh?
Why is it that Yale and Harvard students alike look forward to The Game so much?
Maybe it’s the history and tradition of the rivalry. It could be the Friday night festivities and the Saturday morning tailgates. Maybe it’s the chance to yell and scream while surrounded by thousands of your peers, whether you’re the football fanatic or the friend asking what a first down is.
All of these answers are possible. But I’ll tell you what the students don’t care about: one stretch of nine years — out of 132 — in which Harvard happened to come out on top.
Maybe streaks of dominance mattered more in the early days of The Game, such as when Yale won 13 of 14 consecutive contests between 1880 and 1894. Why did it matter then? During that stretch, the Bulldogs won 12 national championships, just a sampling of their 27 national titles over the past century and a half.
What does Harvard receive these days when it defeats Yale? Maybe an Ivy League championship. Maybe the Crimson can score a No. 25 ranking in the Football Championship Subdivision, the prestigious second tier of American college football. But due to Ivy League rules, Harvard can’t even compete on the national stage in the FCS playoffs.
Compared to The Game of generations past, these games just don’t really matter. So sorry, Harvard — you’re late to the party.
And let’s be honest. There’s only one Harvard fall sports team making national news these days, and it sure isn’t the football team.
Now I don’t want to say the implications of The Game don’t matter in the 21st century. That’s unfair to the incredibly impressive student-athletes, the dedicated coaches, the fans and even me. I’ve spent three-plus years covering Yale Athletics, and football will always be football.
There are entirely valid reasons why people still care. For what it’s worth, the Crimson can win an Ivy League championship for the fifth time in six seasons — a feat only before accomplished by the Elis. And when Harvard loses year after year to Yale in rankings of happiness, satisfaction and attractiveness, one football win can mean a lot.
Besides, if we lose, we have an adorable new puppy mascot, Handsome Dan XVIII, eager to cheer us up. How do you cuddle with a color? And don’t tell me John Harvard the Pilgrim is any better.
But be warned, Crimson faithful. Only three times in the past three decades has Yale entered The Game with a 2–7 record.
The last time was Yale head coach Tony Reno’s first season with the Bulldogs. There was no expectation for Yale other than an imminent blowout. Instead, Yale managed a heroic effort, with the Crimson forced to score 14 points in the final five minutes to salvage an Ivy title.
The time before that was in 1996, and doubled as legendary Yale head coach Carm Cozza’s final game at the helm. Despite a 26–0 Crimson advantage at one point, the Elis fought back to lose by a mere five points, beaten not by the Cantabs but by the clock.
Which brings us back to 1993, when a former News Sports Editor called for Cozza’s head. Yale was floundering, losers of three consecutive contests by a combined score of 97–14. The editor made the case that Cozza was the one responsible for the team’s struggles, compounded by an extreme lack of passion.
When the final whistle blew, pure passion and determination had driven Yale to a shocking 33–31 victory, and Cozza dedicated the game ball to that unforgiving editor — you may know him as Theo Epstein ’95, former general manager of the Boston Red Sox and current president of the Chicago Cubs.
Epstein’s made a name for himself as a streak-breaker and a curse-ender. You think nine years is a long time? Try 86. Better yet, try 108.
So in a year that the Cubs made the unthinkable believable — and in a year that the Cubs winning the World Series wasn’t actually the most surprising upset seen by this nation in the month of November — the saying “anything is possible” has never been more true.
I still don’t believe The Game means what it used to. But I could be persuaded if Yale wins.
James Badas is a senior in Calhoun College and a former Sports Editor for the News. Contact him at email@example.com .