Less than two weeks have passed and I’ve already reminisced several times with classmates, friends, family members and alumni about Nov. 19, 2016 — the day we beat Harvard.
As a former Sports Editor of the News, I’ve discussed Yale sports on a near-daily basis for more than three years. I’ve considered the role of athletics at this university and at universities in general. I’ve pondered the degree to which Yale should be invested in collegiate athletics and how it should strike a proper balance in an age where the line between college and professional sports can sometimes blur.
But on that glorious Saturday in Cambridge, I simply yelled and screamed and experienced the very best Yale Athletics has to offer in the company of thousands of fellow Elis.
In the grand scheme of things, this 133rd iteration of The Game may have been inconsequential, but at this point in time, when so much has seemed to go wrong, this win was so incredibly right. This was necessary.
It can be easy to overlook, but there have been few moments in my four years at Yale like that afternoon at Harvard Stadium. Our current student body has experienced a turbulent era on this campus marked by senseless tragedy and heartbreak, institutional imperfections and turmoil and much, much more.
Sports don’t resolve any of these issues. Still, sports can serve as an effective medium for confronting them, as has been seen with the recent increase of socially engaged professional athletes.
But in their purest form, stripped from any social commentary, moments like The Game happen, and unadulterated elation envelopes an entire community. In these moments, we instinctively hug, cry, laugh — some Saybrugians decide to strip — but to each his own. Numbering in the thousands, we plunged off a stadium wall a few feet too high for comfort but not nearly high enough to prevent a union of euphoria on the Harvard turf.
These moments are rare, precious and fleeting. But when considering the complex and frustrating crises that seem to persist indefinitely in our world, these sports-induced moments offer a reprieve. They are therapeutic. They are a gift to be thankful for.
We are now generations removed from when Yale football was the perennial national champion. Today, when Yale wins The Game or shocks millions on the national stage at March Madness, it is seldom rewarded with a trophy. The football team’s win propelled Yale to a tie for fourth in the Ivy League. The men’s basketball team’s triumph over Baylor last spring was followed by a spirited but ultimately futile effort against Duke in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The value of these victories do not lie in the tangible rewards, but rather in each game’s power to unify the student body in a way that’s hard to replicate.
Recently, the Yale administration has sought to mend a campus that has felt divided, frustrated or disillusioned at various points over the past few years. Perhaps the most powerful actors for catalyzing togetherness are the Bulldogs that take to the field or the court, the ice or the water.
Athletics at Yale, or at any institution which prides academics of the highest order, creates a predicament. How much money should be invested in the program? How hard should the student-athletes be pushed? How freely should coaches be allowed to recruit high schoolers? These are all difficult questions that can quickly divide current students, administrators and alumni alike.
But Yale should not allow athletics to fall by the wayside, as some believe they gradually have over the past several decades. Moments like The Game are too powerful, too organic and too valuable to be cast aside.
Moments like The Game restore pride in being a Bulldog, and often when we need it most.
James Badas is a senior in Calhoun College and a former Sports Editor for the News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .