The Boston Red Sox played their most lively home game of the season on Tuesday night, falling to the Kansas City Royals 7–6 in the 13th inning. Hours before the extra-inning battle, however, Fenway Park executives previewed what they hope will be another dramatic contest in their ballpark this coming November.
With the Green Monster looming behind, Fenway Sports Group’s Mark Lev joined Harvard Athletic Director Bob Scalise, Harvard football coach Tim Murphy and the captains of Yale and Harvard’s football teams for Yale-Harvard Media Day. Set to be played 50 years after the famous 29–29 tie in 1968, the 135th iteration of the Game will depart from tradition and take place at Fenway Park rather than at Harvard Stadium a few miles away.
“We think it will be a terrific experience for our student athletes and our fans, and we are really looking forward to the game in November,” Scalise said. “We hope that this rendition of The Game will be an instant classic to add to the great rivalry and rich tradition.”
Since the announcement that The Game would take place at Fenway Park, fans have raised concerns about how the move from Harvard Stadium to downtown Boston will affect transportation and tailgating. And while the officials at the press conference highlighted the potential for a spectacular fan experience at Fenway, Lev and Scalise did not address any of those logistical issues.
The Elis lead the overall series with a 67–59–8 record against the Crimson, but as Scalise noted in his remarks, if the draws are counted as wins for Harvard, then the matchup this fall will be the tiebreaker. The precedent for this mathematical mischief arose from a headline in the Harvard Crimson the day after the 1968 game, when the newspaper declared that Harvard had “won” 29–29 after rallying from 16 points down with 42 seconds to play.
Win, loss or tie, the Yale-Harvard game this November will not be the first football game at Fenway Park, which has been the home to Boston’s professional baseball team since 1912. Starting with the 2015 Shamrock Series battle between Notre Dame and Boston College, Fenway Sports Group has made hosting other events a core part of its strategy in managing the baseball venue.
“This year’s game marks the return of football to Fenway Park, and is part of the ongoing efforts of John Henry, Tom Warner and our ownership group to restore the tradition of Fenway Park as more than just a ballpark,” Lev said. “Be it football, hockey, soccer, Irish hurling or skiing, there remains our goal to bring and continue to bring the very best sporting events to Fenway.”
With Vic Gatto, who captained Harvard in the famous 1968 tie, looking on from the stands, the two teams sensed that this round of the rivalry would itself become a part of Yale and Harvard’s football lore.
After spending some time on the field on which he and his teammates will compete this November, 2018 Harvard football captain Zach Miller said he gained an appreciation for the gravity of the venue and the history of The Game.
“It was hard not to daydream [after being out on the field],” Miller said. “Being in the pads, being in the gear against an opponent like the Yale captain Kyle [Mullen ’19] — great guy — you can feel the tension in the air.”
Adding to that tension is the impact that recent iterations of The Game have had on the Ivy League standings. Yale’s 2016 win over Harvard denied the Crimson a share of the Ancient Eight title, while the Bulldogs’ 24–7 romp at the Yale Bowl this past November secured their first outright Ivy League title in 37 years.
While Harvard’s captain appeared excited on Tuesday for the 2018 twist on the classic rivalry, Mullen — captain of Yale’s 146th football team — joked that he was disappointed that his Bulldogs would not have the opportunity to claim their their second consecutive victory at Harvard Stadium.
“I was looking forward to beating Harvard at their home stadium,” Mullen said. “But I guess we will have to settle for this.”
Yale squares off against Harvard at Fenway on Nov. 17. Tickets to the general public went on sale on April 27, and student tickets will be available for 25 dollars this fall.
Caleb Rhodes | firstname.lastname@example.org