“Oh, when I look back now,” Bryan Adams laments in “Summer of ’69,” “That summer seemed to last forever.” Fifty years later, in the “Fall of ’19,” one particular halftime for the Yale women’s basketball team really is lasting forever.

The Elis opened their season last Wednesday against a Providence team that has appeared in the NCAA Tournament the last three seasons. The Friars jumped out to a nine-point lead at the break when the scoreboard at John J. Lee Amphitheater malfunctioned. Time stopped.

You wonder what Herb Brooks might have said if he were coaching this team. Great moments are born from great opportunities, and if the scoreboard ever starts working, that’s what you have here.

Yale’s Associate Athletic Director Mike Gambardella reports an electrical issue caused the snafu and noted that NCAA rules dictate that games must have functioning scoreboards to maintain play. The Friars boarded the bus two quarters early, while the Yalies conceivably could have snuck out in time for dinner at Morse. The score stands 42–33 at halftime.

“I have never been a part of something so strange in all my years playing basketball,” captain Megan Gorman ’20 told the News.

I got curious about the NCAA’s scoreboard regulations, and as any good pedant/potential-future-lawyer, I dug into the rulebook. My findings were damning to say the least. Behold Rule 1, Section 18, Article 3 of the 2019 and 2020 NCAA Women’s Basketball Rules: “An alternate timing device and scoring display shall be available in the event of malfunctions.” Evidently we had no alternate timing device. The horror! All this time, Old Eli was above the law. If not for daylight saving, perhaps we could have brought out a sundial.

It was an auspicious start to the season for the Bulldogs, who last night faced off against Quinnipiac and thus played a game inside a game. It’s a bit like “Inception,” although I can’t claim to have understood that movie. Meanwhile, the Providence game remains firmly in purgatory, to be resumed “at date TBD.”

But as the Elis hope to bounce back from their semi-game, and Yale Athletics hopes to bounce back from this electrical embarrassment, I contend that “Scoreboardgate” has existential stakes for us all. Bear with me.

The time-freeze from the scoreboard malfunction demonstrates just how beholden we are to technology in the realm of sports. If a game happens and there is no electricity to score it, it really did not happen at all. Perhaps we ought to appreciate the old-time, hand-operated scoreboards at baseball stadiums like Fenway Park for more than just their quaintness.

Not only are just about all Yale students beholden to our own scoreboards — GCals — but we’re in major need of a recharge. Or perhaps an alternate timing device.

Mired in the first sub-freezing spell with final projects looming and reading piling up unread, we are finding ourselves buried in the midst of November doldrums. My completely anecdotal research finds that all-nighters among my suitemates increased exponentially this week. Classes that once provoked enthusiasm have begun to get stale. (And YDN sports columnists have really gotten stale.)

Quite literally as I (try to) write, my computer is threatening to shut down under the weight of too many tabs. In our overscheduled worlds, we’re all playing multiple games at once. Closure is shrouded in the mist of some far-away “TBD.” We could all use a good halftime speech.

The good news is that there is light at the end of the tunnel, if not on the scoreboard. For the sports-inclined, basketball and hockey seasons are now fully underway. Only one weekend stands between us and The Game, with Thanksgiving to follow. The recharge is coming.

Sometimes, though, absurdity can jolt us out of our self-pity and solipsism. Sometimes, the scoreboard just isn’t working, and, like Gorman, we have to embrace the strangeness. Forces beyond our control conspire against us, and all you can do is look to the next game.

Bryan Adams, of course, loved his endless summer, and I suspect, looking back, we too will pine for the days of our November doldrums. “Ain’t no use in complainin’,” he sings, “when you’ve got a job to do.” When electricity failures quite literally prevent you from doing your job, I suggest reading the NCAA rulebook. You may just uncover a scandal.

 

Steven Rome | steven.rome@yale.edu