The Game is finally upon us. This weekend, most Yale students will shun their weekly Saturday morning ritual of going to the library to catch up on reading or studying for an exam to do something far less intellectually stimulating: watching a football game.
Before we get to the demonic entity that is Harvard, let me start this column by saying thank god for Cornell. Had it not been for the Big Red pulling off an implausible 20–17 victory over then-No. 11 Dartmouth last week in Hanover, then the Bulldogs would not be in a position to capture their second Ivy League championship in the last three seasons in the 136th edition of The Game.
While ascending to the Ancient Eight summit will undoubtedly be on the minds of Team 147 against the Crimson, don’t let that distract you from the primary objective of this Saturday’s football festivities: beating Harvard and doing so in a merciless manner.
A loss to the Bulldogs on Saturday would be just the latest domino to fall in a recent series of unfortunate events for Harvard. Over the last decade, the “college” in Cambridge has canceled a men’s soccer season, placed its cross country team on athletic probation, punished members of final clubs, saw one of its most famous alumni –– cyborg Mark Zuckerberg –– commit massive data privacy violations and watched local businesses flee Harvard Square en masse. Furthermore, former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling and former television host Bill O’ Reilly are both proud Harvard graduates.
Not to mention that our rival newspaper — the Havard Crimson — has come under fire from Harvard students for standard journalistic practices such as asking for comment.
Even Harvard’s football team isn’t what it used to be. After capturing six Ivy titles from 2007 to 2015, the Crimson is just 18–12 in the last three seasons and will likely drop to 4–6 on Saturday once the Elis’ top-10 scoring offense runs roughshod against a Harvard squad that is riding a four-game losing streak. Longtime Crimson coach Tim Murphy has watched his program be passed up by Ivy rivals such as Yale, Princeton and Dartmouth as Harvard has gone from an annual contender in the Ancient Eight to a consistently mediocre program as of late.
From a talent and athleticism standpoint, Harvard is far outmatched. Crimson quarterback Jake Smith is a poor man’s Kurt Rawlings ’20. Wideouts JP Shohfi ’20 and Reed Klubnik ’20 are five-star sports cars while Harvard receivers Cody Chrest and Jack Cook are used 2008 Toyota Highlanders. Yale boasts two potential NFL linemen — center Sterling Strother ’20 and guard Dieter Eiselen ’20 — while Harvard is in the bottom half of the conference in rushing offense.
Regardless of the outcome, The Game — perhaps more than anything — represents the intersection of college athletics with student academic excellence. Unlike athletes at FBS powerhouses such as Alabama, Ohio State and USC, players from both the Crimson and the Bulldogs actually have to go to class, turn in homework assignments and study for exams while committing themselves to the full-time job of playing college football.
After long and grueling weeks, Ivy football players then devote the bulk of their fall weekends to playing in front of mostly-empty stadiums and even the Ancient Eight champion is ineligible to compete for a national championship in the FCS playoffs. But come Saturday, the Yale Bowl will boast a capacity crowd that finally gives Harvard and Yale players, coaches and fans the big-time college football atmosphere they all deserve to play in.
American writer Willa Cather — a diehard Nebraska football fan — once remarked that “the moment that, as a nation, we lose brute force, or an admiration for brute force, from that moment poetry and art are forever dead among us, and we will have nothing but grammar and mathematics left.”
Even if Ivy League students only admire that sort of brute force for roughly four hours per year, players from both sides will undoubtedly appreciate it. Except for the Harvard football team when Yale wins by three touchdowns.
Joey Kamm is a senior in Saybrook College. Contact him at email@example.com .