Harvard equalized with 6.2 seconds left. After a quick inbound, Roxy Barahman ’20 shot forward. With two seconds remaining and facing a double team, Barahman pirouetted past one defender, juked past another, and with 0.1 seconds on the clock, heaved up a deep three. The buzzer rang, and the backboard lit up red. For far too long, the ball arced through the air, soaring, soaring, and then sinking into the back of the net for a buzzer-beater game-winner, which handed Yale women’s basketball a win against their archrivals in February 2019. This shot was one of the greatest Yale athletics moments since I’ve been here and deservedly made it onto the ESPN Top 10 Plays.
The next week, the shot made an appearance in my intro psychology class. Dean Marvin Chun, who was teaching the course that semester, incorporated the play into his lecture and proudly presented it to the several hundred students crowded into the Yale Law School lecture hall. I can’t remember how this moment of brilliance fit into course material, but the fact that I remember this shot more than the actual lesson from that day says something about what elements of Yale stick in the mind.
To borrow a psych term from the class, Roxy’s shot created a flashbulb memory for me, an extremely vivid snapshot of a moment prompted by elements of surprise or consequence. The almost three years of Yale athletics that I was able to watch were replete with these moments. Now that the Ivy League has tentatively announced the return of athletics for the fall and the CDC has given its blessing for vaccinated groups of people to gather outdoors and indoors, I encourage everyone to give Eli sports games a try. Not only will you have suitemates and roommates on them competing, but they also provide fodder for some of the longest lasting memories you will have of Yale.
Of the many counterfactuals I have imagined during these three semesters of pandemic Yale, some of the ones I rue missing the most involve all the goals, broken records, comebacks, and tournament successes that no one can ever see. Who knows how men’s basketball would have done at March Madness in 2020. Who knows how men’s lacrosse would have fared as they tried to make the national championship game for the third consecutive year. Don’t let the memories you could have at Yale go unwitnessed. Make the sojourn to JLA; take the bus to the Yale Bowl; walk to the Whale.
The glitz and glam of Division I athletics might largely steal the spotlight for athletics on campus, but IMs are an equally integral part of the Yale sporting scene and for some, can even take on central importance in the community life of their residential college. The parable of Grace Hopper’s rise to Tyng Cup success is instructive here.
In Grace Hopper’s final year as Calhoun College, they finished dead last in the IM standings. Following their renaming, Hopper finished seventh and second in the next two years, and then, last year, won the Tyng Cup for the first time since 1976. I knew many of the valiant Hopperites who rallied together over the course of several years to deliver this success. In fact one of them, former Sports Columnist Steven Rome ’20, wrote not one, not two, but three pieces on Hopper’s broomball team alone. His words on winning the broomball championship last year capture how meaningful IMs can be.
Rome writes, “I knew I would remember this, but I did not know that it would, in effect, be my last in-person memory as a Yale student. And for all the pomp and circumstance of Commencement, this was enough.”
As I write this a week before my own commencement, first of all, I am thankful to have any ceremony at all since last year, for the Class of 2020, there was nothing. Imagine now how powerful an experience something would have to be to be enough to fill the void of a celebration meant to honor the completion of four years, eight semesters, and at least 36 classes. Broomball did that for Steven because, over four years on Ingalls rink, he and other students in Hopper developed a community around the sport. The meteoric rise of Hopper in the IM standings is a testament to what IMs can build.
It is Spring now, and the world is blossoming. Next year Yale will be better. Possibilities that have lain dormant for over a year, sports chief amongst them, will erupt back to life. Don’t let them go to waste.