Daniel Zhao, Staff Photographer

After a long year devoid of athletics, the Whaling Crew — Yale’s athletics tailgating group — is back outside of the Yale Bowl to grill burgers and cheer on the school’s various sport teams.

Most recently, the group showed up to cheer on the football team against Cornell on Sept. 25. However, the team has been a constant presence at home games this fall.

“This year, as sports are back, I think it’s incredibly important to get back on the rails and try to get everybody excited about sports because half of the student population here haven’t gone to a Yale sports game before,” Whaling Crew President Linton Roberts ’24 said in an interview with the News.

Last week’s Cornell tailgate was the Whaling Crew’s third event of the 2021-22 school year. In the weeks prior, the Whaling Crew was present at women’s volleyball and women’s soccer matches. The group plans to keep supporting Yale’s various teams by showing up to at least one game a week.

The COVID-19 pandemic proved to be a tough hurdle to overcome for a group so dedicated to the fan experience. 

“Honestly, I wish we had done a lot more to keep the group together during COVID … but it is definitely an in-person club,” said former co-President Maya Sanghvi ’23. “There were a lot of lifestyle changes during COVID, and honestly not going to sporting events felt like the least of my worries at the time. In retrospect, it was really sad not to see the awesome people in the crew once a week for the whole year.” 

Roberts echoed that sentiment, stating that he believes that a major draw of the Whaling Crew is spending time with others in the group and that the pandemic made it much harder to do so.

Even though Yale’s social distancing guidelines remain in place, the group is still full of optimism for the upcoming year. The Crew hopes to rebuild much of the community they lost last year, while also growing their ranks — especially among new underclassmen.

The football tailgate on Saturday featured many veteran Whaling Crew members, but a few first years also took the time to stop by to enjoy hot-off-the-grill burgers, drink refreshing ice-cold water and make signs to mock Cornell. 

Bradley Bennett ’25, who had never attended a Whaling Crew event before Saturday, thought that the tailgate “was a really fun way to spend [his] time before the game started … [and] would definitely go back for [the] next home game.”

The Whaling Crew community welcomes Yalies of every year. According to Roberts, the group prides itself on its spirited environment and strong group ties, and they hope that it can play an important role in rebuilding Yale’s community after the pandemic.

“Sports bring the community together… It’s very important up here at Yale,” said Roberts. “The community here is so diverse that creating something everybody can get behind definitely, not to be cliche, increases school spirit and also builds a community where everybody can get along.”

The Whaling Crew was founded in 2011.

ANDREW CRAMER