Tim Tai, Senior Photographer

The Game is one of the most famous college sports rivalries. Every year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, the feud is put to the test. Well, almost every year it is put to the test. 

A tradition going back almost 14 decades, the traditional football game between the Elis and the Crimson is highly anticipated by students, faculty and alumni alike; however, 2020 brought some disappointing news. 

Four years ago, the nation experienced the height of COVID-19. For Yale that meant restrictions on university life, including athletics. 

During the summer, the Ivy League canceled the upcoming football season which included the famous Yale-Harvard football game. Yale’s team was allowed to practice; however, this season looked very different from a typical one. Teams had to adhere to University policies: no indoor gatherings of more than 10 people, physical distancing and face-covering requirements. Although this news was disappointing, players continued to stay motivated for next season. 

“A lot of us have not played football since last fall, so while I might not be able to play in season, I still get to keep on honing my craft,” Bennie Anderson ’25 told the News that fall. “It’s been hammered into us that we want to take advantage of this situation. And we want to do it better than anyone else.” 

Players explained how they felt grateful to be given the opportunity to practice nonetheless. “We’re still trying to be better than the person next to us,” Anderson said.

This was the first cancellation of The Game since 1943.

2021 brought hope for all Ivy League players. The Game returned and was hosted by Yale, and while fans were thrilled to partake in the tradition again, pandemic policies were still prevalent. 

Harvard students were not permitted to stay overnight at Yale dorms as they had in the past; Harvard encouraged its students to leave the morning of The Game and return that same night, forgoing the typical weekend festivities. 

This tempered enthusiasm as visiting students had nowhere to stay and were faced with a new financial burden. 

I’m concerned that this policy will have a disproportionate effect on either lower-income Harvard students or those without a lot of Yale friends, as at that point the only option is to book an Airbnb or hotel,” Emma McKinney ’23 told the News. 

Nonetheless, the stadium filled with 49,500 fans ready to watch the 137th playing of The Game. Unfortunately for the Eli’s, Harvard won 34-31, with the Crimson scoring a touchdown in the last nail-biting minute of the game. 

The Bulldogs were hungry for redemption in 2022. The Game’s return to normalcy boosted spirits and fans were eager to cheer on their team. All 30,000 seats were filled in the sold out Harvard Stadium. 

Yale won 19-14, with victory coming down to the final minutes. Hamilton Moore’s ’24 interception in the final 24 seconds sealed the win for the Bulldogs, who were the sole winners of the Ivy League that year.  

In 2023, the Bulldogs were back to hosting The Game at home and spirits soared. However, there was a new element to be considered. The Game, which happens annually in late November,  occurred just over a month after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israeli civilians that killed 1,200 and took over 240 hostage. At the time, Israel’s attacks killed more than 12,000 people in Gaza, including 5,000 children, according to Nov. 18 Reuters reporting.

Amid multiple on-campus protests and calls for Yale to divest from weapons manufacturers, Yale  announced that students would not be allowed to bring large banners or signs into the stadium and unauthorized spectators would be subject to arrest if they attempted to access the field. 

“The Game is a reunion of friends, but ultimately is a sporting event,” Associate Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Student Engagement Burgwell J. Howard and Dean of Students and Senior Associate Dean in Yale College Melanie Boyd wrote in a Nov. 17 email. “We expect that all fans will respect the hard work of the student-athletes and will refrain from any disruptions that could detract from the event.”

During the game, spectators in the stands waved Palestinian flags and signs urging Yale to divest from weapons manufacturers. Still, most of the fans in attendance showed heaps of spirit while hosting The Game for the first time without COVID-19 restrictions since 2019. Despite trailing 18–17 in the fourth quarter, Yale came back to win 23-18 and were deemed co-Ivy League Champions with the Crimson and Dartmouth College. 

Over the past four years, The Game was impacted by many pandemic-related circumstances, leading to its cancellation in 2020, its restricted return in 2021, its return to normalcy at Harvard in 2022 and finally its return to Yale in 2023. The Game has always been a highly anticipated tradition, and this year the Bulldogs brought home a win at home for the Class of 2024 to remember. 

The Yale Bowl is located at 81 Central Ave.