Tag Archive: tailgate

  1. Y-H Spissue: It’s Yale-Harvard, and that means tailgating is back for a weekend

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    For 362 days out of the year, the Yale community and the athletics department stay mostly separate. The annual Yale-Harvard football game, however, changes everything.

    School spirit reaches an all-time high in the days leading up to the game. Students who don’t know the difference between a home run and a touchdown spend their days tailgating and proclaiming “Beat Harvard!” Tailgating, that nearly-lost tradition on Yale’s campus, makes a grand revival every year at The Game. During the football season, only about 40 students will make the trek to the Yale Bowl to partake in burgers and beer before each game. Against Harvard, however, most of the student body partakes in some form of tailgating. 

    Linton Roberts ’24, President of Yale’s tailgating club, the Whaling Crew, spoke about the environment at the game.

    “Every student group on campus is throwing parties before and after the game,” Roberts said. “The alumni association typically throws a massive tailgate… If I was a student going to the game for the first time, the best thing you can do is just show up to everything. That’s the most fun part.” 

    The Game –– along with the tailgates and parties that come with it –– is one of the biggest community events of the year. To many, the actual athletic competition is far outweighed by the time spent with friends and fellow members of the Yale community.

    Most groups hold open Yale-Harvard events. Students do not have to plan out their day, but can float between groups enjoying various activities and social scenes. Carla Sanchez-Noya ’22 spoke of the welcoming and fun nature of these events.

    “It was really great when I was there, [the official tailgate] was organized by college,” Sanchez-Noya explained. “Everybody really wanted to be there. And you’re hanging out with people in your college… Everybody just wants to have a good time and beat Harvard.”

    While Sanchez-Noya and Roberts have experienced Yale tailgates before, a large segment of the Yale community has not. First-years and sophomores who did not take gap years have not attended Yale-Harvard before.

    For them, the week marks an entirely new experience. Some, like Eli Buchdahl ’25, expressed excitement about experiencing the tailgating and pageantry surrounding the game.

    “I’m really excited for the experience of the entire school coming together in a spirited way where we are really one community with one goal and one enemy,” Buchdahl said. He also explained that he was excited “to get some of that big-school football Saturday vibes that Yale isn’t exactly known for.”

    According to Judy Schiff — Yale Library’s chief research archivist — the tradition of tailgating ahead of sporting events started at Yale. 

    “Not only did football start at Yale with Walter Camp… but also the custom of tailgating,” Schiff told NBC Connecticut in 2019.

    Then, those who wished to see the Bulldogs take on the Crimson would either take the train or drive their newfangled automobiles to New Haven and potluck ahead of the kickoff.

    Yale tailgates can be traced back to 1906, eight years before the Yale Bowl was constructed.

    Andrew Cramer | andrew.cramer@yale.edu

  2. The Tailgate You’re Probably Not Invited To

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    When it comes to Harvard-Yale, even the tailgates are institutions.

    This Saturday will mark the 40th time that Richard Sperry ’68 and Roger Cheever, Harvard ’67, tailgate The Game. The two friends have been tailgating the storied rivalry since 1972 and haven’t missed a game since.

    Wait, 1972? Wouldn’t that make 2013 their 41st consecutive tailgate? Sounds like some Harvard math to us.

    This isn’t a mistake, though. The pair celebrated their 40th consecutive tailgate in Cambridge last year. But Sperry, the Yalie, wasn’t going to let that dampen this year’s festivities at his alma mater.

    “Never mind the fact that we celebrated our 40th in Cambridge last year,” reads the email invitation to the tailgate. “We had a great time, and we’re simply just going to do it again this year in New Haven.”

    That’s the kind of spirit that pervades Sperry and Cheever’s annual party, which they now host with accomplice John Steffensen ’68. Despite their opposing allegiances, the two make sure that the tailgate is about fun and friendship. For these two, rivalry is just an excuse to get together in the first place.

    Ultimately, says Sperry, “It’s just about renewing friendships.”

    Sperry met Cheever while the two were training as officers in the Navy. They became fast friends and attended that first Harvard-Yale game while living together in Boston in 1972 — Yale won, meaning Cheever had to pay for the tickets. But the next year, in an effort to recoup his losses, Cheever insisted that they attend The Game and make the same bet again. The rest is history.

    “The very beginning tailgates are a bit of a blur; it’s so many years ago. I think it involved alcohol and not a lot of food,” Cheever now recalls with a laugh.

    The tradition actually traces its origins to before the two even met. Sperry would attend Yale’s home games with his roommate and his roommate’s parents. The group would set up in Lot B, next to Cox Cage. Sperry and Cheever have claimed the spot as their own for the 20 Yale games they have since attended. Since the tradition’s inception, friends and wives have been added to the mix, along with a host of others. It is now a tailgate of truly epic proportions.

    “Last year, at Harvard, at best guess we had over 150 people there,” Cheever says. It’s not just how many people show up: Who those people are can be equally impressive. Sperry and Cheever can now claim as guests Rick Levin, Tommy Lee Jones and the Bush twins, who brought along a few guests of their own.

    “We wound up with six Secret Service agents with wires behind their ears, trying to look inconspicuous,” Sperry explains with a chuckle. “But they weren’t inconspicuous.”

    The blend of both Harvard and Yale fans is notable as well. Few tailgates attract such a diverse crowd, but the convivial attitude that Cheever and Sperry work hard to maintain draws in fans of all stripes (Sperry says even their Princeton friends have started attending).

    Key to maintaining this friendly mix is Cheever’s “Commencement Punch,” a family recipe handed down since Prohibition that Cheever makes for The Game every year. It’s a blend of rum, honey and fruit juice, and — according to Cheever — has received nothing but rave reviews.

    “No one has ever refused a glass,” he attests with pride. And while the tailgate in its early years included the standard assortment of finger foods and beer, its menu has since expanded to include steak sandwiches and wine. (The hosts refer to the latter as “our acclaimed ‘Boola’ label.”)

    Only once has the tailgate tradition nearly been broken. A few years back, Cheever’s son was playing in the New England Football Championships on the same day as The Game, which was at Yale.

    “There lies a moral dilemma,” Cheever now remembers. “Does one support one’s family, or does one stick with tradition? And we basically did both.” The two managed to finagle their way onto the field at the Yale Bowl at 8 o’clock that morning, where they had a drink and tossed around a football before Sperry drove Cheever directly to Union Station where he caught a train north in time to make kickoff at his son’s game.

    “We now say that we’ve gotten together on game day for 42 years for this ritual, which is absolutely true,” Cheever says. And they don’t plan on stopping. At one point, Sperry recalls, they had a conversation about how long the tailgate would continue, eventually deciding they could see themselves continuing for 50 years. But as that milestone approaches, neither sees any reason to stop.

    “I think we’ll keep on doing it for as long as we can, because it’s fun,” Sperry says.

    But the inevitable question remains: Where is the venerable tailgate most fun?

    Cheever is hesitant to answer. “I have to really think about it,” he murmurs, before eventually settling on his alma mater.

    For Sperry, on the other hand, the answer is an easy one. “I would say it’s more fun at Yale,” he says, his smile palpable even over the phone.

  3. Harvard updates alcohol regulations

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    As Yalies prepare to take Harvard by storm for The Game this weekend, they may need to leave their beer pong plans behind.

    After a Nov. 6 meeting, Harvard faculty and administrators voted nearly unanimously to put into effect a new alcohol policy that aims to establish more explicit guidelines for students’ private parties and dorm events. Though the new policy relaxes alcohol policies for House formals, they ban high-risk competitive drinking games. Harvard’s ban on hard alcohol and kegs at tailgates remain in place and will be enforced at The Game.

    For Harvard students, though, certain parts of the new policy remain frustratingly ambiguous, prompting questions on whether beer pong counts as an activity that “promote[s] high-risk drinking, such as excessive and/or rapid consumption of alcohol, particularly of a competitive nature.”  

    Yalies who are at least 21 years old will need to show identification and get a wristband in order to consume alcohol. Students cannot bring their own alcohol to the tailgate.

    For a full list of Harvard’s “Rules of the Game,” click here.  

    To read the new alcohol policy in its entirety, click here.