If Ivy League athletic competition can occur in fall 2021, the 137th edition of the Yale-Harvard football game is set to occur in New Haven.
In 2019, the Bulldogs hosted The Game at the Yale Bowl, capturing a dramatic double-overtime victory over the Crimson in front of 44,989 fans. This November, Harvard would have hosted the 2020 installment of the rivalry on Nov. 21 in Boston. But with the COVID-19 pandemic putting a stop to fall-semester competition in the Ancient Eight, both teams and their respective fan bases are set to meet back in New Haven for the second consecutive time in fall 2021.
“We’re going to be following our 2021 schedule,” Yale football head coach Tony Reno told the News. “I just think from a big picture standpoint, and from the perspective of all eight teams in the conference, if you’re going to change the league scheduling, it would create a lot of inequity in home and away games. So for the athletic directors to just reset it and aim for what the original 2021 fall season would have looked like makes much more sense.”
Mike Gambardella, Yale’s associate athletic director for strategic communications, also confirmed to the News that the Bulldogs are set to host The Game in fall 2021. Ivy League Executive Director Robin Harris and Harvard’s Associate Director of Athletics Tim Williamson did not respond to the News’ requests for comment.
“We’ve really just pressed the reset button because we would have finished our season next week,” Reno said. “So hopefully, in December, we’ll be back on track to play football in 2021.”
Last November, the Bulldogs’ dramatic 50–43 win over Harvard capped a 9–1 season and secured the Bulldogs an Ivy League championship. Quarterback Kurt Rawlings ’20 led the Elis with 417 passing yards and 101 yards on the ground in a game that lasted four hours and 36 minutes, delayed by halftime protesters and two overtimes.
Yale wide receiver Mason Tipton ’24, who hauled in a crucial touchdown for the Bulldogs with 1:10 remaining in the fourth quarter during last year’s edition of The Game, expressed excitement about being able to play in New Haven again next fall.
“I’m not complaining,” Tipton said. “The atmosphere at the Yale–Harvard game was pretty dope. So I’ll take it, I’ll take that again.”
Although fall-semester play has been canceled, Yale student-athletes enrolled in residence have been able to engage in limited training for most of the fall. Phase I weight training has given enrolled players the opportunity to get into the weight room in order to regain any strength that was lost during quarantine.
Punter Jack Bosman ’24, who is on a leave of absence, said there are weekly meetings for remote players to receive updates on Yale’s training and the University’s COVID-19 situation. He said the team breaks out into their position groups on Zoom, where unenrolled or off-campus students can discuss footage taken of the players enrolled. Bosman said he thinks a spring 2021 football season is unlikely.
“I don’t really see us playing in the spring because it would make it really difficult for future seasons,” Bosman said. “Then at some point you’d have to have a back-to-back season, which wouldn’t really make much sense for injuries and postseason surgeries.”
Bosman believes that starting when the players get back from winter break, the team will begin preparing like they would for a normal fall season. He thinks the coaches will have them in a regimen that is pretty much identical to other years’ postseason plans.
Although the future of athletic competition remains uncertain, Tipton is certain the group will be ready for next season, regardless of when it begins.
“I know the team,” Tipton said. “Whether we play in the spring or we play in the fall, everybody on the team will be ready when it comes. The guys have definitely taken advantage of the time we’ve gotten off.”
After 136 meetings with Harvard, Yale leads the series, 68–60–8.
You have your ticket. You have the t-shirt from your acceptance package. You secured a spot in a bound-to-be-uncomfortable carpool to Cambridge. You’re staying with “a great, responsible Harvard student, Mom.”
You’re ready for The Game. But … it’s all a bit off, right? Are you forgetting something?
If you feel empty at the thought of blue face paint, you might be suffering from Harvard Hate Deficiency. You’re not alone: One in 8 Yale students experience symptoms of this condition in mid-November. Some attribute HHD to complications during early infancy, while other cases form later in life. Studies cite opinions such as, “I have friends at Harvard, and I really like them,” “Harvard is also an amazing school, what’s the point of hating it?” or, “I don’t care, give me Thanksgiving” as severe warning signs.
Luckily, health professionals have developed new methods of treating HHD other than the popular 10-week IV drip. The FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research has released a new list of mental exercises for combating HHD, meant to trick the brain into forming instinctual Harvard aversion. WEEKEND is the first publication to bring them to you.
Directions: Read statements. Internalize. Do not ask questions.
Warnings: Immediately stop exercises if rash appears.
• When the dining halls are out of Special K with strawberries, it’s because of Harvard.
• Harvard took your seat in section, and Harvard knew it.
• When Yale Secure is down, Harvard Secure isn’t.
• When it’s too humid for Command Strips to stay on your wall, it’s because Harvard told Command to “not worry about it” during product testing.
• Harvard cancelled “Arrested Development.”
• Harvard made season four of “Arrested Development.”
• Did you read that New York Times interview with Jaden and Willow Smith? Harvard made that happen. (But don’t worry: Harvard is not Will Smith.)
• If you rearrange the letters in “Mail delivery failed: returning message to sender,” it spells “Harvard.”
• Harvard made all the gates that are too heavy to open gracefully.
• Harvard sent you those Farmville requests.
• One time, Harvard said “awk sauce.”
• You thought it was Fox News who interviewed Harvard students about ISIS. It was Harvard.Do you understand? Harvard is Fox News.
• Harvard is DJing at this chill party and you should totally come out.
• You know when you get into someone’s car, and there are crumbs all over the seat, but the person doesn’t say anything about it or try to clean it up before you sit down? Harvard.
• Harvard did all the DS reading, you lazy ass.
• Harvard made Avril Lavigne change into what she is now.
• When the top news story on Facebook was “Guy Fieri: Altered photo surfaces, showing celebrity chef without bleached hair and goatee,” Harvard was also trending.
• Guy Fieri went to Harvard.
• When you’re in New York City, Humans of New York is taking pictures of Harvard and not you.
• Harvard cast the live-action version of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and NBC’s telecast of “The Sound of Music.”
• When your essay is being workshopped, Harvard tells you, “It’s not really working.”
• It’s called a “Harvard” when you open your computer in public and the lyric video for “Hey Juliet” starts playing because you forgot to close it.
• Harvard believes in equal rights for all genders but loves men too much to be a feminist.
• Do you feel sad sometimes? Harvard!!!
• The reason you couldn’t get a ticket for The Game is Harvard. Trust us.
Let’s face it. Yale is not known for sports. We are not part of the PAC 12 or the Big 10. (I know what those things are.) Our football stadium does hold a respectable 64,000 people, but we don’t sell out every game like LSU or Alabama, each with stadiums seating over 100,000. The movies made about Yale don’t feature football heroes like Rudy, but instead students like Rory Gilmore and her aspirations for journalism.
But the one thing we do have is a centuries-old rivalry which surely won’t disappoint national audiences when we’re featured on ESPN’s College GameDay. So, here is perhaps your one and only chance to get on the big screen. Here is WEEKEND’s guide to what will and what won’t get you noticed this GameDay.
Don’t Flash … Your GPA on a Sign
I know no Yalie would do this, but some poor Harvard souls think flashing their 3.6-or-higher GPAs will get them national attention. They are sadly mistaken in thinking that’ll get them on the air. Unfortunately, their inflated egos can’t handle taking that advice, and the cameras may just catch them for a special segment of “Section Assholes Gone Wild.” Just try to steer clear and make your own vibrant sign of support for the Bulldogs sans personal achievements.
Harvard Sux Apparel
Always wear your FCC “Huck Farvard” shirt. If anyone questions your reading or spelling capabilities, just tell them you attend that lovely community college in Cambridge where everyone relies on spell check. Didn’t buy these shirts before they sold out? The favorite “’Harvard sucks.’ — Gandhi” is always a safe bet.
Yale Spirited Costumes
Packed away all of your Halloween gear? Well, it might be time to unshelve those boxes again, especially if you have any Yale-related pieces. Go all out and be a bulldog — the comfy faux fur might just keep you warm in the frozen hell that is Harvard. Throw the cameramen for a whirl and dress up as Eli Whitney (offensive) or Salovey (inoffensive).
Hissing is a No-No
Sorry YPUers. Substitute your snake-like hisses for some good old-fashioned jeering and “Harvard Sucks” signs this Saturday. Afterwards we can have a spirited debate about what parts of Harvard make it the worst university in the country, complete with gavel of course.
Snapping Has to Go
It pains me to say it, but I don’t think ESPN understands the meaning of snapping in our culture. Hold your soulful finger-play for some spoken word performances. Instead, bring some vuvuzelas to the field and shout your sonnets of devotion for the Yale Defense. May I suggest “Harvard, shall I compare thee to a summer’s wildfire?” or “I took the path of Yale University, and that has made all the difference.”
Properly Learn the Bulldog Fight Song
Remember those tunes we heard once on acceptance day? Well, they are more than just songs meant for waving a napkin. Get someone from the Whiffenpoofs or the Yale Glee Club to teach you how to hold a tune or just get an a cappella friend to stand next to you (we all have at least one) and lip sync with a single tear rolling down your cheek. The cameras won’t be able to stay away.
Storm the Field, Kiss and Tell
We know it will be cold. Last year, almost everyone left after halftime, but make it your priority to storm the field with the hopes of getting your five seconds of fame. When the Bulldogs inevitably win, you need to be there and you need to be the one to lead the charge. After the final buzzer when the Bulldogs crush Harvard, hop that fence and go give the Bulldog quarterback that sloppy, frozen-lipped kiss.
Ah, Thanksgiving break — the time of year when I finally get to relax after months of strenuous pipe-smoking, poetry-writing and colonialism. This old boy doesn’t have the energy he used to, back when I was an undergraduate at Harvard, rowing on the sun-dappled Charles and getting belligerently drunk with my cohort of young, muscular, snow-white peers. I still get out my old letter sweater and cry into it once in a while.
Where were we? Ah, yes, Thanksgiving. You know, Ezekiel Barnabassus Twillingsby III — who sat next to Squanto at the first Thanksgiving — is my great-great-great-great uncle thrice removed. Thanksgiving runs deep in the Twillingsby family. And I have a lot to be thankful for: Boston, this City on a Hill, whose founders I am also directly descended from; the reelection of Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, whose father, also named Henry Cabot Lodge, would change me from time to time when I was a baby; and finally, the fact that I know the Crimson lads will give the Elis a good, old fashioned whupping, like they did back in my day. You know, I sometimes worry that lads these days don’t know how to give a good, hard whupping. I certainly got my share at Harvard. And when I was growing up, Father (I still don’t know his actual name) would give us a good licking if he caught us cavorting with any Irish Catholics. God forbid they ever let any of their ilk into Harvard.
But in any case, the Cantabs seem to have this game well in hand. I’d bet my moustache and my monocle on it. Our defensive line will hold like the Yanks did at Gettysburg. Our quarterback will sock it to ’em just like Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders did at the Alamo, which I will never forget. But it only makes sense. Harvard seems to win whenever we go head-to-head with the Elis. It’s Harvard money that’s driving the Industrial Revolution, which we are now in the middle of; it’s Harvard money that keeps Washington, which is now our capital, moving. If I’m sure of two things, the first is that Europe is headed for a thousand years of peace, and the second is that Harvard will beat Yale in this year’s Game.
Why do they keep shooing me away? Harvard students are so damn exclusionary. And pretty waspish themselves, in my opinion. Seems to me awfully hypocritical.
Buzz. Buzzzzzzzas;dlkjasdfffffzzzzzzzzbooooola. Boola. Boola. What does that mean? Boola Boola. The chant of a benighted race.
I will sting you. You, man of the crimson cap and beer-stained hands.
Stung. Serves you right for swatting at me. The blood will come out in the wash. Oh tush, it’s the same color as the sweatshirt anyway.
It is awfully hard to reach skin with all of these “layers” they have on. It’s not even cold! Not for a true wasp.
For where are the “WASPs” they all spoke of? I thought to meet enormous, queen wasps, I thought this was a wasp capital. Why else would you capitalize it? Instead I find bloodless, pale, shivering men, drunkenly cheering, beer-sloshed and belligerent.
Descending, I cleave the air, faltering, buzzing, whirring, plunging into day. Buzzzasaazzzzzzllkjhdasadsf. Hummmm Hmmmm buzzzzzzz. Football is boring from the cheap seats. I hover on the field, floating and observing. Much better view up here.
On a helmet, on a blade of grass, on the finger of a player who shoos me away, I see The Game. I see all.
What is this roar? Faces contorted in joyous stupidity. Mass hysteria. Have these people no shame? To adulate a man dancing around in the end zone, clutching a pigskin in one hand, his crotch in the other, parading his meaningless success … !
And yet I am softened at the sight. Some stand up in synchrony, in a sort of wave-like motion. That one hurls a baton into the air and flashes a smile. One kisses another in bliss at the sight of a touchdown.
Sight hateful, sight tormenting! Here they all join in song, and I, cut off from the world, among a species not my own, sting aimlessly hither and thither. Buzzzzzzsdfasdfdsf boolllabulldogs bulldogs, bwewwwww — I cannot enunciate the words. I am cursed with this voiceless buzz.
In 1916, Yale head coach T.A.D. Jones gathered his team in the locker room before the game and said, “Gentlemen, you are now going to play football against Harvard. Never again in your whole life will you do anything so important.”
He wasn’t far off.
Yale and Harvard first met on the gridiron in November of 1875 at Hamilton Park in New Haven. A ticket was 75 cents and 2,500 fans showed up. Harvard won. Since that afternoon, The Game has inspired fanfare and history, and Yale-Harvard has become the quintessential college rivalry.
In reaction to the popularity of The Game, in 1903 Harvard built a colossal U-shaped stadium out of reinforced concrete — a novel engineering idea for the time — on the far side of the Charles River, across from the campus. The seating capacity 30,323. In 1914, Yale erected an even larger stadium. Dug deep into the West Haven soil, this structure was the first of its kind: a full, oval-shaped, wrap-around bowl. Since its completion, the Yale Bowl, as they decided to call it, has served as the prototype for modern football stadiums. Its seating capacity: 61,446. The two stadiums marked the permanence and grandeur of the rivalry. Sprawling across their respective landscapes, the structures symbolized each university’s enthusiasm and respect for the game.
Since that November day at Hamilton Park in 1875, The Game has generated an unparalleled history. Presidents, politicians, movie stars, singers, people from all over the world have attended The Game. It is reported that even the governor of Hawaii attended the first Yale-Harvard game played in the Bowl, in 1914. In 1920, 80,000 fans, the largest crowd ever assembled at The Game, made the trip out to the Bowl to witness Harvard goose-egg Yale 9-0. (The Bowl’s capacity used to be higher.) In 1930, The Game became the first U.S. football match broadcast in England. In the 1940s, columnist Red Smith affirmed the popularity of the Yale-Harvard football contest when he dropped “Harvard-Yale,” and capitalized “The Game,” elevating the matchup from normal sporting contest and defining it as the collegiate athletic event par excellence.
Both teams have produced casts of characters of equal historical importance. Walter Camp, “the Father of American Football,” a player and a coach for Yale in the 1870s, ’80s and ’90s, created the modern scoring system, the positioning of players on the field, the system of downs, the line of scrimmage and the snap back from the center. The list goes on, from Tommy Lee Jones, to Stone Phillips, to Ted Kennedy, to Larry Kelly and Clint Frank, to John Hersey, to Archibald MacLeash and Calvin Hill. Players have gone on to become politicians, pioneers in business, Pulitzer Prize winners, poets, actors, television personalities and NFL stars. One can’t help wondering which of the current players will fulfill this legacy.
The cast of characters and the rivalry’s storied history distinguishes The Game. Quarterback Morgan Roberts ’16, who is from North Carolina and played one year for Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) powerhouse Clemson University, said, “In the South, the only Ivy League game people really talk about or think about is The Game. It’s the only game people ever really put any thought into because ESPN puts some broadcasting on it. They give it some national coverage because of the history and legacy of it […] It’s America’s amateur pastime.” Former Yale linebacker Kerr Taubler ’14 added, “It’s our bowl game.” Yale-Harvard is at the forefront of America’s old football rivalries. That November day in 1875 marked the birth of the great Ivy League rivalry, the first of a line of many collegiate rivalries like Michigan–Ohio State, Texas-Oklahoma and Army-Navy.
But despite the Bulldogs’ upper hand in the overall record, 65-57-8, in recent years the Crimson has owned The Game, however one may measure it. Harvard has won 12 out of the last 13 meetings, including the last seven in a row. The Crimson have out-scored the Elis 202-75 in that seven-year span. Last November, the Yale faithful watched as the 8-1 Crimson steamrolled the injury-stricken Bulldogs 34-7.
This year, though, things are looking different.
* * *
The evidence is everywhere. Last year, Yale went into The Game with five wins and four losses. After their victory against Princeton last Saturday the Bulldogs are 8-1 and in contention, with Harvard and Dartmouth, for a share of the Ivy League title — a distinction the team hasn’t enjoyed since 2006. And the improved record comes as no surprise. The Yale offense leads the league in just about every category: passing, rushing, total yards, first downs, conversions and total points.
Asked about the differences between this year’s offense and last year’s, Roberts responded, “Certainly more confident. Once we’ve put some good numbers and score some points and get some guys involved, you get to the point where you become really confident.”
Anchored by a seasoned line that Roberts says “is just unreal,” this year’s offense features a host of Ivy League standouts. Senior Tyler Varga ’15, a two time All-Ivy running back, has had a record-breaking season, leading the Ivy League in rushing yards and touchdowns. His numbers double those of the runner-up in the category.
As for the aerial assault, the Elis feature dangerous weapons in receivers Deon Randall ’15, the team’s captain, and senior Grant Wallace ’15. In his first year as quarterback for the Bulldogs, Roberts is having an exceptional season, leading the league in passing yards, touchdowns, completion percentage and passing efficiency.
Defensively, the Bulldogs have had similar successes. Although the core of the defensive unit is young, starting mostly sophomores and a few freshmen, a number of key players have returned, three of whom — Cole Champion ’16, Foyesade Oluokun ’17 and William Vaughn ’15 — earned All-Ivy honors last year. As sophomore linebacker Darius Manora ’17 — who took an interception into the endzone against Brown — asserts, “We obviously don’t have as much experience as a lot of the teams we’ve been going against […] but we’ve been growing steadily every game. We’ve been getting better and better. Just recently we had our best defensive game against Princeton.” He went on, “We’re very strong up front […] We have guys who like to come up and hit. That’s what we preach, that’s what we strive for in our defense. We want hitters.”
This new success has much to do with to a new approach to training the Bulldogs have adopted. A sign hangs above the entrance to the tunnel that runs under Derby Avenue, connecting the Smilow Field Center and the football practice field. It reads, “One Play Warrior.” Every day before practice, players walk beneath the sign. Its message: Focus, stay in the moment, one play at a time. The team has embraced these ideals since last April when mental conditioning coach Brian Cain began to talk to the team.
Asked about the effectiveness of the mental training, sophomore fullback/tight end Jackson Stallings ’17 noted, “The mental approach is 90 percent of athletics […] Your ability to control the game mentally allows you to do more physically […] It has really changed the culture of Yale football from someone who looks to the last game of the year and says, ‘All right, we gotta beat Harvard like everybody says,’ and instead focuses on a small picture and executes his job each play.”
Manora adds, “[Cain] preached to us to focus on the process rather than the outcome. And our defense tries to do the same thing. So each play we try to play as hard as we can, rather than get caught up in if we gave up a big play or made a big play ourselves. And I think that is the key to us winning games. We don’t get caught up […] We just keep playin’.”
The team adheres to this system of beliefs. And they’ve proven their devotion again and again throughout the season. In the first game, Lehigh scored three unanswered touchdowns in the first quarter. Unfazed, the Bulldogs got to work, creeping back, and then winning the game 54-43. A week later they pulled off an even more stunning feat, upsetting Army 49-43. Since those two games, this faith in the process and focus on the moment have served the Bulldogs well in countless situations throughout the season. One can only wonder how it will help against Harvard tomorrow.
During halftime of the Princeton game last Saturday, Calvin Hill ’69, likely the most accomplished living Yale football player, stepped out from under the archway at the 50-yard line. Hill had returned to the Bowl as part of the game’s “Legends of the Bowl” ceremony.
When asked how it felt to be back, he smiled and said, “It’s wonderful.” Then he motioned to the field, “I haven’t seen Bruce Weinstein in 40 years.”
Really? That’s it? Here he was: Calvin Hill, perhaps the greatest player in 142 years of Yale football. A guy who played in the NFL for 12 years, four-time all-pro, two-time Ivy-League champion, record-breaking track star, an athlete so good legendary Yale football coach Carm Cozza said he could have played all 22 positions on the field — and this struck him the most upon returning to Yale.
He wasn’t aglow with memories of past glory, his victory over Harvard in 1967, or the legendary tie game in 1968. He didn’t seem awestruck at the grandeur of the Bowl, or the exuberant crowd, or the medal he was awarded as an honorary “Legend of the Bowl” to commemorate the one-hundredth anniversary of the stadium. Instead, Hill was happiest to see Bruce Weinstein, his pal and former teammate, whom he hadn’t seen in ages.
Later that evening a couple more recent alumni affirmed Hill’s statement. When asked what he missed most about Yale football, Kyle White ’14, former Yale defensive tackle, said, “It’s all about the brotherhood. There’s a really special bond with Yale football. It’s really quite unique.”
Former Bulldog left tackle Wes Gavin ’14 said: “The bottom line is that Yale football is a brotherhood. It takes a lot to become a part of it. It has a long history behind it. And it’s something really special.”
Yale football is unique. And the Yale-Harvard game is special. In terms of fanfare, publicity, and hype, Yale-Harvard doesn’t hold a candle to Florida-Florida State, Auburn-Alabama, or USC-UCLA. The Yale Bowl has no jumbotron, there will be no 300-person marching band performing at halftime, Mariah Carey won’t sing the national anthem, and it’s been decades since the Yale Bowl has seen a full crowd.
Nevertheless, ESPN’s College GameDay will cover the Game on Saturday, instead of any of the number of ACC, SEC, or PAC-12 games. As Roberts states, “This game means so much to the community. It means so much to Yale. It means so much nationally […] I think there are great rivalries in the ACC, great rivalries in the SEC, that might get a little more media coverage than we get, but … I think the emotional investment, the equity over 130 years is much greater than any other rivalry. And that is why it’s so special.”
Irrespective of media attention or massive fanfare, this “emotional investment, the equity over 130 years” places Yale-Harvard in the same echelon as any of the great collegiate football rivalries across the country. It also creates the brotherhood Gavin, White and Hill touched upon. A brotherhood, the three alumni suggested, which transcends the final score of the Game, which lasts so long that when they return to the Bowl, after one year or 40 years, their old friend’s face brings back more fond memories than the Bowl, The Game, or the University itself.
There’s no complex explanation to it. “In all honesty … It’s just fun,” Stallings admitted. “It’s fun to go out there and play with your buddies, it’s fun to play with confidence.”
For Morgan Roberts ’16, Candler Rich ’17, Khalid Cannon ’17, Jackson Stallings ’17, Darius Manora ’17 and the 101 other players on the Yale football team, The Game has an entirely different meaning. For them, the fun comes from playing The Game well, doing the job right, “sticking to the process,” and knowing that, when the clock hits zero, the final tally will take care of itself. It comes from all of their 106 teammates. And the ultimate reward they may draw from The Game will come years from now, when, stiff-kneed and gray-haired, they walk into the Bowl once more.
When I asked running back Candler Rich if, with everything on the line, he was feeling anxious about The Game. He smiled, almost holding back a wink, and asked, “What’s there to be anxious about?”
Had you read it in the news? Had you see it in the sky? It is indeed this time of the year once again, when all the little biddles and jibs bundle up in their big puffy copes for the day of the big one. On to a bus and to the Harver they fly! “Bola Bola! Bully Dog Bow Ow Ow,” they say from the tip of their lungs! Yes, when the autumn leaves and goes, and the chepsnups roasted on a fire, it is the time of a Game!
I can see of it now, if I try. It is in of the Harver yard. All of the Big Boys of Yale down on the court, making piles of them and the pig’s skin this way and that way to the goal. “A big run!” he shouts with a hat from the announcer booth. “Anitraception!” he cry. “50, 20, 10, 7, 11, 1, he cannot stop! Tochdown Yale!” And oh how the crowd wiggles and jiggles in the sun! The Biggest Boy on the field, I meet him I did. I slap his backs as he and his band of boys walk to the court. He too, he dances a joyful one and puts a spike on the ball, just to show the red team that he has been the one to do it!
Let me tell you a story about Harver. One day, I had gone to Harver 2 years ago for A Game, and was lost in the brick and trees of Harver. I ask a little boy of Harver, I ask, “Had you seen anywhere my friend of Murphwell?” What the Harverboy say next, I can not even say to you, but at least know, if he said it, he did it, and if he did it, there was all of it there, outside, in the street with us. He look at me with his little beedy eyes he do, and his words they hisp like a saddies’ tears. This is why Harver can not even win one little point from you, my Big Boys of Blue.This is why on the court we must beep them good and well.
For this is a Game that is the oldest and rarest of them all. It stands in the hearts and eyes of the people like the old legends of sport: The Glabiaters and Charity Races of old Rome, a duel of sword and arm, the Olympus Games, golf, knights, Hide in Gosique, and A Game of Harver Yale. Equal teams have won in different years. Sometimes even something as simple as A Game is not even so simple as it may seem. Nobody even knows who won and who lost, when and where, or even why it may be. That is something only for Gog to decide. But everyone feels in their heart the win and the lose, together, like of friends.
I am not myself a man of the sport. No, for little Jame, it is the warm fire, one of Big Books hot off the shelf of a Sterling Stack, and chats of the issues of the day with the friend or two. That is a life! But this A Game is not just about the Big Boys and their bittie ball on the green and white courts. No, this is more than sport, or even a match. A Game is of people. Even with spite in the jibs and the jabs, the red and the blue at each other likes stamps on a log, at A Game, all of Yale come to as one of many, to many, and many to one, and many to all.
I must confess — I am absolutely clueless at football games. It’s a game made for television, and without the benefits of instant replay and ultra-zoomed-in shots of the defensive line, I can barely tell where the ball is. I presume that my fellow students at the Game tomorrow afternoon will face the same problem. But that’s okay, because football games are always about much more than the action itself. The music played by each school’s band is perhaps equally important as the game played on the field. And, keeping that truth in mind, I will now take it upon myself to carefully analyze the details of Harvard and Yale’s respective fight songs, for we all know that the real competition is not athletic, but musical: Which band can play better and more obnoxiously; which students can sing louder and more obnoxiously.
The Crimsons’ fight song is “Ten Thousand Men of Harvard,” a title at once perplexing and downright incomprehensible. The last time I checked, Harvard has a scant 7,200 undergraduates — so not only do they inflate grades to no end, but also the size of their own student population. What, then, could this 10,000 possibly refer to? The 10,000 outnumbered Greeks who vanquished Darius’ invading Persians on the Plain of Marathon? I would not put it beyond the Crimson to equate themselves with those noble Hellenic forbearers, but in that calculation Yale becomes the analogue of the mammoth Persian army, which has lived on in cultural memory as the paragon of all that is unruly and savage about the earth. Now, I know that Cantabs harbor an innate tendency to speak ill of New Haven at every opportunity that arises, but the Elm City is actually quite nice, with little real savagery in any of its quarters — something I cannot honestly say about the gang violence of South Boston in the 1970s. Moreover, if we do ascribe to this historical dichotomy between the noble Greeks of Harvard and the wretched Persians of Yale, we unfairly dismiss all the achievements of the great Persian culture and fall into the trap of writing white-centric imperialist history. Not that I would expect any less from Harvard: Yale does have the better history department, after all.
Now back to the music itself. Like all fight songs, “Ten Thousand Men of Harvard” is full of brash brass and messy orchestration. This model works quite well in most cases, but not in Harvard’s. The song sounds desperately in need of a real melody, rather than the monotone, vague chanting of the song’s verses, which straddles the uncomfortable line between joyous shouts and plodding Gregorian chants. There is a quasi-tune here, but it’s not very catchy, and fight songs should always be catchy. Harvard should decide whether it wants the rhythm-heavy, melody-light model of “Boola Boola” or the orchestral sweep of a more ambitious composition. Currently it has neither, and “Ten Thousand Men” thus comes across as an aimless, burnt-out rocket of sonic incompetence floating in its own orbit.
Another matter is at issue here — one of “Ten Thousand Men”’s verses is in Latin. Yes, Latin. I don’t know why the writers felt that the song cried out for a Latin verse, but they wrote one anyway. It is, of course, entirely unnecessary and completely pretentious, qualities not wholly dissimilar from Harvard’s deeply disappointing architecture; and also a rather transparent attempt to prove that Cantabs know more Latin than their one-word motto would suggest. Maybe they’re trying to make up for that — but instead they come off as irritating blowhards, self-consciously reheating the artistic formulae of ages long since past quieted.
If “Ten Thousand Men” feels like a semi-tune at best, I cannot say anything of the sort about “Boola Boola.” “Ten Thousand Men” formed in the brain of some Harvard graduate in the early twentieth century, but “Boola Boola” arose from the tradition of popular music in that same period, emerging a full eighteen years before Harvard’s song. The fuzzy recording of “Boola Boola” from 1910 I found on YouTube sounds like a gleeful romp, full of short little ditties and an accentuated, punctual brass section. The song feels free and loose, with none of the affected seriousness that bears down on “Ten Thousand Men.” This is a real song, too — even John Philips Sousa liked it. Another YouTube video, this of the Yale Glee Club in 2009, carries much of that same sense of spontaneity and apparent improvisation, as well as a much-appreciated lack of Latin.
The sole criticism I might lodge against the otherwise-consummate “Boola Boola” relates to the name of the song. What on earth is a Boola? Why are we singing about it? Why do FCC representatives insist on signing off on emails with those two words? How does this Boola help us defeat Harvard? Is this voodoo magic? These are all important questions, and I’m sure that Yale students have asked them for over a century. Ultimately, though, none of them really matters (except for the one about the inexplicable FCC signoff). Yale doesn’t take itself so seriously that its students can’t lighten up every once in a while, and naming our song after two nonsense words proves that. I also like to think that “Boola Boola” indirectly inspired the wonderful silliness of the Beatles’s much-maligned classic “Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da,” which I actually quite like. Maybe Paul McCartney secretly admired New Haven. One can hope, I guess.
In the end, then, where does my judgment fall? For Yale, of course — was that ever in doubt? “Boola Boola” is the far superior song, with a nonsensical title that bests the bizarre mistruth that is “Ten Thousand Men of Harvard.” Musically, “Boola Boola” carries a feeling of vivacious energy entirely absent from Harvard’s choice of fight song — this does, admittedly, raise the question of how exactly Harvard’s football team has gone undefeated thus far this year. But tomorrow afternoon, I hope that the infectious cheer of “Boola Boola” rings out through Harvard Stadium, echoing around the bowl with the ineluctable hopes of an entire school, denied glory for seven years but which shall rush its way to victory on Saturday.
So here’s what’s going on in your head right now. You just bought a ticket to the Game. You feel great because it was a long line and some people weren’t even able to get tickets. You gaze at your shiny, red ticket and think about the sick tailgates you and your friends will have the best time of your lives chilling at on Saturday morning. You imagine the laughter and Instas that will be taken and then you realize that something happens after all of that. After that there’s a football game. You sit down on the curb, dejected, because for three to four hours following the tailgating, you will be sitting or standing in the freezing cold watching a sporting event. I bet you wish you knew a little bit more about football now. Those will be three very boring hours if you don’t understand the rules. I am here to guide you through a few of the key things you will see on Saturday and tell you some facts you can tell the people around you, so you don’t seem like a total idiot.
The way every football game starts is with a player kicking the ball across the field. You can’t get around that. It has to happen. This player is assigned to kick the ball by the coach and has trained for a long time in order to be able to do this well. This kickoff kicks off the game (which may be where that phrase comes from in the first place; that just occurred to me). So the ball ricochets off of the foot of the designated kicker and then flies towards the end zone of the field. This is where the other team (wearing a different color so you can easily pinpoint them) catches the ball and runs. Sometimes they just kneel down though, because it’s one of the rules. Don’t want to get into that one right now. After this the players face each other for the faceoff that starts every play. They look at each other until the ball hikes. But, if one of the players breaks eye contact with the player across from him, it’s a foul and they lose ten yards.
Moving on. Hope you are keeping up with all of this. So then the team leader, also known as the quarterback, has a big decision to make. He can throw the ball or he can secretly give it to someone. If he throws it he’ll scan the field for an open player. I forgot to tell you earlier that when the ball hikes some of the other players run out farther on the field towards the end zone. So, okay. The people are running and the leader throws it to one of them, and then they can either catch it or not. If they don’t catch it they have to try again, and everyone gets a little more stressed out. They have four of these tries until time is up and everyone gets really mad for real.
In the case of the leader giving the ball secretly to another person, that person must be super brave. This person must keep ahold of the ball or else. They are sent to run as far as possible and can only be stopped by a dog pile. Dog piles are a big deal in football because they really get on the refs’ nerves. The refs go crazy for a good dog pile and then the rule is they have to break them up. I really hope there’s a dog pile or two on Saturday. So after all these things happen, intermittently a touchdown is gained and that’s a way to get points, which is basically the goal (despite having a good time, obviously, haha). By the end, one of the teams will have won the game and will go home the victor (that part is inevitable, and I hope it is Yale).
I hope I was able to help some of you who didn’t know what to expect this weekend. Now you know that football is a blast to watch but is also complicated. It is okay even if you still don’t get what it is about. I still struggle with some of the confusing parts, and I’m even an expert.
I’ve always been indecisive. (For Halloween in the first grade, I dressed up as a Hawaiian-fairy-ice-princess.) Sometimes, when my judgement really fails me, I resort to arbitrary decision-making methods. When I found myself unable to choose a first choice college as a high school senior, I decided that I would base my preference on the outcome of an athletic competition that had never meant anything to me in the past: the annual Harvard-Yale football game, then in its 129th year. The two teams would make my decision for me — clearly, much more was at stake than just a centuries-long rivalry.
In the living room with my parents on either side of me, I had the TV turned on to NBC Sports — a rare occurrence in my household of music lovers. As the uniformed players marched into Harvard Stadium, I felt my excitement grow: this game — The Game — would determine my future. But by half time, I tired of pretending to understand football, and instead turned to the Harvard-Yale edition of the Yale Daily News that my mother (whose bias for the Bulldogs was hardly subtle) had brought me. While crimson-clad mammoths tackled their opponents onscreen, I remained captivated by the paper, reading stories of drunken tailgates, ridiculous encounters and the requisite number of hilarious Harvard-deprecating anecdotes. The next day I scanned the online version of The Harvard Crimson, looking for the same wit, humor and general sense of fun that I had seen in the News. I found it remarkably lacking. The Crimson’s own opinion section agreed that Harvard sucks — Rory Gilmore had clearly made the right call. It was my “And That’s Why I Chose Yale” moment.
A year later, I know I chose right, and the prospect of losing a football game now hardly threatens my security in that decision. As a member of Morse College, the college that “ALWAYS WINS,” I am familiar with the idea that one does not need to technically “win” to have actually won. It’s true that our football team scored fewer points than Harvard’s did last year, and that it may well happen again this year. But Yale truly won (beyond just winning my preference, clearly the day’s greatest prize) because our paper was better, our T-shirts were funnier, and our fans’ pride was based on something other than being ranked #1.
Whether or not we win the football game this year, we will have won the weekend. Because regardless of how many times the ball is thrown into whose end zone, we will spend the next week, cozy in our blue and white beds, sleeping off our hangovers while Cantabs head back to the classroom. We’ll win because we’ll look better cheering on our athletes — our girls are an A and our guys an A+ to Harvard’s C+ and B+, respectively (thanks, College Prowler!). We’ll win because when we host the game, there are always parties, because when we get there we won’t still be talking about our SAT scores, and because the last time Handsome Dan faced off against a crimson blanket, he fared pretty well.
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.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of Cole Porter’s graduation from Yale. In tribute, the Memorabilia Room of Sterling Memorial Library features “From Peru to Paree: A Cole Porter Jubilee,” an exhibit showcasing manuscripts, newspaper clippings, photo albums and other artifacts from both the public and private life of the celebrated composer. The mixed-media show, which includes a touchscreen monitor-headphones complex, spans his childhood, Yale years and professional life.
Porter is recognized as one of Broadway’s greatest composers, having penned perennial hits such as “Anything Goes,” “You’re the Top!” and “Night and Day.” But he is also the composer of “Bull Dog,” which I belted out for the first time as a freshman at last year’s Harvard-Yale game, packed among thousands of other Yalies in historic Harvard Stadium. I heard “Bull Dog” again in the Memorabilia Room through a pair of headphones in the exhibit’s audio installation. This version was a track off a 1991 EMI CD, sang by world-renowned American baritone Thomas Hampson and the Ambrosian Chorus, accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra. And while the song conjured images of the pomp and circumstance of another time, it was impossible not to identify with the unmistakable and unshakable Yale pride that Porter wrote into the score. Also up for sampling is “Down in the Depths of the 90th Floor,” a piece composed by Porter for the musical “Red, Hot, and Blue!” — the namesake of Yale’s oldest co-ed acapella group.
The exhibit progresses chronologically along the Memorabilia Room’s rectangular perimeter, giving the viewer a sense of journey and ultimately returning him to where he began, at the room’s entrance. A long exhibit case stands at the center, containing various scrapbooks and postcards that illustrate Porter’s frequent travels to Europe and other countries across the Atlantic. I paused before one postcard in particular, from Paris. On the front is a picture of Porter and two buddies, sitting on a barrel and raising their tall mugs (of what, I wonder?) to the camera. On the back, the postcard is addressed to Mme. Cole Porter, with only the simple inscription, “Just before having breakfast.” I marveled at it because I realized Porter had sent a pre-Snapchat Snapchat, and had he lived in 2013, I could easily imagine him navigating Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and turning those antique scrapbooks into Picasa Web Albums.
Near the front of the exhibit are a few of Porter’s childhood pictures. In one class photo, a primary school-age Porter wears a stylish, gold-braided coat, while others around him are attired in mundane, solid colors. According to Suzanne Lovejoy, the show’s lead curator, Porter’s mother liked to dress him up.
There are less than three weeks remaining between us and The Game. Exploring an exhibit on one of Yale’s most renowned musical alumni is well worth the study break — even if you’re just there to listen to “Bull Dog.”