Sex, Lies, and Athletic Tape


Over at Deadspin, I’ve got a dispatch from this year’s Harvard-Yale game. It’s the 126th time the two have met, and, in both pretension and pageantry, it lives up to your expectations. One of my favorite details from this story was the dust-up over an (allegedly) politically incorrect T-shirt created by Yale students. The administration ended up pushing this anodyne design on the students—but not on too many, judging from the small number I saw at the tailgate.

I’ll include some more photos at the end of this post, but, first, here are a few things I couldn’t fit in. (I should also mention the many helpful books on Ivy League sports—and the fact that, with only two days to turn this story around, I had to skim most of them for the football sections. If the Matt Maloney era at Penn taught us anything, though, it’s that Ivy football is not alone.)

  • Speaking of books: near the end of my story, I mention The Only Game That Matters, a humbly titled history of Harvard-Yale football. Even with its hyper-literate potential audience, this book sold only 3,200 copies (Nielsen Book Scan) and is now out of print—another example of the Harvard-Yale rivalry producing more hype than results. I will point out that, in my copy, checked out from Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library, someone had enthusiastically underlined and starred a passage about how Harvard and Yale’s history predates the United States’. Another passage getting the underline-star treatment? “Beating Harvard was, is, and always will be the yardstick by which joy is measured in New Haven.” This, of course, is complete baloney.
  • One person I talked to while working on the story was Jim Fuller, who covers the Yale football beat for the New Haven Register (and runs a nice blog on the same subject). In 2009, the Ivy League replaced its annual media day with a conference call, and Jim argued that this decision will further diminish the League’s relevance. Last year, when a victory over Yale would have given Brown a share of the Ivy title, the Bears’ coach didn’t even come out for interviews because no local media showed up. One other metamedia note: I found it fascinating how many of these odes to the Ivy League mentioned the success former players were having on Wall Street. We’ll have to see how the post-populist coverage of The Game evolves.
  • Let me also draw your attention to “Yale and Athletics” [.pdf], a 1980 address delivered by Yale president A. Bartlett Giamatti. Giamatti—professor of English, commissioner of baseball, and father of Paul—offers a knee-buckling display of erudition. Citing everything from a decade-by-decade comparison of Yale varsity sports’ winning percentage to a long passage from John Henry Newman, Giamatti lays out college athletics’ twinned heritage from the Greeks and nineteenth-century English educators. He also offers some refreshing transparency: “We need always to recall that the production of revenue is as much a part of the picture of Yale athletics as the provision of services and opportunities.”
  • From Bartlett to some quotations overheard at this year’s tailgate: “I was just last weekend at the Stanford-USC game. It’s been a big eight days for me!”; “Man up! It’s Harvard-Yale. Man up!”; “Look, it’s Jeremy Shockey” [This was a Harvard frat guy calling out a Yale frat guy, and I have to say: Yale students struck me as about 30 percent more grating, though this might have been some kind of home-field advantage].

Deadspin ran its own Harvard-Yale gallery, but here are a few I snapped myself. If nothing else, they’ll serve as a reminder that The Game attracts more than just doltish undergrads.

[But doltish undergrads are the most fun, aren’t they?]

About Craig Fehrman

Craig Fehrman is a Ph.D. student in Yale’s English department and a freelance writer. He's working on a book about presidents and their books [more] . . .
This entry was posted in Academia, All History is Local History, Features, Sports. Bookmark the permalink.

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