It was not until the year of our Lord 1999 that the Faculty of Harvard College considered the game of foot-ball sufficiently pruned of its objectionable features to warrant them in giving permission to the students to engage in inter collegiate contests. A description of the Yale-Harvard game of 1999 will give a good idea of the manner of playing the game in that year.
Jarvis Field was the scene of the contest; but old Jarvis had undergone a great transformation since the days of Eliot the First. A soft, closely cropped turf covered the broad field, and on either side were lofty grand stands, equalled in beauty of architecture only by the ancient amphitheatre of Pompey. Everything indicated that Harvard had recovered from that dread disease, impecunia.
On the day when the two great rival colleges were to contend for the laurel of victory, a great crowd of spectators had gathered on the field. The grand stands were resplendent with beauty of face and of color. Foot-ball was now almost as popular with the fair sex as progressive euchre. The appearance of the contestants was awaited with great eagerness. At last they came, and were greeted by generous applause. But not a college cheer was heard; for such an undignified manifestation of approval in these days of gentle manners was considered an unpardonable breach of etiquette and decorum. But the players - a student of 1885 would not have recognized the brawny athletes of his day in these aesthetic youths. Each player wore a dress coat of spotless black, a shirt whose bosom glistened with the starch of Brines' Troy Laundry, knickerbockers of the most approved Oscar Wilde pattern, and in his hand carried a crush hat. The two sides were distinguished by a bit of ribbon in the button-hole of each man; the Yale men as of old, wore light blue; the Harvard men, pale pink, crimson having been discarded long before as being too loud. The ball used was perfectly round, about half the size of a Rugby, and covered with velvet of delicate tint.
The Professor of Fine Arts had been chosen referee. The captains of the two elevens drew lots with straws for the possession of the ball. Yale won, and the game began. Yale's centrerush, the beautiful symmety of whose calf and the bewitching twirl of whose moustache were especially admired by the ladies, took the ball and ran gracefully towards his opponents' goal. He had not gone far when a Harvard man gently laid his hand upon his shoulder and begged him to stop. Thereupon the sides lined up. The quarter-back passed the ball to the half-back, who kicked it with such ravishing grace that it excited the admiration of every spectator. In endeavoring to secure the ball, a Harvard man accidentally bumped into a Yale man, upon perceiving which the referee called time. Each man begged the other's pardon and was profuse in his apologies. This having been amicably settled, and the cuffs and collars carefully adjusted, the game continued. Soon the velvety sphere was in the possession of a wearer of the pink. As he ran down the field, the ease of his motion, the exquisite mould of his features, and the god like brilliancy of his diamond shirt stud glistening in the sun-light, drew forth long and continued applause. A touch-down was made, but, out of courtesty to Yale, who had not yet scored, no attempt was made for a goal. An intermission of half an hour followed, during which the contestants indulged in ice cream and ladies' fingers; ten minutes more were allowed for re-arranging the toilet.
After time had been called for the second half, hardly ten minutes had elapsed when two serious accidents had occurred. A champion of the blue, in his undue haste in trying to get the ball, slipped and fell, tearing a serious rent in his knickerbockers, which necessitated his withdrawal from the field and the filling of his place with a substitute. The other accident happened to a Harvard man, who, in some way smutched his Troy-laundried shirk bosom, obliging him to retire to the gymnasium in order to make a change. These were the only serious accidents of the game. The feature of the game was a remarkable play by the Yale endrush, who, catching the ball with skill which would have made Nausicaa and her maids turn green with envy, run with the speed of a winged Mercury toward Harvard's goal, at the same time displaying to full advantage, a row of pearl-like teeth, and a beautiful pair of side whiskers, through which the gentle zephyrs softly whistled as he proudly bore his treasure down the field. A touch down was made, from which the full-back kicked a goal, which, considering the perfect symmetry of the curve described by the ball in passing over the bar, the graceful movements of the kicker, and the unequalized adjustment of his cravat, was undoubtedly the most beautiful goal ever kicked on Jarvis. Shortly after, an unfortunate incident marred the otherwise gentlemanly played game. A Yale rusher was disqualified by the referee for neglecting to beg the pardon of a man upon whose toe he had accidentally trodden. It was thought that on account of his indecorous conduct the faculty might withhold permission to play any more inter-collegiate games. The game ceased with Yale the winner; whereupon the fair wearers of the blue tripped lightly o'er the turf and were borne off in triumph in the arms of the victors.