Fight Fiercely Harvard:
Cheerleading was reborn at Harvard two years ago. With a little help from the athletic department. 14 women and four men agreed to attempt to resurrect an art form that had died amidst the politics and protest of the late sixties.
Well-scrubbed, pep-filled, and pom-pommed, the cheerleading unit debuted early in the football season. They cried:
Crimson, ready, fight
Go Crimson, fight
We've got spirit, we've got might
Go Crimson, fight
The Harvard Band survived the sixties more easily: in the last few years, in fact, they've assumed the role of cantankerous artistic arbiter at Harvard Stadium. The Band looks at sports the way a lot of people here do; they are out to have fun, down a little booze, and sit in the sun. They lack pep.
So when the cheerleaders began their routines, the Band came up with its own set of cheers. A sampler:
Tear his arm off
Tear his leg off
We love football
Beat him, beat him
Buck him, buck him
Knock him down and really
Kick the shit out of him
The cheerleaders kept plugging, ignoring the caustic jibes of the band. But the Band would not be still. They yelled:
Two, four, six, eight
Cheerleaders, roll over and die.
The cheerleaders tended to stay away from the Band thereafter, preferring to remain near the good seats, where the alumni sit.
Sports at Harvard live in a strange middle kingdom. On one hand, there are some of the best athletes in the country here--people who could have gotten scholarships almost anywhere they wanted. And Harvard has the facilities--brand new pool, hockey rink, indoor track and (with luck) basketball arena--to keep these folks happy and limber.
But at the same time, this is Harvard, you know, and most people here have more chance of being all-state in poetry than punting. There are hundreds of people here who think the Multiflex is a destabilized carbon compound. So sports, not surprisingly, is not what you would call a big part of their lives.
If you head down to Kirkland House on a Saturday in October, you might think our ivied bricks had been airmailed to Columbus, Ohio or Lincoln, Nebraska. Jocks do exist at Harvard--that is for sure. For everyone who doesn't know the difference between a down-and-out and being down-and-out, there are a couple who think reading period is the time when a quarterback tries to figure out a defense. Not that the bookish wonks or the dumb jocks are revered characters on campus. There is really no such thing as a Big (Wo) Man on Campus at Harvard; few people could pick the quarterback of the football team or the head of the student government out of a lineup. But that both the wonks and the jocks can live in peaceful detente at Harvard represents one of the University's happiest achievements.
Herewith, then, is a brief guide around the Harvard sporting scene:
Fall in Cambridge means Ivy League football. First of all, don't sneer. You may have heard (if you care at all about these matters) that Ivy League football is the preoccupation of 135-pound weaklings who would like nothing better than to get back to their physics homework. But while it ain't the Big 10, football among the Ivies can be every bit as exciting and almost as well-played. The rivalries are ancient (they don't call it The Game for nothing), the scores close, and the level of play generally impressive.
For the past ten years, Harvard football has meant Joe Restic. Rarely does the coach of a football team dominate a program the way Restic does the Crimson. The coach's trademark--and occasionally his cross to bear--is the Multiflex, an offensive system that provides a multitude of formations, daring plays, and backfield-in-motion penalties each game. It is a rare football crowd that collectively giggles at anything, but when the Harvard team lines up with its famous no-backfield set, that is the sound emanating from the bleachers. The Multiflex, alas, is more pretty than successful. Though Restic is regularly mentioned for big-time college and professional jobs, his reputation is better than his team's records. Harvard has only won the league outright once under Restic (1975), and his cumulative record is 54-35-2.
Last year was one of the better outings in recent history. and. but for several key injuries, might have been another possible championship. Led by quarterback Brian Buckley an 11th-round draft pick of the New England Patriots), the Crimson won its first four games, ncluding a 15-10 thriller at Army. But Buckley panged his knee and the team stumbled at mid-season, eventually finishing with a 7-3 mark, a third-place tie in the Ivies. Despite the fine record, the season ended on a dismal note, a 14-0 humiliation at the hands of Yale.
But what of this year? The quarterback is always the key to a Restic offense and the coach does not have a sure prospect. What he does have is Ron Cuccia, one of the most exciting players the Crimson has had in years, who was a legendary high-school qb in Los Angeles, but who has played mostly wide receiver in college. Will Restic risk the diminutive (5-ft., 8-in.) speedster as a signal-caller or tap one of his untested charges? Regardless. Harvard will be strong at running back, led by bruising fullback Jim Callinan. The defense, except for a superb secondary, is nexperienced.
Win or lose, the football team always draws respectable crowds--most of which busies itself in hip-flasks immediately and often. Few people (the players, alumni and sportswriters excepted) care much about whether the team wins or loses. Even fewer think the cheerleaders would help. But everyone goes to The Game. i.e., the Yale game.
Harvard fields other intercollegiate squads in the fall, but, with the possible exception of a perenially terrific woman's soccer team, they draw little fan interest. But whether you're watching the crew boats--Cambridge's most popular way of doing nothing--jogging, or sleeping, it is wise to do it outside in this area's most beautiful season. Intramural tackle football among the Houses will never be mistaken for the NFL, but many people enjoy it a lot. Check out a game.
You might also want to check out the rugby team. Rugby is not a varsity sport, even though it attracts as many participants as any sport here except football. Rumor has it the reason the team refuses to take varsity status is that it would then have to spend less money on beer. Their staggering booze intake not-withstanding, the ruggers were the best team in the East last year and finished second in the country.
Soon the winter comes, with reading period hot on its tail. The truly sportif, however, remain undaunted. Many folks come to Harvard unschooled in the joys of college hockey, but one winter usually enlightens them This is not the NFL--no fighting here. Rather, it is clean, fast, exciting hockey and Harvard has a grand tradition. Times had been lean until last year, until the icemen (as they are known in Crimson headlines) pulled off the upset of the year in the Beanpot, the annual Boston-area collegiate championship at the Boston Garden. Coach Bill Cleary's boys should improve substantially this year, and provide their partisans with more triumphs.
Basketball has long been a wasteland at Harvard, but those days seem emphatically over. Crippled by the worst facility this side of Moskva--the ancient and decrepit Indoor Athletic Building--the hoopsters could not convince any serious ballplayers to spend four years here. But the team has a new arena under construction. Briggs Cage, a few good recruiting years under its belt, and a first-ever Ivy championship within reach. Look for coach Frank McLaughlin (the Bronx's Ambassador to Harvard) and his squad to give traditional powers Penn and Princeton a run for the laurels this year.
Harvard men's squash has presided over an old dynasty and men's swimming over a new one, but despite their regional prominence, neither appeal to many people outside of a small, dedicated group of followers. Suffice it to say, if you haven't played squash before (read: gone to prep school), you're not going to have much chance of making the squash team. And further, if you haven't swum in high school, you're not going to be able to join crafty coach Joe Bernal's talented team in cushy Blodgett Pool.
Spectator sports go the way of the frost come spring; sure, some people go to lacrosse (particularly to see Harvard's women's team, best in the East last year) and a few watch the baseball team, and a couple more put on their lime pants to watch the crew races, but not many people do any of that. The men's tennis team, which bested Princeton and advanced to the national championships last year for the first time ever, did so in virtual privacy. It may be academic vigilance, rampant romance or, most likely, mere tradition, but Harvard thrill-seekers tend to head toward Fenway Park rather than Soldiers Field in the spring.
That's really too bad. On the basis of performance against other schools, Harvard is probably best in the spring. The Harvard crew, for example, is legendary. Coached by stone-countenanced and mysterious Harry Parker, the heavyweights have dominated the nation for years. The heavies finally lost their annual four-mile race with Yale in June for the first time in 19 years. (Rumors that crew alums subsequently left Parker alone in a room with a loaded pistol did not, however, prove accurate).
Sports at Harvard can, in general, be a happy part of anyone's life here. A good rule to remember is this: Never assume anyone else's level of interest is the same as your own, and respect him or her for it. Most people fall somewhere between the library-bound wonks and the slow-witted jocks, and manage to carve a satisfactory (for them) portion of athletic turf to call their own--whether it's in the stands or on the field. Rarely enough do Harvard students get to control their relations with the University; sports are a happy exception.