In the autumn of 1985, I couldn't get anyone to go to New Haven with me. I called up a friend at Boston University. At first she said she'd love to go. Two days later, she called and said she couldn't. Her roommate's goldfish had just died and they were having a funeral.
I had two tickets to The Game, you see. The Big Event. Heck, this game even meant something. If Harvard won, it would earn at least a share of the Ivy League title. But no one would go with me.
These were two great tickets. My roommate had secured them from the friend of a friend's aunt. They were the best seats in the entire Yale Bowl. At least that what my roommate's friend's aunt had told my friend's friend who was my rommmate.
I was a freshman. The Amtrak would leave South Station for New Haven at six in the morning. I was going to catch it and sleep on the ride down.
I awoke at 8:30.
It was cold. I was tired and hungry. I ran to the Freshman Union, in front of which was a bus leaving for New Haven. "Got any room?" I asked the driver.
"Sure," he said. "Twenty-five bucks."
Sure. It was The Game.
When I got to New Haven, I knew I had to sell one of my two tickets. I hung outside the Yale Bowl, huddled in my army jacket, looking like a convict. At everyone who passed by I intoned, "Psst. Need a ticket?"
Today I was like the guy in the slick overcoat who always stands outside of Bright Center selling hockey tickets. "Psst. Need a ticket, buddy? Best seat in the house."
Three people, a man and two women, approached. The two women had seats. The man, middle aged with streaks of gray in his hair, didn't, "How much?" he asked.
"It's the best seat in the house," I said.
I charged him face value. I wasn't much of a scalper.
The best seats in the house proved to be way up in row ZZZ. I settled into my seat. The man who I had sold the ticket to soon followed, climbing up the endless flight of steps, and sat next to me. We didn't speak to each other the whole game.
Best seats in the house.
I couldn't tell if it was football or rugby or tag-team wrestling they were playing down there. The people around me didn't seem to care. They were passing around a bottle of whiskey.
They offered me a swig. I refused. They offered the man next to me a swig. He refused. We watched The Game intently.
Harvard was the big favorite in The Game. And the Crimson fell behind. But the people around me didn't care. The passed around the bottle. "Go, Harvard," I yelled at one point. My words fluttered down to row XX and got smothered on some woman's hat. After that, I remained quiet.
The bottle came around again. I refused. The man next to me took a swig.
Harvard had pulled off a few miracle comebacks that year. The team scored three touchdowns in 41 seconds against Holy Cross to win, 28-20. But with the Crimson falling behind, I still had faith.
The bottle came around again. I resisted.
By the middle of the fourth quarter, the people in my section were singing. The man sitting next to me was singing. There was no more whiskey. There was nothing but little men in bright-colored clothing on a field way down below. We were up in the clouds and the angels were singing.
And then The Game was over. It got dark fast. I forgot where I was supposed to meet the bus. It was cold and I had no gloves. I was hungry, too, but there were no concessions stands, just old folks wearing Yale blue next to rows and rows of cars with oceans of ham and cheese and roast beef flowing out the back. But whenever I approached, they'd look at me dubiously. A guy would say, "May I help you?" and I'd say, "No, just looking, thanks." Oceans of ham and cheese and roast beef. And I couldn't swim.
There were bonfires on the fields where I walked. I marched from bonfire to bonfire, warming my hands, looking in the distance for the bus. Wind wrapped around me like a blanket. I began to shiver. There were still chants, worn-over remnants of a sad Game. "Har-vard sucks. Har-vard sucks."
Right. And you won't even feed me.
The bus was stuck in a patch of mud on the far end of the hundredth field I had traversed that day. On the ride back to Cambridge, I kept seeing flashes of The Game. Tiny dots of blue and crimson moving on a field of green. The blue dots were just better that day. Then I thought about the girl at B.U. and the goldfish.
I was a freshman. There would be other Games.
The Series (The Last 25 Years)
1986 Harvard 24, Yale 17
1985 Yale 17, Harvard 6
1984 Yale 30, Harvard 27
1983 Harvard 16, Yale 7
1982 Harvard 45, Yale 7
1981 Yale 28, Harvard 0
1980 Yale 14, Harvard 0
1979 Harvard 22, Yale 7
1978 Yale 35, Harvard 28
1977 Yale 24, Harvard 7
1976 Yale 21, Harvard 7
1975 Harvard 10, Yale 7
1974 Harvard 21, Yale 16
1973 Yale 35, Harvard 0
1972 Yale 28, Harvard 17
1971 Harvard 35, Yale 16
1970 Harvard 14, Yale 12
1969 Yale 7, Harvard 0
1968 Harvard 29, Yale 29
1967 Yale 24, Harvard 20
1966 Harvard 17, Yale 0
1965 Harvard 13, Yale 0
1964 Harvard 18, Yale 14
1963 Yale 20, Harvard 6
1962 Harvard 14, Yale 6