There are two things at Harvard, an older and wiser roommate of mine once told me, that are never in short supply; black bean soup and advice.
While the former is questionable, at least according to one dining hall official I know (who will remain anonymous), the latter is not: from the summer before freshman year to commencement, Harvard students are deluged with thousands of welcome and not-so-welcome tips on how to live life at Harvard. Add that to the copies of "Life's Little Instruction Book" that we all received as high school graduation presents, and you've got overkill.
Nevertheless, never being one to shy away from a patronizing comment or two, I must add one unmentioned little bit of guidance to the thousands. While conceding that as a senior I still don't have a damn clue about how to live life at Harvard, I do feel that I can give one piece of advice without feeling like a fraud:
Don't miss the Dartmouth football game.
O.K., I know, your Dartmouth friends that hope that we care enough about their little school in Vermont (did I say Vermont?) to hate it have been telling you that for years. So what?
Dartmouth is still a school of obnoxious, drunken laggards who put out pernicious little opinion journals funded by the John Birch Society and show up on my doorstep in a drunken stupor for the Head of the Charles weekend, you say. Right?
Right. But that's all the more reason to go to the game. After al, for the past two years, Harvard has put out its best efforts against the Big Green. I have missed both, and those two heart-wrenching absences have been the only two times that I have regretted missing a Harvard football game.
Last season the Dartmouth game was the only Harvard game I missed. I rode in a car 20 hours to see the team get squashed by William and Mary. I drove through the New York plains for a total of ten hours to see the team get smashed in hail and rain by Cornell. But I refused to drag my ass from North House to Hanover to watch our gridders play the three-time Ivy League champion behemoths from the north.
My bad: it was our best game of the year.
Behind the running and passing of Mike Giardi, the kicking of Mark Hall, including a 51-yard field goal, and a brilliant, 52-yard interception return by Chris Andre, the Crimson got out to a 28-11 lead. Although Dartmouth stormed back with four touchdowns in a row, and ultimately won the game, 39-34, it was a "moral" victory at any rate: the Big Green went on to finish second in the league, while we tied for seventh; in addition, Dartmouth sweatshirts sold out at J. August, while Harvard sweatshirts experienced a decline in sales.
It was a bright spot in a dark season all-around, for sure, but I didn't learn my lesson.
This year, the Dartmouth game isn't the only game that I have missed. But I have braved the New York subway system to watch the Crimson narrowly defeat Columbia. I have watched the Crimson get trounced by a team wearing the same helmet logos as did the Buffalo Bills during the 1970s (Bucknell). Still, though, I decided to forgo the road trip to John Sununu country this weekend. My parents were in town and I have two mid-terms this week.
Again, my bad: it was our best game of the year.
Again, the spark came from our quarterback, running back and kicker. Vin Ferrara posted the sixth-best passing total in school history, going 19 of 22 for 302 yards in the air. Hu carried 38 times for 166 yards and two touchdowns. And Hannon nailed five extra points (O.K., I'm stretching the comparison thing).
It was a great day: nice weather, good football, lots of anti-Harvard t-shirts. And I missed it.
I don't know if Saturday's game will go down as a bright spot in a dark season. Harvard has three games left, and J. August doesn't sell Dartmouth sweatshirts anymore.
I do know, however, that I missed the best game the Crimson has played in two years.
If only I were starting over again....