NEW HAVEN, Conn.—Before The Game, there was The Party—the annual Harvard-Yale tailgate.
Thousands of undergraduates wandered between rows of keg-filled, yellow U-Hauls, sail boats, a beer pong table and two Hummers.
“The Fox and Quincy House both had Hummers [at their tailgates],” said Quincy resident Heather K. Morris ’02. “I don’t know how they drove them down.”
Morris spent her afternoon “milling around, talking to people and drinking a lot,” and was just one of many Harvard students that made the two-hour trip to New Haven to support the Ivy League champion Crimson and to party, though not necessarily in that order.
Every other year thousands of Harvard students trek to The Game, but many never make it into the stadium. Instead fans spend their afternoon barbecuing, drinking or converging on tailgates like the Owl’s, which featured a beer pong table and a club-grade sound system under a large tent.
“I didn’t go into the game, because I figured we would win anyway,” said Schuyler O. Mann ’05, who spent most of the afternoon tailgating with baseball teammates. “It was very fun though. There were crazy, crazy seniors doing crazy things.”
However, with Harvard entering The Game a perfect 8-0 and ranked No. 18 in Div. I-AA, veteran tailgaters said they noticed an increased interest in the action on the field instead of in the parking lot, especially among seniors who had never witnessed a victory over Yale.
“I don’t think [the success of the football team] made more people come to the game, but it made more people go in,” Morris said. “I went in for the whole second half, and last year I only went in for five minutes.”
The excitement of the fans was evident to the team, which played in front of 51,634 rowdy spectators. Harvard Coach Tim Murphy likened the Harvard fans to a “twelfth man” while acknowledging them at the postgame press conference.
The hours of pre-game tailgating played a part in the post-game frenzy.
Misha V. Koshelev ’02 said he spent much of the afternoon drinking. He said that alcohol contributed to his antics when he ran toward one of the field’s goalposts despite repeated warnings over the public address system.
“I basically just sat on top of the AEPi U-Haul and yelled the names of people I saw that I knew,” Koshelev said.
A few hours later, he rushed onto the field after the game ended.
“I charged the goal post, and then the cops started spraying what I thought was water but turned out to be mace,” Koshelev said. “It started burning.”
Koshelev’s experience, though, was atypical. For many students The Game was a chance to escape from the hustle of campus life and the confines of the Yard.
Ari K. Appel ’03 stayed two nights in New Haven, and spent much of his time drifting between various social groups’ tailgates.
“The road trip was key,” Appel said. “My idea was to get away for the weekend.”