Could You Ever Root For Yale?
Harvard-Yale is one of those times.
Harvard students rarely vote unanimously on any issue, but take a poll the Saturday before Thanksgiving and everyone will agree on the inferiority of the Eli. Even Harvard students who are ambivalent at best about football join in on this one day of the year where we can unrestrainedly express our elitism.
There are no factors here to compromise your partiality.
There’s no question of rooting for that one guy on the other team who’s about to set an Ivy League record.
There’s not a thought in anyone’s mind of cheering on the opposing quarterback because you went to school with his cousin.
“What do a Harvard student and a Yale student have in common?”
“They both got into Yale.”
Harvard rules. Yale sucks. On this day, these are indisputable facts.
But what if it was more complicated?
Chances are if you were into college sports in high school, you had a university team from your state that you supported. Maybe it was State, maybe it was U; maybe your grandparents went there, maybe your parents work there. Regardless, you followed your college team through thick and thin, from bowl games to recruiting violations and from gambling scandals to BCS balderdash.
And of course, the annual rivalry game.
State vs. U. The Battle for State Rights. And out come the terrible, terrible jokes.
“Why do they have Astroturf at XSU?”
“To keep the co-eds from grazing.”
It’s a lot like Harvard-Yale. This animosity runs deep.
And of course you’d never dream of rooting for the other team.
Until you move away from home. You watch from afar as your precious college team struggles and falls to a team from a nowhere conference like the Sun Belt. Wham, bam—a couple bad plays and that bowl berth is looking pretty slim.
But the season is young, and you need a team to follow. So you start sneaking glances at the scores of your rival team. They’re doing pretty well. It can’t hurt. It’s not permanent, you’re still faithful. Hey, it’s got the same word in the name. You gotta have state pride, right?
So it starts. And it only escalates.
Neither of your state teams is in contention? Conference pride, baby! The SEC is going down!
How does this relate to Harvard-Yale? I’m getting to it.
I’m well aware that the Ivy League does not send a team to the D-I AA playoffs. The possibility of Harvard or any Ivy team entering any kind of tournament is slim to none.
But suppose, in a parallel universe, that the Ivy Champion did go to the playoffs. And suppose that—still suspending belief here—one season that team was Yale. The big Bulldogs, going up against a D-I AA titan like Southern Illinois.
Do you cheer for Yale?
Don’t respond so quickly.
When you’re filling out those tournament brackets for March Madness—basketball being a team that is permitted to participate in the norms of college athletics—don’t you pick the Ivy entry to win in at least the first round, regardless of seed?
You don’t pick Goliath over David. You didn’t want to see the Yankees win the World Series this year, even if you found the Marlins as appealing as plain yogurt and even if you stopped watching in disgust after the League Championship Series (unless you are of that mutant breed known as Yankees fans).
Ivy League pride, anyone?
Because even if it’s our arch-nemesis, the better showing an Ivy team has in the real world of big-time football, the better it is for the legitimacy of Ivy football—and Harvard football. Well, that’s all very nice, but how does this relate to The Game?
Theoretical situation: Yale needs the edge in record to have a prayer against their first round opponent. Harvard stands in the way.
Suddenly the black and white fade to gray.
What is my point in all this? It’s all hypothetical, really. It’s not going to happen. The Ivies won’t send a football team to the D-I AA playoffs—and even if they did, naturally it wouldn’t be the likes of Yale.
But let’s just be happy that there’s no moral quandary this weekend. Let’s be happy we can wear obscene t-shirts and scream “scoreboard” and chant “Yale sucks” without any twinges of inner conflict.
—Staff writer Lisa J. Kennelly can be reached at email@example.com.