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The Game, 30 Years Ago

Crimson History: November 23, 1974

The CRIMSON Archives

The front page of the fake Yale Daily News printed by Crimson staffers for the 1969 Harvard-Yale Game

A glimpse of Harvard's hallowed antiquity, as preserved in the pages of The Crimson:

In anticipation of the 1974 Harvard-Yale Game, The Crimson published this article, detailing past efforts of The Crimson and the Yale Daily News (YDN) to spoof their sister publications. On the day of the 1974 Game, the YDN distributed fake Crimsons throughout Harvard dining halls claiming a huge drop in Harvard’s endowment. The plot was foiled in advance by a tip from an Associated Press reporter, and the issues were promptly removed.

Throughout the fall of 1969, Yale students felt the presence of national attention as the press scrutinized the first weeks of coeducation at Yale. And throughout the fall, the Eli football team felt the pressure build as the Harvard game approached, the first meeting since Harvard dramatically came from behind to win, 29-29.

But suddenly on the morning of the contest, The Game was cancelled. According to an extra edition of the Yale Daily News, 16 football players had come down with gonorrhea contracted from three Yale cheerleaders in a party after the Brown game six weeks earlier. Harvard had won by forfeit.

The fifty thousand who watched the Harvard-Yale contest in the Bowl on November 22, 1969 know that The Game was, indeed, not cancelled. By that time of the afternoon, many of them realized that the Yalie Daily extra was not produced by Eli staffers, but by members of The Harvard Crimson aiming to shake the already nervous New Haven community.

The scheme was hatched in the minds of Tom Southwick ’71 and sports editor John Powers to insure Harvard struck a blow that the Elis would remember even should they emerge victorious that afternoon.

“We’ll put out a fake Yale Daily News,” Southwick said, “revealing that the entire Yale football team came down with hepatitis and had to forfeit the football game.”

Remembering the attention being drawn to Yale’s first semester of coeducation Powers suggested hepatitis be changed to syphilis.

During the course of writing, the scope of the rampaging disease was pruned down to 16 starters with gonorrhea. Five thousand copies were run off by the Crimson and a marauding band of editors had put one by every Yalie’s door by dawn that Saturday.

To insure the story took full effect, Powers and Ben Beach ’71 climbed through an open window at the Daily News building and called everyone they could think of including AP, UPI, The New York Times, The New Haven Register, and WRKO, “All the heavies,” Powers said. “We were really putting the massive hurt to New Haven.”

AP and UPI did not swallow the story the first time and called back. Powers and Beach dutifully answered the News’s phones early that Morning and informed everyone that the story was completely true.

“This was our finest moment,” Powers said. “AP fell for it and called everyone they could think of at Yale. It was 6:10 am.”

Since then, with the exception of last year, the Crimson and the Yalie Daily have been exchanging hoaxes. When Harvard Harvard hosted The Game in 1970, a fake issue of the Crimson proclaimed the Harvard Corporation had chosen Nixon advisor Daniel P. Moynihan, professor of Education on leave, to replace retiring President Nathan M. Pusey ’28.

In 1971, a fake Yale Daily News said that Yale was tearing down the Bowl and was replacing it with a domed stadium in downtown New Haven. A hoax Crimson issued the morning after The Game in 1972 announced Henry Kissinger would return to Harvard in January 1973.

Many Harvard students believed the made-up news about Kissinger as many will probably believe whatever the Yalie Daily should come up with next. So if some startling news should take the form of a Crimson extra this weekend, don’t swallow it—at least right off.

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