Ultimate Tailgate Potential With Soccer Victory

This Saturday, the Crimson faithful might not have to choose between the tailgate and The Game.

And no, it’s not because the tailgate will not allow outside alcohol and will charge a dollar per beverage within its gates.

Instead, there is a possibility—quite an intriguing one at that—that the Harvard men’s soccer team will be hosting the third round of the NCAA Tournament on Ohiri Field concurrently with the tailgate.

That’s the Sweet Sixteen of college soccer, people.

Now, granted this possibility comes with a giant “if”: the Crimson would have to beat eighth-seeded UCLA in Los Angeles on Wednesday and have Gardner-Webb (a team whose nickname, quite ironically, is the Bulldogs) upset ninth-seeded Clemson on the same day.

But then, in this glorious hypothetical, Harvard would earn one more home game as the higher seed, and the contest would be slated to take place here in Cambridge on Saturday or Sunday. Isn’t the one thing that could save a disaster of a tailgate the prospect that probably the biggest game any Crimson team will play all season would take place inside of the tailgate itself?

As you can tell, I am pretty excited just by the thought of it—this could be the most exciting sporting event (and possibly the most supported and best attended, excluding football games) of my entire four years here. What better way to stick it to those Eli punks who show up in Cambridge than by watching an Elite Eight berth in the making?

Okay, so obviously this fantasy of mine, if possible, is far-fetched. But let’s break down why this is going to, or, for those who would label themselves “realistic,” could happen.

First of all, Harvard needs to beat UCLA on the road. Just the name “Bruins” strikes fear in the hearts of the college sports teams around the country. Heck, the school’s sports website looks more like ESPN.com than Harvard’s gocrimson.com, a good site by most college standards.

UCLA has one of the best athletic programs in the country and its soccer team is no different: eight of its players earned All-Pac-10 nods for their play during the regular season.

But so what? In the NSCAA/adidas national rankings that came out last week—after the final regular-season games—the mighty Bruins came in at No. 22. For those not in the know, that is a full nine spots behind the Crimson, which climbed to No. 13.

And what about UCLA’s 10-5-4 record? It’s good for a Pac-10 team, but it still lost twice to Cal—seeded 13th in the tournament—by two or more goals.

Harvard, with its 14-4-0 record, has beaten Fairfield and Brown—two teams still alive for the championship—by a combined score of 8-3. And don’t forget, the Crimson is currently on a nine-game winning streak. So Harvard might not romp, but it will definitely challenge the Bruins.

The other favorable result in the bracket might take a little more luck, but is still possible. First of all, any team that has made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament is not a joke—despite its unfortunate similarity to the terrible Bulldogs of Yale, who finished sixth in the Ivy League. Gardner-Webb did eke out a win in penalty kicks in the opening record over the Blazers of UAB, who had a 1-0-1 record against third-seeded SMU during the regular season.

Again, having No. 10 Clemson fall to a 10-7-3 team seems less possible, but still could easily happen.

Even if both games go the right way on Wednesday, the NCAA committee might give in to the pleas of a Harvard administration trying to avoid the complete chaos that could be caused by a tailgate on the practice fields during a NCAA Tournament game on Ohiri itself.

But this student has his own plea: make the choice between the tailgate and the game an easy one for Harvard students and alumni alike this year. Let the game go on.

It could be the sports-related highlight of the decade for all of our school’s faithful, from that curly blond-hair guy who always paints his chest to humble sportswriters like me.

—Staff writer Gabriel M. Velez can be reached at gmvelez@fas.harvard.edu.

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