Looking Back at Harvard-Yale

How Sweep It Is
Flyby Blog

Harvard defeated Yale in the 127th playing of The Game this afternoon. The Crimson capped a four-year sweep for its seniors with the 28-21 victory.

The Game is turning 127 years old tomorrow and the campus is anxiously awaiting the confrontation. It’s easy to get sucked into the excitement, but it might leave you to wonder how it all got started in the first place.

1. Blood Bath

The Game of 1894, the “Hampden Park Blood Bath,” suspended further rematches of The Game for three years after four players were brutally injured. Newspapers reported that the players were carried off the field "in dying condition.”

During the period, severe injuries, and sometimes even death, occurred because of physical formations such as the flying wedge, a charging technique that Harvard introduced in 1892. In the flying wedge, a large group of the offense united and charged at a similarly organized group of the defense. It resulted in severe injuries on both sides. This strategy was effectively banned in 1895.

2. You Fancy, Huh?

In 1928, the Harvard Club of Boston provided special train cars for the ride to New Haven. The train was “outfitted in a manner calculated to make for the utmost enjoyment of those travelling” by train, according to a Crimson article at the time. Lunch and dinner were served, and sleeping, parlor, and club cars were all part of the deal. Talk about keeping things classy.

3. Harvard = Drop outs?

In 1885, Harvard’s Committee on Athletics recommended to the Faculty that football be suspended because it “put a premium on unfair play because it is profitable when it succeeds and it is unlikely to be detected by the referee.” The Committee on Athletics found that “the team that plays a gentlemanly game against one playing an unfair game will always be beaten.” Harvard’s Faculty unanimously agreed and announced that inter-collegiate football would be prohibited for the future.

4. Harvard Beats Yale 29-29

On November 23, 1968, Harvard and Yale met face to face at Harvard Stadium. Yale was leading 29-13 with 10:44 remaining on the clock. After several offensive plays, Harvard had a two-point conversion in the final moments in the game. Even though it resulted in a tie, The Crimson declared victory with the headline, “Harvard Beats Yale 29-29.’’ This famous headline provided the inspiration for Kevin Rafferty’s documentary in 2008.

5. MIT Crashes

Student pranks have happened at The Game, but many of the pranks aren’t even by Harvard or Yale, but by MIT! Known for their bizarre, engineering-driven stunts to disrupt The Game, MIT students found a way to embed a big weather balloon that automatically inflated midfield in 1982. And in 2006, male MIT students streaked across the football field during the Harvard-Yale game with "MIT" painted on their backs.

Photo by The Harvard Crimson.

This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: November 21, 2010

An earlier version of the Nov. 20 FlyBy post "Looking Back at Harvard-Yale" incorrectly reported that the MIT balloon prank occurred in 1892. The correct year is 1982.

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