Every year, the hard-working students of Harvard and Yale shut their books for a weekend and loosen up by tailgating, watching football, enjoying the tradition of the 129-year rivalry—and oh yes, pulling pranks.
The Game has long provided an opportunity for pranksters to make their mark on the rivalry. The Harvard Lampoon kidnapped Handsome Dan II, Yale’s mascot, prior to the 1933 Game. Photographs later showed the bulldog licking the feet of the John Harvard Statue (after slabs of meat had been smeared on them).
In 1961, The Crimson handed out a parody of The Yale Daily News indicating that President John F. Kennedy ‘40 would be at the game in New Haven. At The Game, Robert Ellis Smith ‘62, the President of The Crimson, wore a mask of the President and walked across the field, flanked by “Secret Service” agents, as the Harvard Band played “Hail to the Chief.” Reportedly, thousands of spectators were fooled.
Yale has struck back, though, including carrying out arguably the most notorious prank to date in 2004.
A group of Yale students dressed as the “Harvard Pep Squad” handed out thousands of placards to unsuspecting Harvard fans, telling them that they would read, “GO HARVARD.” In fact, they read “WE SUCK.” The prank made national news and was featured on ESPN.
In 1992, when the Harvard Band tried to “X-out” the Yale Precision Marching Band as it stood in its “Y formation,” the Yale Band quickly moved into a large “H formation” as the Harvard band approached so that Harvard X-ed itself out.
Harvard and Yale are not the only schools to join in on the fun, though, as MIT has famously pulled several pranks at The Game and stolen the show.
In 1982, MIT students planted a black weather balloon painted with “MIT” under the 45-yard line. After a Harvard score during the second quarter, the balloon burst out of the ground, exploding and sending talcum powder all over the field.
MIT students launched a rocket carrying an MIT banner over the goalposts in 1990, and in 2006 replaced the “VE-RI-TAS” logo on the Harvard Stadium scoreboard with “HU-GE-EGO.”
These pranks—even when perpetrated by students from other schools—have undeniably become an integral part of The Game and the Harvard-Yale rivalry.