AROUND THE IVIES: Harvard To Take On Quakers for Crown

Around the Ivies

UPDATED: Nov. 9, 2012, at 10:57 p.m.

It’s happening again.

Whoa, calm yourselves, my dear cheerleaders. No, Columbia’s not coming back.

Instead, I’m referring to Harvard and Penn playing for a share of the Ivy League title in the season’s penultimate week, which has happened 11 times in the past 13 seasons. Since the start of the millennium, one of the two programs has taken the conference championship in every year but two.

In other words, Harvard vs. Penn is like Lindsay Lohan at a rehab facility—we’ve been down this road many times before. But this year, the stakes are especially high on both sides. A victory tomorrow would allow Harvard to tie the Quakers with 15 Ivy League titles and would move Tim Murphy within one championship of Al Bagnoli (whose last name, you can’t disagree, sounds like it would be a delicious breakfast pastry).

It’s been a strange season for Penn football, which went 0-3 in non-conference play, even losing to William & Mary (who is 1-7 against everyone else). The Quakers needed a last-minute drive to squeak by Columbia, which is kind of like needing a harness to successfully climb up that hill where the Teletubbies live. And then it lost to Yale, which is like losing a tackle football game to the Teletubbies.

But in the past two weeks, Penn looked much more like the team that was picked second in the Ancient Eight preseason poll. It has hit its stride just in time, knocking off Brown and winning a huge game at Princeton to set itself up for a chance at the title.

Of course, had Penn just beaten the Bulldogs, it still would’ve controlled its destiny in the Ivy race going into the final week even with a loss to Harvard.

But the Crimson too has a defeat on its schedule that, like Clint Eastwood’s thought process, has become increasingly incomprehensible over time. Had Harvard topped Princeton three weeks ago, a win tomorrow would have guaranteed it a perfect 10-0 season (Yale’s on the schedule next week). That would have put the Crimson squarely in the discussion of the greatest Ivy football team of the modern era (which, of course, is a discussion nobody actually has, but that’s not the point). Harvard can still win an outright title, but its rank among the all-time greats has taken an unsalvageable hit.

So despite suffering a monumental hiccup as startling as that time Kramer went on that crazy racist rant, here both teams are. Penn comes in fresh off its impressive victory in Jersey, while Harvard barely survived a squeaker over Columbia last week. And when I say squeaker, I mean that in the Ali-Liston, Reagan-Mondale, Stalin-Trotsky sense.

Little known fact: the Lions’ loss was so pathetic that President Obama changed “Columbia” back to “Occidental College” on his resume. Columbia was competitive for a shorter time than the Tim Pawlenty presidential campaign, and even Karl Rove was willing to call the game by the end of the first quarter. By then, it was readily clear that Columbia was about as ready for the match as Mitt Romney was to concede Tuesday night, because the Harvard offense was so unstoppable that even Todd Akin admitted there was no way to shut that thing down. Things got so bad for the Lions that even Paul Ryan felt pity.

What was that? You want to relive more classic 2012 election moments through my witty analogies to Columbia’s patheticness? Well why didn’t you say so?

Big Bird really isn’t happy about the election results, because he’s dead. That’s right, after watching Columbia last weekend, the poor guy decided just to hang himself, thinking there was no hope left in the world. Nate Silver said afterwards that Columbia’s likeliness of losing was so high it broke his statistical models. Jim Lehrer didn’t have to ask what the differences were between the two teams because they were so blatantly obvious. Rick Perry was even able to remember the three things Columbia did wrong—not being incredibly awful at football, not being unbelievably terrible at football, and not being horrifically dreadful at football. After watching the game, Newt Gingrich proposed that the Lions’ players be the first ones to be sent to his moon colony with the requirement that they never return.

There, is that enough? No? You much prefer political satire to the wealth of 69 jokes I had at my disposal but probably wouldn’t have been allowed to print? Fine, if you insist.

After watching the Lions, Rick Santorum is somehow now even more strongly against encouraging people to go to college. America’s happy warrior Joe Biden is no longer laughing, because Columbia was the biggest piece of mularkey he had ever seen. The Lions made Richard Mourdock stop believing in God’s will, and after the game Pete Mangurian started asking his assistants to provide him with binders full of women because the men on his team were so bad. Herman Cain came up with a 9-9-9 plan to save the Lions before realizing that fixing the team was going to be much more challenging than fixing the tax code. Fox News even admitted Columbia football was a far more pressing disaster than the Benghazi attacks.

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