Harvard football had won nine straight games against Yale, but it was the Bulldogs who went streaking on Saturday.
Near the end of the third quarter, with the score even at 14, a group of Yale students stood up on the wall separating the field from the stands. Not very noteworthy, except for the fact that the students were completely naked. The tradition, known as the Saybrook Strip, can be traced all the way back to the 1970s.
The game-delaying strip was not the most surprising sight at Harvard Stadium on Saturday, however. Seeing a wave of blue stream onto the field as the clock expired and seeing Harvard players jog back to the locker room was totally unexpected. Cliché time: it kind of felt like an episode of The Twilight Zone.
After Joe Viviano was chased out of the pocket on the game’s final play, it was hard to imagine he would be able to complete a game-saving Hail Mary. The senior quarterback threw up a jump ball between Adam Scott, Anthony Firkser, and Yale’s Jason Alessi. Firkser made a bid for it, but Alessi swooped in to break up the play.
As soon as the ball hit the turf, Yale fans and players alike went berzerk. I can still hear a faint ringing in my ears from the crazed reaction of the Yale radio crew, which was unfortunately seated directly behind me. I guess that’s what happens when nearly a decade of futility comes to a merciful end.
The Bulldogs win was made official after quarterback Kurt Rawlings took a knee on the next play. A quick look at the scoreboard cemented the reality in Harvard fans’ minds. Final score: Yale 21, Harvard 14. Game clock: 00:00.
Harvard students are, on average, infinitely more concerned with finding campus events with free food than whether their team wins a game against its biggest rival. A game with title implications, no less.
However, even the most apathetic Harvardian knew that the Crimson was the heavy favorite on Saturday. To say that Harvard football has been good in the past few decades is possibly the biggest understatement in recorded history.
The Crimson is 163-66 under head coach Tim Murphy. Murphy has won nine Ivy League titles, including three in a row before this year. Against the Bulldogs, Murphy’s teams have gone 17-6.
In conversations throughout Cambridge over the weekend, and in Allston just minutes before kickoff, it was a foregone conclusion that Harvard would triumph over Yale. The only question was by how much.
In a way, this expectation mirrors that of Boston sports fans in general. The only difference is that after a Celtics, Red Sox, or Bruins loss, there are calls for the immediate firing of the manager or coach while laments about the patheticness of these teams pervade social media.
You probably noticed I left the Patriots out of that group. The Patriots have dominated the NFL during my lifetime, but if Bill Belichick and crew ever have an off season, I would not bet against seeing pitchforks and torches outside Gillette Stadium.
For example, the Red Sox improved from 78-84 in 2015 to 93-69 in 2016, but people from Narragansett, Rhode Island to Presque Isle, Maine still declared the Sox’s season an utter, abject failure.
There have even been rumblings around the Celtics’ fan base that head coach and basketball genius Brad Stevens has to be sent packing after a 7-6 start to the 2016-2017 campaign. Come on, really?
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