As Thanksgiving approaches, Harvard undergraduates are coming down from the collective drunken euphoria that is The Game.
Well, that is, pretty much everyone but me. Because while my classmates were tailgating and bidding their proper farewell to Four Loko, I was watching a football game.
My experiences with Harvard-Yale have been less than typical. My only true tailgating experience came freshman year in New Haven, and I spent most of that morning wandering around like a lost puppy trying to find a hamburger.
Sophomore year, I was introduced to the joys of dealing with drunk, grumpy, self-important fans who want to pick up their will-call tickets, as I was an employee of the athletic ticket office (in case you were wondering, there is no joy whatsoever in that task).
And for the last two years, I have limited my pre-noon drinking to a single mimosa and actually (gasp!) watched the entire football game from my perch in the press box.
I hear I’m missing out on some fun by skipping the tailgate early, but what I’ve gotten in return is the chance to watch a couple of pretty great football games.
There was the upset blowout in New Haven freshman year, the shutout that sealed a second straight title in 2008, and last year’s fourth-quarter comeback.
But it was Saturday’s match that I will remember as the quintessential Game—and much of that is because, like the Harvard seniors I’ve become acquainted with through postgame press conferences and stat sheets, it was my last as an undergraduate.
Though I outwardly did my best to stay neutral in the press box, I was inwardly cheering as Marco Iannuzzi broke for the endzone, as Collin Zych raised his arms to pump up the crowd when he walked off the field, as Gino Gordon checked up on the Yale linebacker who had knocked him out, and as Ryan Burkhead celebrated his career-best 2.5-sack performance in his final game.
The class of 2011 has given Crimson fans a series of unforgettable games in their four years in Cambridge, and as the seniors turn their attention to life after college football, let’s take a minute to celebrate their accomplishments.
In the last four years, Harvard has gone 31-9, dropping just four conference games—good for the best record in the Ancient Eight over that time frame. The seniors won two Ivy championships and depart as the only class in Crimson history to have gone undefeated against Yale, Princeton, and Dartmouth. The graduating class also boasts a combined 16 All-Ivy nods, including three each for Zych, Gordon, and Chuks Obi. Oh, and it’s got a Rhodes Scholar, too.
But perhaps the class’s biggest legacy is the attitude it has left behind. The seniors had their work cut out for them this year, when an early-season loss to Brown and a rash of injuries to key players could have derailed the 2010 campaign completely.
Instead, the seniors stepped up, both in their individual performances—particularly Gordon and Zych, both first-team All-Ivy selections—and in their leadership, inspiring the team to fight through the adversity and end the season with a 7-3 record, the program’s 10th straight season of at least seven wins.
“You know it’s a big deal for them—their final Yale game in their senior year,” Harvard coach Tim Murphy said last week before The Game. “They’ve had such a big impact on our program in terms of specific success, winning Ivy League championships, winning a lot of football games, winning a lot of Yale games. But they’ve had an even bigger effect intangibly.”
“It’s obviously tough to quantify, but they’ve had such a positive effect on the program, a positive effect on recruiting the kids that have been around them,” he added.