The first Harvard-Brown game was played in 1893. Harvard won 58-0, and that was a portent of one of football's strongest jinxes.
Since that faraway day more than half-a-century ago, Brown victories over Harvard are about as rare as the visiting French professor who a few years ago didn't turn in final grades to University Hall; and, as you know, when notified in Paris of his error, cabled back to give everybody A's because he enjoyed the class so much.
Today is the 47th meeting between Harvard and Brown. The record book shows that the Crimson has won 38 of the games, one ended in a tie, and Brown took the rest.
There is one school of thought which believes that Brown teams suffer a sense of claustrophobia when they play in the Stadium.
But this theory weakened in 1925. Brown was baptizing a small home field that year, and for the first time in the series, a Harvard team went to Providence. They were three-touchdown-underdogs despite the fact that at the time Harvard teams had lost to Brown only twice. The final score was Harvard 3, Brown 0.
Thus, it seems that whether Brown plays at home or in the Stadium, they freeze against the Crimson.
In the last decade, a new explanation was offered for the Brown jinx by the presence of Dick Harlow at Harvard.
During this latest period, Brown has been coached first by Skip Stahley, and now by Rip Engle. Both had learned almost everything they know about football from Harlow. They wanted to beat the Old Man badly, but, at the same time, they were afraid of him.
This mental bloc, so to speak, reacted in the teams they brought with them to the Stadium. So, what was generally interpreted as Stadiumitis on the part of Brown, was in reality a combined fear and awe-of Harvard, planted in Brown, by the coaches themselves.
An excellent support for this analysis was last year's Crimson football coach, Bob Margarita, now at Yale. Bob played collegiate football for Brown and was considered one of the best backs in the country. Before last year's Brown game he recollected how as an undergraduate at Brown, the coaching staff would impress on the players the importance of beating Harvard. By the time the coaches got through with them at Brown, Margarita went on, the players believed that is was nigh on impossible to beat Harvard.
This year, however, the situation of the pupil attempting to win from his teacher does not exist. As a matter of fact, Dick Harlow, has been scouting for Brown, but has not included Harvard on his Saturday peeking assignments.
At the football coaches' luncheon this past Monday, Rip Engle was too busy at Providence to make a personal appearance. In his place, he sent Bob Priestley, end coach, to represent him. Priestley made one statement, "We're not going to pull any punches against Harvard."
It doesn't sound as though the jinx lays heavily on Brown this year. And why should it? With Dick Harlow on their side, with six straight victories after losing their Yale game opener behind them, Brown is truly loaded for b'ar as it prepares to make it seven straight.
For the Crimson and Art Valpey today's game poses a dual mission. First, and most important, the mission of snapping back from the nightmarish disaster of Palmer Stadium; and secondly, the mission of continuing to brew the hocus-pocus that has befuddled Brown for so long a time.