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The Thrill of Defeat
Nowhere, at any time, has losing ever been quite so much fun-at least for me. Princeton was leading, 51-14, Rex Blankenship and the inspired second team were driving deep in Tiger territory with 30 seconds left, and the Harvard Band was playing a mellow version of "Mickey Mouse." You just had to love it. Those of us left in section 35 were going wild. We had sat bored through the middle of the game, but now. in the last quarter, we were excited. We wanted Rex and his boys to score, and the sooner the better, so that Princeton could try for 57 points.
I've always appreciated being at Harvard, but never as much as I appreciated it Saturday, when I saw how much we could enjoy losing. Winning can be equally exciting, but it's boring in large quantities. I can sort of see them shaking their heads now at UCLA, Alabama, Michigan State, and other basics. They just wouldn't understand such irrational thoughts.
Shea Stadium fans would almost be able to empathize, but even they persisted in rooting for the Mets no matter how far they were behind. And I'm sure a winner like our vice-president would scent communism on the loose in section 35 and in other Harvard sections where Princeton had become the favorite. But it was nice to know that at Harvard, our happiness did not depend upon the success of the football team. It was similarly nice to know that the parties that night were not contingent upon a Crimson win.
We can certainly credit the band with helping us not to be blinded in our outlook. At one point they advised us, "Football isn't everything." Actually, that was shouted over to the Princeton side when we were behind, 45-7. Later, the band pointed out, "You may be winning, but you go to Princeton," which we all agreed was a wonderful observation.
But as I stood there singing the Mickey Mouse Club theme with visions of Annette dancing through my head, I thought of Tricia Nixon, wherever she was sitting. Was she, too, singing Mickey Mouse or was losing proving to be a bad experience for her? Perhaps she was accustomed to winning, and could it have been that she was at Harvard without her father's knowledge? She might have picked up some pretty dangerous thoughts around here. Yet she must still be safe for I hear she gave a crewel embroidery of the Harvard seal to her date after he got into graduate school here. So I stopped worrying about Tricia.
And I started yelling again for more action on the field. The heroics, or whatever, of Rex were sort of filling a hole in my life, for I had not the misfortune to leave last year's Yale game five minutes before its completion. So Blankenship was fulfilling the Frank Champi role, and Denis Sullivan was Pete Varney. Six seconds were left, and the tension was unbearable. Interference had just been called in the end zone, and we had new life. A buck into the line failed, but as the clock ticked on Blankenship refused to fold, and got the final touchdown with four seconds left. Princeton was fired up, and it was able to block the point after.
I was a bit shocked, to say the least, by Yovicsin's post-touchdown strategy. The situation called for an outsides kick so that we could get the ball back and score in the final second. But Billy Kelly stayed on the bench and Szaro kicked a regular old kickoff, and it ended. Yovicsin, though clearly disappointed, seemed to be taking it in stride after the gam. "I have a lot of fun coaching," he said.
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