My first exposure to the Harvard-Yale Game came as a freshman, and being from the Midwest I was not aware of the tradition of The Game. After watching 60 minutes of relatively dull football by an untalented Yale team and a not-much-better Harvard, I still did not associate particular significance to this game.
Many people have said that when it comes to The Game you can disregard the records of both teams because anything can happen between these two teams. After watching The Game in 1965 I was not convinced. The following year in Cambridge, I watched The Game again from the stands due to an injury earlier in the season. On this cold and windy day, a strong Harvard team had little trouble with an undermanned Yale team. Although the score was only 17-0, the outcome was never really in doubt.
In 1967 I finally got the opportunity to play in The Game. The week before we clinched the Ivy championship against Princeton, so the game versus Harvard was anticlimactic. We were favored by two or three touchdowns but a proud Harvard team fought hard because it had the incentive to upset the champs and finish the season on a winning note. Staying in the game with an alert defense, Harvard went ahead in the final minutes. We came back to score but Harvard did not quit. They drove all the way down the field only to fumble on the tenyard line. I was played up as the hero of the game because of the last minute touchdown pass. Because we won the game my four interceptions were overlooked.
The game in 1968 really turned out to be The Game. With both teams undefeated, the cards were on the table so to speak, and with the pregame psychology, there was no need for any pep talks. I was particularly "up" because of the boast of the Harvard defense it was going to make a loser out of me for the first time. After three-and-a-half quarters of play, I think everyone realized Yale had the stronger team. However, it is the mark of a great team that will not quit. Not much had been going right for Harvard until the final two minutes when the momentum changed and they began to come alive. The final two minutes are history and will not soon be forgotten. They clearly show why this series has come to be known as The Game.
The breaks seem to even out over the years as they have done with me in this series. As a junior I probably played my worst game against Harvard and yet we won. Then senior year I had my best game individually yet had to settle for a dissatisfying tie.
Now as an alumnus, I'm even more emotionally involved with The Game, probably because I cannot play. I think all alumni play vicariously through the players remembering when they played themselves and others when they were undergraduates. This is probably the reason there is so much interest in The Game. This year's game should be no different despite the respective records.
Take it from one who knows-anything can happen!