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Frank Champi is amazed at the "way people remember THAT game."
"I've learned to live with it now, but I'm still very sensitive about it," he said Tuesday.
THAT game is of course the 29-29 Crimson "victory" over Yale four years ago. Champi came off the bench to lead a sputtering Crimson offense to a stunning comeback, picking up 16 points in the final 42 seconds of the game.
Champi doesn't like people to remember him simply at the hero of THAT game. "It's very disconcerting when people know me from that one event, but they don't know any other side of me," he said. "It's a great memory but memories can only go so far. The game really isn't that important in my life."
The years Champi spent in a Harvard football uniform were frustrating ones. Until the Yale game. Champi had seen little action for the Crimson. First-string quarterback George Lalich played all but the final minutes in most of the games. But after leading the Crimson to "the tie" with Yale and a share of the Ivy League crown in his final game of his junior year. Champi was suddenly hailed as the player who would lead Harvard to an undisputed Ivy title in 1969.
Neither the team nor Champi made it that far in 1969. After two games, a victory over Holy Cross and a disappointing loss to Boston University Champi quit the team. He said then that he no longer enjoyed football. "I had been thinking about it for two years," he recalled this week. "It was a question of priorities. I felt that I was wasting my falls, and getting all the I could out of Harvard."
That year, Champi remained in Cambridge to work on two papers while his former teammates finished a dismal 3-6 season with an unexciting "O loss to the Ellis in New Haven.
Not playing football proved to be "a relief in many ways" to Champi. "I was in the cruz off an identify crisis. I had to be more concerned with the important problems of my identity than with football," he said.
The year after his gratuation from Harvard. Champi was still trying to "find himself." He decided to hitchhike across the country by himself and meet people. "I got fed up with the guys in Winthrop House always talking about their trips all over the world, so I decided that the big city boy should branch out."
When he returned on his home in Everett, he still didn't know what he wanted to do. "Everything was aimless, until I bumped into an old Hocher of mine in Everett." The teacher convinced him that he should at least substitute teach while he searched for what he wanted to do, Champi not only began to substitute at his old school, Everett High, but he was soon asked to help coach ther football team.
The year off proved to be just what Champi needed. "Life really cleared up a lot, and that was my best year," he remembered. As backfiel coach of the Everett football team, he established a close relationship with his players. He tried to be someone with whom the players could share their problems. Champi says coaching in the easiest and most rewarding way of getting close to high school boys.
Last year Champi continued to coach at Everett, but he returned to Harvard for a masters degree at the School of Education. After a summer of hitchhiking through Europe, he accepted a teaching position at Lunenburg High School. "I felt bad about leaving the strong relationships I had made with the kids at Everest, but I still go back and see them," he said.
Lunenburg is a small community of about 7000 people in central Massachusetts. The enrollment at the Junior-Senior High School is around 800 students. Asian English teacher of grades 9, 11 and 12. Champi tries to offer his students as much contemporary and relevant material as he can find. His students agree that the class is not a traditional English course. I try to get close to the kids, We have a good rapport, so we do a lot of kidding around he explained.
On Tuesday, Champi's students were "kidding" him about the Channel 5 special on the Harvard-Yale series which was shown on television Monday bight. Host Don Gillis recounted scenes from THAT game, showing Champi's heroies. The kids are easily impressed by things like that. It gives them something to look up to me for" Champi said Tuesday.
As a freshman football coach at Lunenburg. Champi and his players struggled through a winless season this year. If he stays at Lunenburg, Champi says that he will probably coach again next year, but that he doesn't have ambitions for a coaching career.
Since his undergraduate days at Harvard, Champi feels that he is a completely different person. "I'm still trying to sort out my feelings towards my years at Harvard," he said.
The problem at Harvard confronted Champi at a very fast pace. Coming from a public school in a working class area was a big adjustment for him to make. The best way for Champi to make a place for himself seemed to be through foot- ball, but problems existed from the beginning. "Let's just say that freshmen football was a strong experience and a tough adjustment," he said resolutely.
Frank Champi says that he is not the type to look back on his memories of Harvard with "tears and goose bumps." He doesn't follow the football games closely anymore and only casually mentioned that he "might" be at THE game today.
For Frank Champi the best thing about THAT 29-29 tie in his junior year was that at helped to justify all of the long days of practice and the times he was "down" because of football. "You have to put the Yale game into perspective," he said
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