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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
They may not be good but they certainly are amusing.
This aptly describes the essence of the Harvard polo team. A glance at the record shows the Crimson did not win a single match in last spring's campaign. What it lacks in accomplishments on the field, though, it compensates for in sporting and theatrical acumen.
On Saturday, Harvard met Oxford in a match held in honor of the Queen's Silver Jubilee at the Myopia Hunt Club in Hamilton. The match proved to be as charming as the idea itself. The Crimson horsemen scored a goal in the final 30 seconds to tie the game at eight goals apiece.
Co-captain Bobo Tanner struck upon the idea of inviting the Britons last winter and wrote Will Reeve of the Oxford squad. After several more exchanges of letters, the game was set, resulting in the appearance in Cambridge of Reeve and teammates John Bodgin and Hugh Crisp on September 24.
The Harvard and Oxford teams' attitude toward one another differs somewhat from the traditional intense rivalry between the football team and their Eli counterparts. The Harvard and Oxford players have spent most of their time together sampling some of the social and, theoretically, academic offerings of Cambridge.
The Oxford squad has been occupying various couches in the River Houses throughout the past week. Trudging through the living room to the bathroom one morning, one of my roommates was startled out of his daze by a cheery, "I say, good morning. Bodgin here. Awfully nice of you to let me sleep here."
After all the goodwill of the week, Bodgin made it clear that the atmosphere during the game would be quite different from the one surrounding the preceding pleasantries. "We are polite off the field but deadly serious on it," Bodgin warned. "We will offer our opponent a drink after the game, if he is still alive," Crisp added, with his Eton choirboy's grin.
The tongue-in-cheek speech of the Oxford players is ubiquitous, even when talking to one another. A constant stream of jibes and dry remarks on a variety of topics is the norm. When asked what they thought of the people around Harvard, Bodgin replied, "Very pleasant." Reeve added his approval, saying, "Everyone seems to be neat and tidy." Crisp interjected, "What about that Buddhist fellow with the shaved head."
"Nothing strange about that," retorted Reeve. "He did look a bit odd Willy," concluded Bodgin. The conversation focused on this debate for several minutes while the interviewer wondered about the importance of Buddhists and their heads in Harvard life.
Finally, Bodgin shifted topics by recalling, "I am often surprised at myself; the things I say on the field I mean. I remember saying some terrible things against Cambridge last year." Crisp nipped what seemed to be a budding exchange of remarks with a comment that they all agreed on: "But you know Cambridge, we don't like them anyway."
Crisp glanced over at the interviewer and said, "We play best with a hangover you know," adding that many an Oxford-Cambridge match had been decided by the lunch before. "We will be having a merry time at both polo dances Friday and Saturday night," Reeve announced.
Perhaps the British did not drink quite enough. The Harvard squad jumped out to an astonishing 6-3 lead after three chukkers. In the latter half of the contest, Oxford came on strong to take a one-goal lead in the waning minutes, aided by Crisp's outstanding performance. Harvard heroic efforts in the last minute to notch a final tally gave the match an appropriate conclusion and climaxed an excellent Harvard showing.
A cup was presented to the English the night after the match. Tanner and Oxford graduate captain Reddy Watt took a simultaneous gulp of champagne from the cup. As promised, the intensity of the afternoon was already forgotten.
In the course of chatting with the English players, it was noted that they seemed to enjoy themselves immensely without being obsessed by the game. Bodgin replied, "Foreigners win at sports because they practice. The British think that practice ruins the fun."
The night that the cup was presented, Tanner was asked why Harvard gave Oxford the cup when the match was a tie. Bobo answered with a smile, "Because we want to be invited over there next year." Bodgin's philosophy seems to have penetrated after a mere week.
The Harvard team will now begin preparing for the winter season. It is difficult to say how good the campaign will be, but it certainly has furnished a solid dose of levity.
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