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Early in the preseason, Joe Restic told me this year's football team was a group with real spirit--a togetherness and pride that would be good for at, least a few extra points.
At the time, with an eye toward the glaring weaknesses in the Crimson lineup, I regarded Restic's comment as the optimism of a coach desperate for a strength to highlight. After all, spirit? The glee club has spirit; your fourth-grade gym teacher had spirit; an Irish Setter puppy has spirit. But a football team has bulk, speed, agility, experience.
I doubted Joe's enthusiasm.
Well, no more. This team has confidence, and--yes--spirit. They are a very convincing group.
I was eating a quiet dinner the other night, counting the peas and carrots in my turkey pot pie, when I noticed that a very burly, almost-rabid lineman was inserting a custard-filled eclair into my right ear.
The move was a very effective attention-getter. I immediately ignored the fowl goulash before me and surveyed three very mean looking Lou Ferrigno clones who were glaring at me from above.
One of them was particularly disturbing, almost ready to foam at the mouth and looking something like a Dartmouth frat brat after a tough Friday night with the boys.
"Aaaaarrrrrghhh (snort, garumph)," he said, articulately.
"Yes, well, I agree that it is unfortunate they tightened the requirements in Bio 106," I replied.
At that, he moved the eclair somwhere into my inner ear. Fearing the Harvard-made custard would soon cut off the air supply to my brain and permanently block my aural passageway, I decided I had better oblige my dinner guests.
"So, gentlemen, what can I do for you? Perhaps you'd like a cup of coffee? Maybe a shoeshine?" I queried.
The most sedate of the trio, while attempting to get his friend to withdraw the pastry from my person, said, "So. When are you gonna stop writing that you're surprised about the team doing well (including frequent colorful interjections)?
"Yeah, yeah! No surprise. Good for real. Yeah, yeah!" added the bakery-crazed eclair wielder.
The third member of this merry triumverate stood by silently, cracking each joint in his body--one by one--with deafening precision. He was chewing a wad of Bazooka and crushed Coke bottles. I was dying to ask him if he would blow a bubble, but I surpressed the urge in the name of mental health--my own.
"Now look guys," I began, hoping not to provoke my end as a giant custard tube. "You were awesome against Columbia. I admit it. But really, the Lions looked like a bunch of Kindergarteners out for recess-time kickball. You still have to prove yourselves against a real test."
The pastry man began reaching for a bagel, which could have been a bit more painful to tolerate.
"Now wait. (I was panicking.) Surely we can settle this difference of opinion in the spirit of peaceful compromise," I pleaded. "You're sensible people. You can't dislike pastry that much."
"Well," started the group's spokesman. "What if we beat UMass this weekend? They're big. They're mean. They're ugly. They've got cute cheerleaders and a real band. What'll you say then?"
I hated the idea of allowing myself--a member of the press--to be influenced by threats. But I thought these guys might not care much for a defense of the First Amendment. And they did have a point that a win over UMass would be pretty impressive. I took a moment to ponder, always keeping one eye on the poised-for-attack bagel.
The Minutemen had 30 returning lettermen (though many did not start in 1978). They had size and an experienced quarterback. They had a talented fullback in Cliff Pedrow, a former star Tiger fullback for my alma mater, White Plains High School. But Harvard had kept Pedrow to virtually nothing last year, and he was coming off a 100-yd.-plus multiple-touchdown day against Maine. Still, UMass was certain to be competent--in fact, they almost certainly would be a tough opponent.
"OK," I conceded, "If you guys beat the Minutemen, I'll show some more confidence. I'll be impressed. I'll lead with, 'Skeptics take note: Harvard football is for real this year.'"
"OK buddy," the knuckle-cracker said to me. "But just remember, or we'll be back with French bread."
As the three stalked away, I noticed my turkey pot pie had congealed. The hazards of being a reporter, I concluded. I had to admit, though, those guys had spunk.
I decided to give up eclairs.
MASSACHUSETTS at HARVARD--The Crimson is healthy and charged-up following last week's win over Columbia. The Minutemen have size--decisively--but also lost to Villanova pathetically two weeks ago, the same Wildcat team that woeful Boston College stomped last week. In 1978, UMass lost to Villanova, beat Maine, and then lost to Harvard. This year, they've lost to Villanova and beaten Maine--so...In the name of history repeating itself and eclairs, Harvard 26, UMass 12.
RHODE ISLAND at BROWN--The Bruins are angry after last week's loss in the Yale Bowl. URI has a fine nursing school, but the Bruins have this one in the bag. Joy in Providence this weekend: Brown 35, URI 10.
COLGATE at CORNELL--The Big Red has to be dealt with, and any school whose claim to fame is fewer cavities won't be able to do the job. Another big day for Bob Blackman: Cornell 31, Colgate 6.
DARTMOUTH at UNH--Joe Yukica is very pissed off. The Big Green frat houses served Kool-Aid last weekend, and Hanover flew the flags at half-staff all week. UNH is non-too-shabby though, and this Granite State supremacy battle should be a good one. My friend at the College Fund, Peter Clifton, predicts a Wildcat upset. And how could a man always around so much money go wrong? UNH 17, Dartmouth 13.
RUTGERS at PRINCETON--Bragging rights in the Armpit State will be Rutgers' again this year. Once is enough for the Tigers: Rutgers 30, Princeton 12.
UCONN at YALE--My parents went to UConn. Bulldoggs are mangy-looking creatures. The Yale Bowl is intolerable. Ergo: UConn 25, Yale 22.
COLUMBIA at LAFAYETTE--You have to laugh about the Lions (or else you'd be crying). Sleep through this game: Lafayette 28, Columbia 9.
PENN at LEHIGH--After spending all weekend studying the Puritans in English 70, I have no tolerance for Quakers: Lehigh 23, Penn 13.
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