The Little Kid Who Could

Notes From Mr. Rhythm's Sports Drum

You know the story. It may even have been your story.

There's always some poor guy who's the last one picked, every time.

"You take him."

"We don't want him."

"Take him."


"But we don't want him, so you take him."

"You gotta take him. He's your brother."

At the beginning of the 1984 season, the Harvard men's soccer team was like the kid nobody wanted to pick. The booters were unranked both nationally and in New England, and none of the experts expected them to make much of an impact on the national or regional polls during the season.

But by season's end, specifically a heartbreaking 2-0 defeat at the hands (and feet) of the UCLA Bruins last Sunday in an NCAA quarterfinal matchup in Los Angeles, the Crimson had made believers of many.

Harvard, which ended the campaign with a record of 12-5, established itself as the top team in New England and one of the eight best teams in the nation this year by reaching the final eight for the first time since 1972.

Like any person, place or thing that is forced to prove itself, though, it was not the easiest thing for the Crimson to fight its way into the big time.

When a little-regarded entity suddenly begins to assert itself, one of three things will happen; either it will be stepped on and crushed quicker than the Czechoslovakians in '68, its presence among the elite will be protested or fought, or it will force the others to step aside and make room for it.

Each one of these things happened to the Crimson booters this season.

At the beginning of the season Harvard looked like it was going prove its detractors right. The Crimson dropped its first match to a Division III opponent and managed only one victory in its first four games.

The booters took the first step on the road to respect when they erupted for a 2-0 home victory over the University of Connecticut, long known as a power on the New England scene.

Every one of Harvard's next opponents, quite predictably, set out to make the Crimson's season a forgettable one. But Harvard rose to the occasion on 11 different occasions, winning that many of its last 12 games and ultimately winning an NCAA postseason tournament bid.

And that's when the elite began to complain about the intruders. Providence College and Yale, both of whom who had almost been assured of a bid, and both of whom had been ranked in the top 20 during the regular season (the Crimson never cracked the national poll), were furious that the bid was given to Harvard, and were very vocal about about their displeasure.

But the booters proved they deserved the nod in their last two contests before UCLA, defeating Yale 1-0 to shut the Elis up, and doing the same to UConn for the New England title in its not-so-friendly confines to shut everyone else up and make them move aside.

Now that the greatest season in a long time for Harvard men's soccer is finally over, the booters can rest easy, proud of their achievements this year and comfortable that the squad will be forever known in the annals of sport as an upstart that made everyone look foolish for underestimating them.

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