A Top of the Class Act?

Brass Tacks

NEWS ITEM: Commissioner of Baseball Peter Ueberroth, who also organized the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, will be the speaker at the 1986 Class Day.

CLASS DAY, Peter Ueberroth-style...I can just see it now:

Thanks to the new stipulation that students must undergo urinalysis before receiving a diploma (a rule adapted from Major League Baseball), 27 seniors from Leverett House will get to spend another semester here in Cambridge, desperately hoping those THC levels come back down to zero. Harvard graduates, just like overweight, overpaid baseball players, must remember they are the heroes of Young America and set a shining example.

It worked so well at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, organized by Ueberroth (whose name in German means "above red," not to mention "in the black"), that Harvard also decides to sell corporate sponsorships for 1986 Class Day at $4 million a crack. Plastered all over campus are signs reading: "TransAmerica: The Official Conglomerate of Harvard's Class of 1986;" "Union Carbide is a Proud Backer of the Crimson's Finest;" and "Skoal Long-Cut: The Official Cheek and Gum Carcinogen of 1986 Class Day."

For its contribution of $7 million, Levi Strauss gets to create the official outfit of the class of '86. Gone are black gowns and mortarboards. In their place: for the guys, boot-cut denims, snap-button Western shirts with solid-color yokes and Stetson hats; for the gals, knee-length gingham skirts, Lady Fryes and matching blouses and bandannas. Members of the Harvard Corporation and other honored guests on the dais wear full-length cowhide chaps.


Just like the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, the class marshals struggle to figure out how to disburse the unexpected $50 million profit. The H-R Parents' Association--which claims that it made the day possible in the first place--threatens to take the class marshals to court unless they turn over $357,500 per mommy and daddy. But then the Undergraduate Council passes a motion impounding the $50 million for construction of a 37-story headquarters in Boston's financial district, complete with new furniture and a 60-foot, all-gold Big Finger statue in front.

UEBERROTH'S '84 OLYMPICS did so much to advance the cause of shrill American jingoism that Harvard tries to do them one better. Class Day is moved to the Stadium, and the graduating seniors--resplendent in their Wyoming Wear--parade in as 80,000 gin-crazed alumni chant, "HAR-VARD! HAR-VARD!" and menacingly wave 15-ft. Crimson flags.

Just to show the world that we're Number 1, the University invites seniors from BC, BU, Northeastern, Quincy Junior College and Katherine Gibbs Secretarial School to compete in the advanced-calculus pentathlon, the literary-criticism relay and 74 other intellectual events. Of course, the only real competition--MIT--has refused to send competitors because we snubbed their last graduation.

At 10 a.m., Harvey C. Mansfield, decked out in his self-propelling astronaut suit, lifts off from Baker Business Library and soars over to the light the Class Day torch atop Dillon Field House.

The games begin. All day long, in event after event, students from the smaller and inferior schools demonstrate that they are no match for the Big H, and parents and relatives of the Crimson heroes heckle and taunt the losers in an orgy of Cantabrigian chauvinism.

Dusk settles in on this warm June afternoon. Four F-15s from the Harvard Air Force streak across the sky, and as their vapor trails begin to fade, 10,000 rockets light up the sky, creating a vast crimson-and-yellow Ve-Ri-Tas shield and profile of a smiling Nathan M. Pusey. The 9000-member marching band strikes up a rousing final rendition of "Harvardiana."

Peter Ueberroth rises to the podium to address the Class of 1986, all of whose members, burning with excitement, can wait no longer for the one they want more than anyone else to address them on this wonderful, significant day in their lives:

The Commissioner of Baseball.

And as he surveys the scene--drug users cast out by mandatory testing, home-team pride perverted into xenophobic hostility, the spirit of the day raffled off to Corporate America's high bidders--Peter Ueberroth's heart fills with joy. Harvard College, Ueberroth realizes, believes in everything that he does.