The Game as Mythology

A Saturday Special

Somewhere, the Harvard-Yale football game of 1968 fits in. It has a place in the mythology of those times, snuggles up next to student riots and assassinations, the Vietnam War, the Beatles.

It lives like a song, still playing. Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29.

The War. The Murders. The Protests. The Game.

Vic Gatto was the captain of the 1968 Harvard football team. Gatto, now the coach at Davidson University in Davidson, N.C., remembers The Game not for its plays, not even for Harvard's dramatic comeback--the Crimson scored 16 points in 42 seconds to tie the score--but for the spirit that enveloped the team. An indefinable feeling. A restless excitement. A unity.

"We felt great about The Game," Gatto says. "But there's a sense among my friends that we'd like to celebrate what was going on then, not the details of The Game."


Twenty years later, it is time to remember. Remember Gatto catching an eight-yd. touchdown pass as time ran out to put Harvard within two points of a tie? Remember Pete Varney catching the two-point conversion with no time on the clock that gave the Crimson its mythical, magical tie? Remember the Ivy League championship Harvard and Yale shared because they came out even in The Game?

No, Time to remember the spirit. The strangeness, the beauty, of playing football in 1968.

"We had two or three players who were active in the anti-war movement," Gatto says. "And we had Pat Conway, a Vietnam veteran. Pat had done what he had to do and he was honored for that. Pat had a lot of respect for the guys who were trying to end the war because he had a lot of friends who were dying."

The team also had to deal with racial strife. John Tyson, the Crimson's All-Ivy defensive back, decided to sit out the 1968 season as a protest of Harvard's policies toward Blacks.

"As captain, I wanted him to play," Gatto says. "But I respected his decision. By playing football. he felt he supported an institution that was discriminating against Blacks."

John and Bobby Kennedy dead. Martin Luther King Jr. dead. Fear alive. Hope, too, alive.

Gatto has re-lived the details of The Game many times. After graduating, Gatto spent seven years coaching in the Boston area. Every year, Channel 5 would show a tape of The Game.

"My kids have seen that game more than is healthy for them," Gatto says.

Now, 20 years later, people still approach Gatto about The Game, telling him where they were sitting in Harvard Stadium.

"I would say about 150,000 people have come up and told me they were there, that they saw me catch a touchdown pass," Gatto says.

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