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DAVE MACMILLAN first ushered at the Harvard football games back in 1956, when he was in high school.
Thirty-five years later, Macmillan--still an usher, now stationed at the entrance to the press box--says he marvels at how The Game always draws people to the Stadium.
"A lot of them don't even know what's going on if you ask them," he said, looking at a group of Harvard students standing and shivering in some upper seats nearby.
"They're just here because somebody back in history told them its The Game and they have to go."
Whatever allure The Game has, it was in full force on Saturday, as Harvard and Yale played for the 107th time before a crowd of almost 40,000 fans.
Just as Macmillan said, many people interviewed found it difficult to say exactly why they came out to the Stadium on this cloudy, chilly day. Most agreed, however, that it was not for the quality of the football.
"It's awful, Harvard just stinks," said one 1928 Harvard alum of the lopsided matchup that ended in an embarrassing 34-19 defeat for the Crimson.
"I think we're all intelligent enough to realize that this is Ivy League football," said Yale senior Glen D. Wilson. "The crowd is much more interesting than the game is."
Indeed, by the fourth quarter, when Yale had iced its win, the crowd was far more entertaining than the players.
Modesty could not stop fans from either side from showing their loyalties. When a streaker wearing only boxer shorts ran across the field from the Harvard stands, three more from Yale promptly did the same.
One of the exhibitionists received what was probably the the hardest tackle of the day from a Harvard police officer, who then carried the Yalie out of the stadium.
When asked if he had once made similar tackles on the football field, the officer--who would not identify himself--said, "I most certainly did. I played tight end."
OF COURSE, you didn't have to wear nothing to get noticed at Saturday's game. On both sides of the fields, fans wore elaborate crimson and blue costumes, adorning themselves with everything from flourescent make-up to rubber chickens.
Yale band member Jed V. Goldstone had on his chest a large button that said "Harvard" with an even larger screw stuck through it. Goldstone said he does not play an instrument, and that his role in the band is essentially wearing his costume.
For Goldstone, who also sported a blue cape and wore face paint, the costume was the product of items he has collected over the years. "It's things I've acquired really," he said.
He was also wearing a rubber chicken, a loan from his roommate, and a Yale tie, a gift from his uncle.
As usual, the Game drew fans of all ages. There were alums from before World War I, and there were, of course, plenty of first-year students.
James L. Doak '94 said he found The Game somewhat disappointing because the Harvard crowd would not cheer like fans at big football schools.
"I've been trying to lead the wave for the entire game and no one will do it," he said. Doaks attributed the lack of enthusiasm to the point spread and what he termed "the Ivy League syndrome."
"They just weren't willing to loosen up," he said.
But Hamilton Fish '10, who at 102 is Harvard's oldest living alumn, seemed more than pleased by the progress on the field as he watched alertly from the sidelines.
Twenty years ago, Fish almost missed a game because his sister had died in mid-November and the funeral date was set to coincide with The Game, said Lydia Fish, Hamilton's wife.
But "he told them `no' because of the Harvard-Yale game," she said.
Macmillan said that in his years of ushering, he has often thought there was an unofficial competition to be the oldest alumni returning to the game.
"It's amazing to come here in the morning and watch them being wheeled around," he said.
Macmillan said he wasn't quite sure what kept the alumni coming back, but he had one idea. "Maybe it keeps them living, who knows," he said.
BUT THE GAME apparently meant something to the fans who packed the Stadium, and it even meant something to the referees, who fled from the field as the crowd spilled from the stands at the game's end.
Even for the men in stripes, the Harvard-Yale contest is something special, said referee Ray Renart.
"There's something there...it starts when you wake up in the morning," Renart said. "It's the highlight of our career, too."
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