For seniors Phil Furse, Chris Pillsbury and Rob Santos, it was like nothing they'd ever seen.
"We got off the plane and people were clapping," the amazed Furse says.
Never in their four years of Harvard football did Furse (a defensive lineman) and Pillsbury and Santos (both defensive backs) receive such a warm welcome in enemy territory. In fact, never in their four years did the trio receive any big welcome, let alone any like this one.
They were in Japan, members of an Ivy League all-star team invited by the Seiko Epson Corporation and the International Management Group to compete against a group of Japanese university all-stars.
College football goes international, and as usual the Ivy League is in front.
Fifty thousand people packed the Tokyo Dome (Japan's only domed stadium, affectionately called "The Big Egg") to watch the January 9 spectacle. The media flocked to the event like lawyers to an ambulance and the organizers held a large banquet to mark the occasion.
"It was pretty wild," Furse says. "They turned off the lights and started playing music."
"The people were very receptive and interesting," Pillsbury added.
However, the Ivy League all-stars did not repay their hosts for the wonderful hospitality they enjoyed, crushing the smaller Japanese team 68-3.
Although the score may indicate otherwise, the Ivy seniors didn't concentrate much on the game during their eight-day Pacific junket. The players brought along a cameras and camcorders, but the equipment got more use at tourist sites than at the game.
Coach Steve Tosches of Princeton conducted the practices from 9 to 11 in the morning to free up the rest of the day for showering, lunch and an organized team tour through the Tokyo area. The team would return from the tours around 6:00 p.m., leaving the rest of the night open for the adventuresome.
One can imagine the results. Furse's roommate, for instance, got sick "before and after practice one day because he went out hard the night before and slept through the tour," according to Furse. (By the way, Furse's roommate was a Yalie. Hmm.)
Those who were more reserved than Furse's roommate enjoyed the tours of what Pillsbury calls "an awesome city." The players visited historic Buddhist temples, legendary Japanese gardens and the Imperial Palace.
"We couldn't go in, though," Furse laments.
The same could be said for the Ivy Leaguers, who denied the Japanese access to the end zone during the game. Doing what seemed unthinkable during his team's woeful winless season, Brown quarterback Bill Pienias (two TD passes) took the opening drive deep into Japanese territory.
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