As the cars, wagons, U-Hauls and buses fill up for the Big Game this brisk November weekend, it is perhaps a perfect moment to reflect on the real meaning of "The Game." Over the years, the meaning of this traditional and emotional event for Harvard students has undoubtedly changed and these changes, perhaps more than others, truly distinguish us from the Harvard students of the past.
Our Harvard ancestors would probably say that the Harvard-Yale game was a part of a larger, more solid classical tradition. Travelling to New Haven, witnessing the event and commenting and philosophizing on it later went hand in hand with the Harvard curriculum of Homer and Aristotle.
The "scenic" voyage to New Haven and the "unique" culture to be experienced at Yale were impossible opportunities to miss--the trip could be a voyage of self-discovery among the trees and the grass, underneath a clear blue and cool sky. What a perfect setting for meditation! The actual game was a catalyst for male bonding among the Harvard youths, an experience in mild exercise, which was not mandatory, but recommended as a complement to a rigorous academic program.
While there is something inherently beautiful and nostalgic in this historical anecdote, it does have one fault: it is not by any means, timeless. I don't think we can apply the same meaning to the Harvard-Yale experience for Harvard's Generation X students.
Indeed, the meaning of the game has strayed however slightly away from meditation and self-discovery (although some students would contend that they meditate rather well, perhaps even better than their predecessors, with the help of a little marijuana and a beer here and there). Harvard students go to New Haven to have fun, and they certainly don't come home with the meaning of life (who has time to think about the meaning of life when you have a pretty bad hangover, anyway?). However, one thing which is rather remarkable and valuable is that all Harvard students have found their niche and enjoyment in the game. There is, during this brisk November weekend, something for everyone.
Looking to make a little extra cash? No problem, come up with a less than innovative business venture such as a T-shirt, charge 10 bucks for it and you're all set. Just remember that the theme of the T-shirt must be a derogatory (preferably something sexual) portrait of a Yalie.
Interested in a little "culture?" Well, you are in tremendous luck. Skip the game and roam the streets of New Haven and you'll get all the culture you will ever need in your life. Just remember to carry a sharp object, just in case the "culture" gets in your way.
Or maybe you would like "alternative" forms of amusement. This is probably easier to get than the culture. And more popular than anything else. Either you have already packed your backpacks with alcoholic beverages or you can just walk around the parking lot and grab a beer here and there. Or just as our ancestors did in the past--sit under a tree (if New Haven pollution hasn't killed them all off) and you can experience all sorts of wonderful aromas and meditate with a few of your friends and a little pot.
Tired of the Harvard dating scene? Those of you staying the night can meet interesting and fun Yalies (interesting and fun are relative terms, you must be open-minded in order for this to really work). Just don't remind them that they attend then number two school in American and you'll be fine.
Perhaps you feel that this weekend would be an ideal time to get some work done. After all, you will be away from Harvard and its enticing social life. Well, instead of packing your bags with beer, pack them with a few books and pens, get a little reading done on the bus, skip the tailgates and head straight for the game. Nothing much will be happening there--a perfect quiet place to study.
Yes, times have changed. Not all of us carry pocket editions of Homer, in our bags. Come on, now, who has room for Homer when you are carrying a case of Bad Light?
Nancy Raine Reyes' column appears on alternate Saturdays.