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So this is what it's like to lose. It's a new experience for every undergraduate here (with the exception of those who have taken time off and are on the "four-year-plus" track). We seniors thought we were going to graduate undefeated. But it wasn't meant to be.
Why do we even care about the loss? Or The Game itself for that matter? It is not due to a devotion to Crimson football. Saturday was probably the first time most of us have been to a game all season. Nor is it unlikely that we're motivated by an intense hatred of Yale. The anti-Yale passions of last week are largely contrived and superficial. Unlike our friends in New Haven, the rivalry rarely occupies our thoughts during the other 51 weeks of the year. Cambridge merchants don't regularly sell "Yale Sucks" T-shirts and jokes and insults about Yale are about as common in campus discourse as praise for randomization or the Core program.
We don't care about the rivalry because of Yale, we care about it for a more important reason. The Game provides Harvard students with the only opportunity all year for uninhibited self-love. A reprieve is granted from the self-consciously humble posture we must adopt during the rest of our lives. During Game weekend, we can boast, brag and gloat about our school without social condemnation. We can cheer for Harvard without coming off as arrogant or elitist. We can wear the crimson "H" on our sleeve, our hats or our shirts without feeling like a show-off or a tourist. Not only can we drop the "H-bomb" and admit to going here, but we can shout it until we're hoarse.
When it comes to Yale, we can joke about safety schools and them "working for us one day" and no one will take offense because, to most of the rest of the world, Harvard and Yale are cut from the same elitist cloth. If Harvard and Yale students are going through similar college experiences and probably headed in the same direction anyway, what's wrong with a little good-natured teasing? If the taunts were true, of course, they would be mean. But because they are concealed beneath a veil of mutual respect, they're harmless.
The Game not only gives Harvard students the freedom to glorify our school before others, but it brings us together as nothing else can. Ordinarily, in our diverse college, our allegiances are split among a multitude of clubs, groups and Houses. Unlike many of the events put on by the countless ethnic, racial and religious groups on campus, The Game is not meant to appeal to only a segment of the student population. Everyone is included in the Yale hype. Further, the issues that would normally inhibit our praising fair Harvard--from grapes at lunch to Faculty diversity--can be forgotten as we revel in uninhibited school pride for these few days.
The narcissism surrounding The Game can transcend the ridiculous turf wars and rivalries between the Houses at Harvard. House spirit is fine, but only in moderation. For example, the shameful humiliation of students from other Houses by Adams House residents protesting inter-house access was more about vindictive exclusivity than House spirit--the very opposite of the spirit of The Game. In addition, the Game promotes a mix of upperclass students and first-years rarely seen outside of large core classes.
Finally, at the Yale game, it does not matter, with whom one normally associates. We're all in the same boat. Even the final club guys must leave the comfort of their secretive houses to tailgate in the muddy parking lot with the rest of us. The Game is truly the great equalizer of Harvard College.
Usually we permit ourselves this cathartic exercise of self-love for the Friday before and the Saturday of the game. But by Saturday afternoon this year, it was back to normal: bragging was out, humility was in. This shortened time-frame explains why we care about the loss. By winning, the Yale team deprived us of a few more hours of the much-needed, post-game therapy that we have come to expect and enjoy. When the game ended, our right to gloat did too.
Rustin C. Silverstein '99 is a government concentrator in Lowell House. His column appears on alternate Mondays.
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