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The Worst Tailgate Ever?

This year’s Harvard-Yale tailgate is on track to be an utter failure

By Mark A. Adomanis

“I think the new restrictions are comical. Am I going to The Game? No. I am going to do everything I usually do at a Harvard-Yale tailgate at the Princeton-Yale tailgate.”

Thus wrote a recent Yale alum in an e-mail to me when he learned of the new tailgate restrictions coming to the Game. As much as it pains me to admit, I think it’s clear he is more accurate than not.

Forecasting is always a dangerous habit for opinion journalists. A quick perusal of the predictions made by leading conservatives in the week before the election—“Santorum can pull it out!” “Allen will never lose!” “What backlash?”—shows just how inaccurate one can be. Yet it still seems safe to say that this year’s tailgate, a huge part of the Harvard-Yale experience, will be a major disappointment.

Predictably, Harvard administrators have reacted to this de facto banning of the tailgate with the usual poisonous mix of flattery, self-congratulation, and simple idiocy that one has almost come to expect. (Remember, Harvard put a library office building in the middle of Harvard Square and student-group offices in a library in the Quad.) The College’s clueless attitude is best illustrated by the comment of Campus Life Fellow John T. Drake ’06 in a recent Crimson article: “Have we [Harvard] ever once not been attracted to a party because Yale students aren’t going to be there?” This sort of attitude—“We’re awesome! We don’t need people to show up”—is the best way to have an embarrassingly lame party.

Going even further, Drake glibly noted that “we haven’t given up the hope that Yale can have fun. ” What planet do these people come from? Last I checked, Yale’s tailgates were a virtually undisputed success. Does anyone that made the trip to New Haven last year really expect that our straight-jacketed, fenced-in, police-state tailgate will vaguely approach the fun of the more anarchic atmosphere outside the Yale Bowl last November?

As anyone who has spent more than about two hours in New Haven readily recognizes, Yale students do not need much of an incentive to party. We should all ask ourselves why many Yale student groups and residential colleges seem to have spent their money on a tailgate for the Princeton game, and why they seem quite unwilling to make the short trip up to Boston.

I think it’s very simple, actually. Rather than spend $60 on bus fare, sleep on the floor of some dining hall, and eat half-cooked hot dogs at an alcohol-free tailgate, they can actually have fun at a football game in their hometown and then go home for Thanksgiving after classes end on Friday. Note that fun does not equal getting obnoxiously drunk, but rather not being forced to deal with beverage authorization teams, long lines, and the Boston Police Department (BPD). The calculus involved is not complicated, and, while I certainly plan on going to The Game on Saturday, if I went to Yale I would probably make the same decision all of my Yale friends have made.

Unlike Drake and the rest of the College administration, we should not let pride blind us to the train wreck that will likely occur on Saturday. We should at least admit that the College and the BPD have done a positively embarrassing job by neutering one of the great traditions in American collegiate sports.

We should openly question why, when violent crime has increased in the City of Boston, its police department seems to have decided that public urination by college students is such a pressing problem. We should also ask why, after the harsher restrictions put in place for the last Harvard-run tailgate roughly doubled admissions to University Health Services, someone had the brilliant idea that even harsher methods would make everyone “safe.”

The entire process that led up to this year’s tailgate is disheartening for me and, I hope, for every other Harvard student who gives a whit about this school and its reputation. The new restrictions essentially confirm what Harvard detractors have been saying for years and are just one more way for the school to look unfriendly and unaccommodating to current and potential students. I pray that I am wrong, but I predict that Saturday will see the first step in the long-term decline of the Harvard-Yale game, or at least the half of it that takes place in Cambridge. This is something that can’t be remedied by simply calling New Haven a slum and patting ourselves on the back.

Rather, we all need a sober self-examination—remember that much of the increased pressure for tailgate restrictions started when some idiotic Harvard students almost drank themselves to death—and an increased willingness to organize and improvise in the face of an indifferent administration and a hostile City of Boston. The administration has certainly been put in a tough spot by the hard-nosed BPD, which bears most of the responsibility for the new rules. Yet I find it exceedingly hard to believe that the wealthiest and most powerful university in the world couldn’t have driven a harder bargain with a city in which it is planning to invest tens of billions of dollars and create thousands of jobs.

Mark A. Adomanis ’07 is a government concentrator in Eliot House. His column appears on alternate Thursdays.

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