On Sept. 22, 2007, I zipped up my Coop-purchased Harvard hoodie and trekked across the Charles for the first night game in school history.
That football game against Brown was the first major school event of my college years, and I clung to my pack of Freshman Week friends like a worried puppy.
The game itself—a 24-17 Crimson victory—was not all that memorable, but, for me, it gave shape to Harvard and provided substance to the nebulous notion of belonging to a community.
Flash forward to this past weekend. I felt a wave of recognition, seeing the faces of freshmen at Soldiers Field Soccer Stadium.
It carried me back to that day three years ago when Harvard was still an unopened oyster. It also filled me with a sense of gratitude in one particular respect: thank goodness for night games.
Since installing lights at Harvard Stadium in 2007, the Athletic Department has continued to expand its nocturnal initiative, and the results have been unequivocally positive.
Football’s annual opening home game, which takes place at night (and falls on Saturday, Sept. 18, this year), has been hugely popular—easily the most well-attended contest other than The Game.
Last spring’s men’s lacrosse game against Duke was a big success as well; students were so wrapped up in the occasion, they hardly minded the 14-5 drubbing.
Considering the success of this past weekend’s soccer match, it seems Harvard students cannot get enough of night games.
It’s tough to explain the allure of these events. Even as a Little Leaguer, mired in the cellar of the standings with the Westwood Cardinals, night games held special importance.
Maybe it’s a narcissistic love of the spotlight. Maybe it’s an irrational fear of the sun. In any case, these games provide a sense of occasion that’s absent from ordinary contests.
Watching the crowd at last Saturday’s soccer game, the result of this enthusiasm was obvious.
Chants of “Let’s Go Harvard!” echoed between the stands and the knoll. Several vuvuzelas droned—a kitschy reminder of this summer’s World Cup. Students wandered through the crowd, greeting friends and catching up after a prolonged vacation.
It was a party to which everyone was invited, and, for a student body that’s often fractured into different social cliques, it was a rare moment of unity.
Not only that, the crowd seemed to lift the Crimson soccer team. After a Stanford own goal gave Harvard an early 1-0 lead, the Cardinal responded at the start of the second half with a score of its own.