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The Battle of Tobacco Road

Published by B. Marjorie Gullick on February 05, 2010 at 10:10PM

On Feb. 10, a sporting event that rocks my world–although barely touching the consciousness of the Ivy League–will take place: the Carolina/Duke basketball game.

Coming from North Carolina, I understand the singular importance this game has for the teams’ fans; I’ve seen the clash of the blues, light to dark; I’ve seen hopes shattered, bets lost, and tears shed because of the numbers on the scoreboard. I’ve had a taste of rivalries with the contention between Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill, but even with hatred of the Blue Devils in my heart, I can hardly claim that it’s been going on for a century.

The Harvard-Yale football game, “The Game,” originated in 1875; the Ivy League was throwing around insults before the invention of the car, before the Civil Rights Movement, before a World War. The Game is, in fact, the oldest continuing rivalry in sports and was ranked sixth in the Best Rivalries in College Athletics as selected by Sports Illustrated. Ever since the first meeting between the Crimson and the Bulldogs, the overall record stands in favor of Yale, at 65-53-8.

So perhaps as I watch the game on Sunday (and lament the fall of my beloved Tarheels), perhaps I won’t put as much meaning in the outcome–after all, it’s just a game, not The Game.

Crimson Ultimate Heads to Sin City

Published by Christina C. Mcclintock on February 04, 2010 at 10:10PM

An event greater than the World Cup and World Series combined?

The men’s and women’s Ultimate Teams might make that argument about the Trouble in Vegas 2010, the largest college Frisbee tournament worldwide. The tournament welcomes 70 men’s and 60 women’s teams, and for the first time, Harvard’s Red Line and Quasar squads will be among those competing.

The Crimson teams have been talking about making the tournament a reality for a few years, and for the men’s team, which left for Vegas today, that dream has finally become a reality. The women’s team hits the “city built of hot sand, broken dreams, and five dollar lobster” tomorrow.

“It’s definitely going to be a wake-up call to see how we do against teams that have been practicing in the sunshine,” junior captain Christina Kelley said.

While Harvard’s varsity squads make cross country trips all the time, the task was more daunting for the student-run Ultimate Teams. Club sport and UC funding could not completely cover the costs of the trip, so the teams were forced to fundraise. Another obstacle involved the age of the athletes; for example, one must be 21 or older to rent a car.

But the costs are worth it for squads looking to make the College Bowl, the Nationals of Ultimate Frisbee. Last year, the women’s squad lost the qualifying game, finishing third in regionals—one spot shy of a Nationals berth.

“It was really disappointing but also awesome,” Kelley said. “Our goal is to make it to Nationals.”

And where better to start the journey than in Las Vegas?

It is, after all, “a city where you can get a happy ending, but only if you pay a little extra.”

Given the amount of fundraising the teams have had to do, it seems as if they have paid that extra.

Squash Coach Forecasts Weekend

Published by Brian A. Campos on February 03, 2010 at 10:10PM

If you think the Harvard women’s squash team (6-0, 3-0 Ivy) had it tough last weekend in terms of opposition, just look at the pair of foes coming up on the schedule. The Crimson will host No. 3 Penn on Saturday and No. 7 Princeton the following day. The only comfort for Harvard (and luckily for squash fans on campus) is that all this will be taking place on home territory at the Barnaby Courts.

It seems like the Crimson is cruising to a national title after beating No. 2 Trinity, 7-2, and No. 6 Stanford, 8-1, in back-to-back days. It was a physically exhausting stretch and a challenge for the women’s team. This past weekend marked the first time that Harvard dropped any matchup, going 9-0 in the first four games of the season. This weekend, the Crimson hopes to maintain its perfect record and escape unscathed.

Harvard coach Satinder Bajwa granted The Back Page an interview on Sunday after the Crimson handily beat its West Coast rivals. He shared his thoughts on the mentality of the team and its preparation in the days leading up to another taxing weekend.

Bajwa on the team dropping games to Trinity:

“Even the best of the best are going to have a bad day. But the best people win when they have a bad day. [Saturday] what we didn’t have was a bad day; what we had was different conditions. So when you play against Trinity, they’re the only one with panel courts. Their glass courts are different colors. The girls had a hard time adjusting to the conditions, so we lost a couple of matches. That’s all. In terms of if they were to play again, every one of them is capable of winning their match at a neutral place.”

Last weekend, sophomore Nirasha Guruge had an uncharacteristic loss, her first of the season, against Stanford’s Pamela Chua. Bajwa had this to say:

“I wasn’t surprised. I think Nirasha would win that match next time; it’s not a match that she can’t win. But she played a five game match [Saturday], and she had to come up from behind because she couldn’t get used to the court. She had to work very hard to win that match, and [Sunday] she lost a little edge from having to play [Saturday]. I personally think sometimes you can have a bad win and a good loss.”

Forecast on the rest of the season:

“Injuries and well-being of the team is key to winning. Good planning for them so that they can perform on the day is the coach’s job. The work is done now, so it is a matter of being there. If belief is there and there are no injuries, then we should win.”

When asked about the Harvard-Princeton rivalry, Bajwa felt like it wasn’t going to play as big a role as it did last year when the Tigers’ championship team beat the Crimson in a heartbreaker, 5-4. Here’s what he clarified:

“I know that Princeton just recently beat Yale, but the stronger opponent coming into the match is Penn. Penn beat Princeton. [Last weekend] the toughest match on paper came [Saturday], and the next one will be on [next] Saturday. But it doesn’t get any easier playing Princeton the day after.”

Harvard’s preparation:

“We’re focusing on quality over quantity. Sometimes they feel like if you hang around the squash courts you’ll get better. The girls understand that they must do one and a half hours of quality training, and then save your energy and recover. Training and recovering at the same time is key.”

Q&A With Peter Gammons

Published by Loren Amor on February 02, 2010 at 11:28PM

It’s a rare opportunity for fans of America’s pastime to pick the brain of one of the great baseball storytellers of the 20th Century, but that’s exactly what a captivated crowd at the First Church of Cambridge Congregational’s Lindsay Chapel had the opportunity to do last Thursday when Hall of Fame sports writer Peter Gammons came to speak.

As the Crimson article notes, Gammons touched on a variety of issues, ranging from steroids to Major League Baseball’s role in Latin America. But Gammons had plenty more to say, and the Back Page has you baseball junkies covered below with extra insight from one of sports journalism’s true pioneers:

ALL THE ‘ROID RAGE

Gammons on allowing steroid users into the Hall of Fame:

“The line that I’ve drawn, is that anyone who tested positive from 2005 on, when there was a policy…[is] disqualified.”

More on steroids:

“I don’t worry about people who were guilty and we never find out…[It is] much worse to be innocent, and be thought by us to be guilty.”

On Barry Bonds’ Hall of Fame chances:

“Bonds is going to be interesting…Next to Ted Williams, he’s the most intelligent person to discuss hitting that I’ve ever met in my life.”

On Roger Clemens:

“I actually think he believes he did nothing.”

On former St. Louis Cardinals slugger and admitted steroid user Mark McGwire, now the Cardinals’ hitting coach:

“He loves to teach. He loves the game. I thought his interview with Bob Costas was too prepared.”

More McGwire:

“Mark is a classic Type A,” Gammons said, relating a story he had hear in which McGwire “ditched one of his girlfriends because she left the orange juice out twice in one week.”

TALKING BASEBALL

On baseball academies in Dominican Republic and other Latin American countries:

“They have these…agents who grab these kids when they’re 10, 12 years old. They don’t play, they just workout. It’s tough to tell when a kid doesn’t play how he got that big and athletic.

On recently departed Red Sox left fielder and new Met Jason Bay:

“He was good in [Boston] because he’s Canadian, he’s a hockey guy. He just skates his wing and nothing bothers him.”

On Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka:

“The problem that he has here is that everything he does here is so over-reported in Japan, where he’s a rock star. It’s fascinating to understand how miserable he is in Japan and how happy he is buried somewhere in Brookline.”

On Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer, who is reportedly on the verge of signing a long-term deal with his hometown team:

“He takes being from St. Paul so seriously…He probably will re-sign. He’s by far the most popular athlete in Minnesota.”

On former Red Sox and New York Yankees player Johnny Damon, currently a free agent:

“I’m not sure Johnny’s smart enough to know how much money he lost since he left the Red Sox,” Gammons said, noting Damon’s difficulty in selling his house in Brookline after he joined the Yankees. Gammons related a story in which he jokingly offered to switch houses with Damon and try to sell the house himself. Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter walked by and told Gammons to “stop picking on the animals. [Damon] has no clue.”

On Yankees’ closer Mariano Rivera:

“He’s never won an award, but if you took the Cy Young and MVP of the last 15 years, he’d probably sweep them both…He’s one of the most distinguished people I’ve ever met and I’m old enough that I can compare him to Cary Grant.”

Harvard Faces BC in Beanpot

Published by B. Marjorie Gullick on February 01, 2010 at 10:10PM

With the end of the season looming, the Harvard men’s hockey team has a shot at redemption against local rival Boston College, who defeated the Crimson in a close 3-2 match in early December. The Beanpot game, scheduled today at TD Garden, will measure how far the Harvard team has come from the 10-game losing streak it was on when it last faced the Eagles. Since playing Boston College, the Crimson has improved its record from 1-8-2 to 5-11-3.

Although Harvard had a 27-26 shot advantage over the Eagles, Boston College scored two goals in less than three minutes in the first period, building a lead the Crimson could not overcome. After a netminder change in the second period, the Eagles were unable to score again, but with three goals already on the board, the damage had been done.

For Harvard to win in the rematch, it will need to generate the momentum it had in the waning minutes of the first game, and carry it through all three periods. Coming off a loss to conference rival Princeton, the setting is familiar. Boston College will have the chance to continue a Crimson losing streak once again.

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