Everybody loves a good story. I hear you, Folklore and Mythology concentrators—we all know you feel especially strong on this point. But the rest of us can testify to the value of a captivating narrative just as well.
Now think, what elements constitute a quality story? To begin, a good plot must start with killer characters and daunting obstacles. It definitely needs a little bit of drama. And the presence of a compelling adversary doesn’t hurt.
Let’s consider the Harvard football team through this lens. Interesting characters? Look no further than an offense that shuffles players into the spotlight with record-breaking performances on what seems to be a weekly basis. Significant obstacles? Check. Take the last two weeks, when the Crimson hit the road and demolished rival Princeton, 49-7, and then earned a double-digit victory at Dartmouth without missing a beat. Both teams were tied with Harvard for first place entering the games.
Don’t get me wrong, the Crimson has been fun to watch this year. But when it comes down to it, undefeated Harvard has been so good that it can’t fulfill the final two requirements of a good story. And the team only has its own dominance to blame.
Drama? Unless you count overcoming a second-half deficit against Brown, there hasn’t been all that much of it. The Crimson has won each of its four conference games this season by an average of 19.5 points. How about a compelling adversary? That was supposed to be Princeton, but the evil villain was a no-show as Harvard racked up a school-record 698 yards. The battle that was billed as Rocky vs. Drago was more reminiscent of Globo Gym toying with each of its opponents on the way to the finals of the American Dodgeball Association of America.
While Harvard has not fulfilled all of our classic story components, it’s fair to say that this season has been a tale of Crimson supremacy. In all likelihood, the plot will not encounter any kind of twist this weekend when tail-spinning Columbia comes to town. Not only are the Lions winless this year, but they also have not won a football game since…wait for it…the fall of 2012.
One might compare this weekend’s 7-0 vs. 0-7 matchup to the duel between David and Goliath. The only trouble with this analogy is that David ended up winning. Let’s just say I don’t see that happening on Saturday. A reasonable expectation would be what happens when a droid or stormtrooper takes on somebody with a lightsaber in Star Wars. The Jedi knows he’s going to win, and win he always does.
Let’s apply our story theme once more—this time to the remainder of the Crimson’s season. After taking on the tame Lions, Harvard travels to Pennsylvania to face the 1-6 Quakers. Both games should represent easy wins. But after that it gets considerably tougher—and more interesting—when Yale comes to town. Harvard has won The Game the last seven times, but the Bulldogs boast the conference’s top offense and represent a legitimate threat to the Crimson’s undefeated season.
For my part, I’ll be thinking of these next three games as the complete and utter opposite of The Godfather series. In the classic trilogy, part one was great, part two was perhaps even better, and part three was pretty much skippable. For the Harvard football team, while the next two games will be forgettable, the third is the one everybody wants to see.
Alas, you can’t get to number three without first experiencing one and two. The conclusion to the long journey begins this week. Will the story have a happy ending?
PENN AT PRINCETON
Watch out! Take cover! It’s the battle of the killer bees! What’s that? Oh, they’re not bees, they’re P’s. Let’s be real, though, this contest between the Killer P’s will be a lot less fierce than one among killer bees. After getting smacked by Harvard two weeks ago, the Tigers (4-3, 3-1 Ivy) surrendered 27 points in a closer-than-it-should-have-been victory over winless Cornell. And Penn (1-6, 1-3) has just one Ivy League win over (guess who?) Columbia.
Prediction: Princeton 31, Penn 17
YALE AT BROWN
If a Yale (6-1, 3-1) bulldog took on a Brown (4-3, 2-2) bear in a fight, I definitely feel like I’d have to go with the bear. But what if it’s one of those little sun bears and a really fierce bulldog? That might be more interesting. It could probably go on for a while if the bear doesn’t get too tired and fall asleep. I’m getting sidetracked. The Ancient Eight’s top-ranked offense—led by quarterback Morgan Roberts, running back Tyler Varga, and wide receiver Deon Randall—will propel Yale to victory.