Harvard Stadium is one of the oldest concrete structures in the country. While no longer shrouded in Ivy, it still provides a picturesque backdrop for pregame gatherings. Grassy areas around the perimeter of the stadium drew a modest crowd of hatchbacks and vans. I was told repeatedly that when Yale comes to town, the fields are jammed, but because Princeton is just its second-biggest rival, only the die-hards showed up. RVs are noticeably absent, but there wouldn't be much space for them, anyway.
When you're hanging with Ivy Leaguers, you expect a certain level of intellect and understanding. The eggheads did not disappoint. Many of the tailgaters present were former players who not only paid close attention to the conference standings, but understood nuances of the game most of us can only guess at. There were some people who were there just for the sake of tradition and weren't as into football, but they were the exception.
Main courses provided little out of the ordinary. Brats and burgers comprised the majority of the fare. It appeared that every car had stopped by a Dunkin Donuts on the way in for the breakfast chow. On the other hand, side dishes and desserts were spectacular. From fancy salads to spicy smoked sausage to cocktail shrimp, sampling from the wide assortment provided ample tasty variety. Desserts included homemade brownies, delicious pumpkin pie squares, and candied apples.
While it was certainly easy to down a cheap brew, the array of alcoholic beverages was wide and often opulent. The younger alumni stuck with Coors Light, but the older set sampled varieties of wine and tossed back Sam Adams Octoberfest. Others broke out a spread of whiskey for sampling. After the game, one such veteran extolled the virtues of scotch on a 22-year old who couldn't quite hack it. Perhaps when he's older and his palate matures, he'll give it another go.
You can't grade what you can't see. Younger kids ran pass patterns and played catch, but aside from that there was nary a tossed object to be found.
The Princeton fans did a better job, bringing tiger tails and, in some cases, even wearing their stripes literally. Outside of a group of coeds who painted "Go Harvard!" on themselves, it was pretty much just crimson T-shirts or jackets. It's somewhat hard to blame them. After all, how exactly does one dress as a crimson?
A fair amount of Princeton backers joined the party throughout the day. Aside from the color of the T-shirts, you wouldn't have known it was mixed company. There was little to no banter about which school or team was the greatest, let alone the hootin' and hollerin' we often see at other campuses. I can only assume this is because they all expect to be colleagues one day. However, a few tailgates did pull out stereos and blast the Harvard fight song, which is always worth some points.
Despite the fact that the school sponsors a free tailgate for students, hardly any arrived before the game. The "Crimson Crazies" were limited to a few die-hards who deep down probably wish they were at some lesser institution with greater football fervor. The few ladies who did attend had their Harvard gear on and were certainly cute for brainiacs. It would have been nice if they could have persuaded some of their classmates to join in the fun.
After the game's completion, players and cheerleaders joined the fans in the lots and were fed liberally. Parents and alumni congratulated players on a game well played over burgers and dessert. Anyone who watched the game had the opportunity to commiserate with the people who competed on the field, something you can't possibly see at big time programs.
One could easily call the tailgate scene at Harvard quaint, but for the fans who are there, the tailgating is as important as the game itself. It would be nice if more of the students would put down the books for a few hours and join the devoted H-Club Crimson Crazies, at least for some free grub. The Harvard tailgate scene is a chance to see old friends and teammates and enjoy some of the finer things. Fans of all generations commiserate and reminisce about their days in Cambridge. There is a true camaraderie amongst the tailgaters to the point where each field has the feel of its own gigantic tailgate. That more than makes up for a lack of Winnebagos.