One of the strangest tribal rites in American society is the Harvard-Yale weekend. The most traditional of rivals, these two colleges have been playing one another in football since 1875, and in the old days their game was often of importance in settling the national championship. It was a game that brought out the ferocity in everyone. According to dark legend, a turn-of-the-century Harvard coach deeply inspired his players without saying a word. As they watched in mounting fascination, he slowly and silently choked a bulldog to death, then tossed the carcass at their feet. Perhaps the most rabid Harvard cheerleader of all time was John Reed, '10, the Bolshevik sympathizer buried within the wall of the Kremlin. Nothing aroused Reed like the Yale game, and he wrote a song proposing to "twist the bulldog's tail" and "call up the hearse for dear old Yale." (Later Reed taught striking Paterson, N.J. silk workers Harvard songs with proletarian lyrics.)
Nowadays, the Harvard-Yale game is no longer of importance as far as college football standings are concerned, and much of the ferocity has departed. Nonetheless, the game remains the focal point for all sorts of curious folk practices. For instance, whenever it is played at Harvard, as it was November 24 last, representatives of the New Haven tailoring establishments—J. Press, Fenn-Feinstein, Chipp, Arthur Rosenberg, et al.—entrain for Cambridge to render biennial obeisance and to see what the young gentlemen are wearing. The tailors themselves wear velour Alpine hats, double-breasted, tweed topcoats and blue oxford shirts to offset their sallow complexions. By custom they do not speak to one another, and, upon arrival, each goes his separate way. Following tradition, Paul Press descends into the basement of J. Press, where he stands his Cambridge branch employees to a buffet luncheon of cream soda and hot pastrami imported from New Haven.
Harvard College has 4,700 students, each of whom is, as anyone of them will tell you, an individualist. "What we're after is not the well-rounded boy but the lopsided boy who will make up a well-rounded class," says F. Skiddy von Stade Jr., the freshman dean. As a result, says von Stade, "You don't get the whole college doing any one thing and that simply is extended to athletics, football included."
The freshmen live in the Yard, the upperclassmen in nine glorified dormitories called houses. (At Yale the houses are called colleges.) Each house, like Harvard itself, is stereotyped. Eliot House, for example, is "preppie," with an admixture of "jocks." Preppie and jock are two of the sociological pigeonholes into which Harvard students are forever thrusting one another. Preppies are prep-school graduates. If they are social enough, they may go on to become "clubbies," members of the handful of "final" clubs of which Porcellian is the most exclusive. Jocks are athletes. There are beatniks who hang out in Hayes Bickford Cafeteria on Harvard Square. There are "wonks." A wonk, sometimes called a "turkey" or a "lunch," roughly corresponds to the "meatball" of a decade ago. Like the jock, the clubbie and the beatnik, the wonk is free to go his own way. Harvard fosters a live-and-let-live philosophy. Mike Foley, a jock who plays end on the football team, says of the wonks: "You have to respect them. One of them might come up with an invention in 20 years that will save the world." Similarly, the wonks, when they stop to think about it, do not look upon the jocks as animals. There are animals in the Big Ten and at Dartmouth but not at Harvard.
Serious preparation for The Game begins a week beforehand at Harvard. (The Yale game is simply called The Game. Other games are called the Princeton game, the Cornell game, the Brown game and so on, but Yale is always The Game.)
At 2 on Sunday afternoon, November 17—six days before The Game—Harvard Coach John Yovicsin put the phone down in his office. It was his third call of the day, all from the same Boston paper. "I get three calls a day from them, from three different reporters, and each one of them wants something new," he said. "In fact, all the papers want something new every time.
"At Harvard," he continued, "we play two schedules. We've finished our first one now, and our second one starts this week." Both Harvard and Yale attach such importance to The Game that they scout one another all season. "When I first came here I didn't believe how important the Yale game could be," Yovicsin said. "Of course, there are so many areas of interest here that groups can become so wrapped up in their own interests that they are not concerned with the team. But generally we have fine support. Harvard is different, but it's nice."
Outside Yovicsin's office Buzz Gagnebin, the varsity manager, said that in order to get the players up for a game he "must appeal to their intelligence." It was not unusual, he said, for a player to ask him to remove a pep sign from the locker room on the grounds it was childish. Gagnebin was trying to decide what movie to show the players on Friday night. "We try not to get anything with lovey-dovey parts," he said. "We like to have one with lots of action."
At 5 Sunday afternoon Bill Grana, fullback, and Charlie Kessler, guard, were watching the Boston Patriot game on TV in Grana's room in Winthrop House. Grana, a junior from St. Louis, is majoring in biochemistry, and he is a group-three student (a B average). "I want the grades, sure," he said, "but during the fall I think an awful lot about football. I'm glad I'm playing here. I really enjoy it. I have friends in the Big Eight and the Big Ten who love football, but they quit. They just couldn't stand it."
"Football sure doesn't unite the campus here," said Kessler. "There are guys in the stacks at Widener Library who never come out, and the crowd that hangs around Hayes Bick is like a thing that came right out of the wall."
Monday morning. There was a report President Kennedy would attend The Game. There was a rumor Sinatra was bringing the Clan. (On Friday the White House announced the President would attend. Nothing was said about Sinatra.)
Leavitt & Peirce, tobacconists, displayed memorabilia of The Game in their left window. (The right window is traditionally reserved for crew notices.)
Gagnebin posted a picture of a Yale player in each Harvard locker with the caption, "Will the Sunday papers mention him—or you? It's up to you!"
Monday afternoon at 4:30 Ray Colucci of Ray's Barber Shop on Holyoke Street was caustic about Harvard students. "That's about the only thing they still care for," he said of The Game. "For other games, they don't go. It's like a record I don't want to hear anymore. I say, 'You going to the game Sat'day?' And they ask, 'Who's playing?' It all started to change with the war. They're pigs. Dirty necks, dirty clothes. The artistic touch is all gone. They say, 'Give me a medium haircut.' The hair is so long, how do you know what's medium? Now you go back to the '30s, a shave every day, a haircut every two weeks.
"I learned how to play the horses from a Harvard student. Could you imagine that now? My God, they used to want me to make book in here. Those kids knew how to live."
Two doors up, business was brisk at The Andover Shop. Charlie Davidson, the proprietor, said The Game was important even though Harvard students wouldn't openly admit it. "They'll order a jacket a couple of weeks beforehand and then say, 'Oh, I'd like to have that a week from Friday,'—and that's the start of the Yale weekend. It's very subtle. When we had the shop on Mount Auburn Street the band used to march by, playing hard enough to knock the windows in. But instead of turning around, the guy would say, 'I'd like a tie with a little more blue in it.' "
According to Davidson, Harvard plays down enthusiasm for football as smacking of the Big Ten. "Big Ten" is Harvard's way of saying corny. At Harvard, Davidson concluded, "It's all right to hold a rally for SANE or H. Stuart Hughes, but not for football."
Tuesday. Inconclusive lunch with six Radcliffe girls about The Game. "Freshmen [from Radcliffe] just die to go to every game," said one. "They'll even take blind dates. On the other hand, sophs and juniors are more blasé about it and don't care at all. Seniors seem to regain their interest—I mean, it's the last year—and then maybe they're also getting a little concerned about marriage."
Perhaps Radcliffe's mixed attitude toward The Game was best summed up by Faye Levine while crossing Anderson Bridge after the Brown game: "I'll go to The Game and I'll look forward to it, in a kind of unverbalized way."
Wednesday morning. The Gargoyle Undergraduate Tiddlywinks Society posted a notice in Phillips Brooks House: "It's so colossal only the mighty parlor of P.B.H. could hold it! So stupid that Sports Illustrated is covering it—Saturday only, Yale vs. the undefeated G.U.T.S. 10 a.m. Free."
Lunch in Boston with a former crew captain and two other Harvard alumni, one class of '45, the other '51. Crew and '51 were both Porcellian. Crew: "The Game is not as important as tradition makes it out to be. It used to be much more important. Myself, I don't give a hang about The Game, but it's a marvelous opportunity to meet old friends." Class of '51 thought younger alumni might prefer to beat Dartmouth. Crew: "Culture is limited at Dartmouth."
The class of '51 expressed annoyance at the time Yale let its manager score against Harvard. "I'd like to see us get ahead about 40 points, go down to the two-yard line, then fall back into punt formation and boot the damn thing out of the stadium. That would show them." Crew: "Oh no, now, I don't see why we should get down to their level."
Crew, reminiscing: "In my time, the clubmen used to go to the games—all the games—in a bunch. We'd have a big dinner at the club and then bundle off to the stadium with a few bottles. Oh, it was marvelous. Oh my, yes, there were girls about, but they didn't get in your way. Oh, you would know a girl from some subscription dance, but all this business about steady girls was definitely not the thing. It was more date-the-waitress sort of stuff."
Wednesday evening. When the players came in from practice Harvard songs were played in the locker room. "Oh jeez," said Guard Ernie Zissis, "they got the music going."
Thursday. Thanksgiving. The varsity concentrated on pass defense. Alumni started to arrive. Arguments over hotel reservations.
Friday morning, 10 o'clock. An alumnus from Rye, N.Y. brought his teenage son into Keezer's old-clothes store on Massachusetts Avenue for a secondhand sports coat. The raccoon coats, which started to sell just before the Dartmouth game, were all gone. A Radcliffe freshman bought the last one for $5.
Starting at 2 in the afternoon, Harvard played Yale 17 times in football, touch football and soccer. The largest crowds, about 3,500 each, were at the soccer game, which Harvard won, 3-1, to tie for the Ivy League championship, and the freshman football game, which Harvard also won, 13-12. On the other fields flanking the stadium, Soldiers Field, Harvard houses met Yale colleges in football. The principal game was between Eliot House and Saybrook College, the two champions of their intramural leagues. About 120 persons watched the game, among them John Finley, the Master of Eliot, who kept shouting exhortations from the sidelines. (The week before, when Eliot won the house championship by beating Leverett 22-8, Finley, professor in the classics department, greeted the team, "Well done, my golden warriors, my Greek gods!") Eliot won 21-0, thanks mainly to the efforts of Quarterback Pete Wood, the son of Harvard All-America Barry Wood. "I'm just a high school football player," said Wood after the game, "and, besides, this is so much fun."
At 6 Edward Lawrence, president of Porcellian, gave a party for 40 in Eliot House. Most of the guests, who brought dates, were clubbies. Some soccer players were present, and so were several Yalies. The room was dimly lit. A student waiter, attired in a white jacket, served drinks. "Sometimes you have to watch these guys," a clubbie said. "They think they get pay and anything they can drink, too." "Gee, I like this party," a girl said to her date. "Nobody's talking about football." The conversation was social chatter about people the guests knew. Occasionally the clubbies would drift together in the middle of the room. "There they all are, by themselves again," said a girl. A Yalie, who had attended prep school with a number of the clubbies, said: "Freshman year I saw them all at Christmas, and at first I didn't even recognize them. I couldn't even talk to them they had become so Harvard. And they get worse every year. Some of them are just unbearable now."
At 7:30 p.m. the Harvard band gathered in front of University Hall in the Yard for a football rally. "There is more warmth for the band than for the football team," said Joe Russin, sports editor of The Crimson. "People actually go to see the band. In a way, the band symbolizes Harvard. The Harvard band doesn't march in a straight line but in just sort of a mass formation. People hooted when the leader instructed the band to march in a straight line for one game. But the Harvard band does show an excellence in one thing that really should count, an excellence in music. Just as Harvard demands excellence in thought." The peculiar thing is, though, an editor of the Lampoon, Harvard's humor magazine, seriously remarked, "The band is in, but its members are out." Peter Farrow, the student conductor, said: "Generally, we're public school—Jewish."
The rally was the first at Harvard in several years, and many students were surprised it was held. A couple of football players, who were flabbergasted, suspected that the athletic association had staged it to impress visiting sports-writers with Harvard spirit. About 100 persons followed the band as it marched out of the Yard playing Ten Thousand Men of Harvard, and about 400 trailed behind when it marched back in 10 minutes later.
The bandsmen mounted the steps of Widener Library where red flares were lit. Gagnebin adjusted a microphone and introduced Captain Dick Diehl. The crowd was skeptical. Diehl was interrupted with cheers whenever he tried to speak. Gagnebin introduced the rest of the players. The band joined in the cheers for Zissis. Yovicsin said he had once been warned about Harvard indifference. Huge cheer for Harvard indifference. The entire rally took only 15 minutes. "We cut it short because we didn't want a riot," Gagnebin said.
The players filed aboard a Gray Line sightseeing bus to go to a motel in Framingham for the night. There they would see a movie, Sea Chase, which Gagnebin had selected over Ivanhoe and Go for Broke. "Good action film," he said. An undergraduate stopped by the bus, then said, shyly, to a player friend inside, "Get Yale." "You bet," said the player, shrinking into his seat.
Meanwhile, the crowd from the Yard had surged into Harvard Square, stopping outside Hayes Bick. "We want a riot!" someone yelled. There was no riot. Overheard conversation: "You going tomorrow?" "No, I sold my tickets. I got a good price." Cheers when a Negro beatnik with a beret, sunglasses and a goatee climbed up a ladder and waved to the crowd. More cheers when a patrol wagon arrived to take him away. "Who's he?" a reporter asked. "The guy who usually wears a sling," said a bystander. "We want tear gas!" someone cried. There was no tear gas and the police slowly dispersed the crowd.
At Sanders Theatre the Harvard and Yale glee clubs gave a joint concert. The Crimson critic didn't like it: "Certainly a football concert ought not to strive for the heights and depths, but it needn't be spread thin with kitsch [in word for showy rubbish], either." At the Signet Society two Harvard undergraduates read poetry and fiction while a Yale undergraduate read poetry. Harvard won, 2-1.
At 10:30 the Krokodiloes, the Hasty Pudding Club's version of the Whiffenpoofs, threw a party for the Whiffenpoofs in Eliot House. The Kroks and Whiffs, who wore white ties and tails, sang gay college songs. No one talked about The Game. "My roommate has never been to a game," said Al Burns, director of the Kroks, "but he likes the idea of Harvard beating Yale."
Saturday morning. Rainy and cold, At 10 a Santa Claus, carrying a case of beer, lurched down Mount Auburn and entered the side door of the Lampoon building. Inside he joined half a dozen more Santas, all candidates for the magazine. Standing about shouting imprecations at the Santas were editors wearing elf hats.
"Who's going to win The Game?" Jack Winter, a past president of the Lampoon, asked a visitor. "Harvard's favored by 12," said the visitor, "but a wet field helps the underdog." "I'm talking about The Game," said Winter, coldly. By The Game, he meant the Lampoon against The Yale Record in croquet. "Listen," said Winter, "one year we played The Game in the stadium and everybody left afterward. No one stayed to see football." As proof, he displayed an old Lampoon with a photograph showing a player punting before empty seats. "See," he snarled.
An editor named Woody Wickham made sure the Santa Clauses had mallets and beer. One Santa carried a parasol to keep the rain off an editor wearing a velvet jester's suit. When Wickham had finished checking he and the other editors shoved the Santas out the side door. "Let's go, you big Lampoon team!" they shouted.
The Yale Record team, a shabby-looking crew, was waiting in a nearby lot. A Record editor hawked programs of The Game to gawking onlookers. (The program was all about croquet; a small note announced: "Festivities will be followed by a football match between Yale and Harvard universities.") Just before The Game began the Record team started chanting, "Cheat! Cheat! Cheat!" Yale was behind before starting; the Lampoon always wins all games "by the traditional score of 23-2" (except in cross-country when the Lampoon wins "by the traditional score of 2-23").
By 1:20 p.m. the rain had stopped, but the temperature dropped close to freezing and a chilling wind swept over the capacity crowd of 39,000 in Soldiers Field. Down in the Harvard locker room, Yovicsin finished going over strategy. Then, very briefly, he said that everybody in the stands would give almost anything to play. "All right, seniors," he said. "Take over. It's yours." He and the assistant coaches left, leaving the players alone. "I think this is really cool," said Zissis later.
On the field the Harvard band performed "the first Conservative pregame show" in honor of William F. Buckley, Yale '50, by marching backwards. There was an enormous cheer when the public-address announcer reported that President Kennedy had to cancel plans to attend The Game. Everyone sang the national anthem.
The students in Section 33 were noisier than the alumni in Section 29. One out of four girls wore Harvard scarves. Occasionally, there would be a cry of, "Restrain them, Harvard! Impede their forward progress!" Harvard took a 7-0 lead in the second quarter but, right after the touchdown, the wife of an alumnus in Section 29 announced she was bored. A biplane flew overhead trailing a banner: BUY LEAVITT & PEIRCE CAKE TOBACCO MIX.
At half time the Harvard band saluted the Trojan War. The members formed a bow and arrow while they played Ajax, the Foaming Cleanser, and ended up in the shape of a Trojan horse. Then they played I've Got You Under My Skin.
"I wish they'd stop playing those sophisticated show tunes." an alumnus in Section 29 complained. The band swung into Ten Thousand Men of Harvard. "Now that," said the alumnus, "is more like it."
The Yale cheerleaders tried to rough up a student dressed as John Harvard. He escaped, waving his Pilgrim hat in triumph as he danced back across the field. "The Dartmouth boys were very rude," said an alumnus. "Yes," said a woman, "why when I went to the ladies' room...." A cheer for Harvard's victory in tiddlywinks blotted out her remarks. "God Save the Queen?" the alumnus asked. "I guess they think they're all wild Indi...." Cheer for the Lampoon win in croquet "by the traditional score of 23-2."
In the third quarter the Yale side of the field cheered when Halfback Jack Cirie returned a punt 59 yards for a touchdown. The Harvard side cheered when Yale messed up the conversion. Gloom in Section 8 high above the Yale students where three South Boston Italians had Harvard by 11 points. "We've lost," said a man named Louie.
A Harvard bandsman held up cards for the members to see. They read: MURMUR, ANGRY, BLOOD. On One, VERITAS had been crossed out and TRUTH written underneath. When Zissis came out a bandsman led a special Zissis cheer.
"Give me a Z," he began, spelling out Zissis. "What's it spell?" he asked. "Zissis!" "What's it spell backwards?" "Zissis!" "What's it spell sideways?" "Zissis!"
Harvard scored with six minutes left to take a 14-6 lead. With two minutes to go, Harvard students began waving handkerchiefs. As the teams lined up for the last play, the gun went off. Rick Beizer, a Harvard linebacker and rock-'n'-roll fanatic, spoke first after the historic 1962 game. "Who," he called over to the Yale quarterback, Brian Rapp, "did Oh what a Night?" "The Dells," Rapp shot back. "Hey, I found out who did She's Gone—The Channels."
The Harvard locker room was joyful but not ecstatic. Yovicsin was almost in tears, sort of choked up, accepting greetings from well-wishers, reporters and old players mostly.
Alumni jammed into tents and field houses surrounding the stadium. There were at least 2,000 in Briggs Cage. No one was heard talking about The Game. Conversations ran from, "Jack, you've put on weight," to "That picture looks best in the library, George."
Porcellian threw a party to which ladies were admitted, then held a dinner from which ladies were excluded. The houses gave dances. The Lampoon had a blast. No one talked about The Game. Instead Jack Winter sang a rock-'n'-roll song about baseball players. The lyrics went: "Wayne Belardi...Tommy Umphlett...Don Bollweg."
"Don't go to Pi Eta," Winter warned. "You'll find jocks slobbering over their dates in the corner."
The noisiest party was at the Pi Eta Club. Joe Cronin, president of the American League, was there. His son Corky is a member. The Geary brothers, ex-Harvard hockey players and stars of the 1960 U.S. Olympic team, were there. There was talk Teddy Kennedy would show up. Teddy and the late Joe Kennedy Jr. were members. "Teddy was here last year for Princeton," said Jim Schroeder, the president. Pi Eta has 90 members, 22 of them football players. "This has always been a jock house," Schroeder said. No one was talking about The Game. John Davidson, '53 and a former Pi Eta president, said, "Harvard's whole interest in athletics is a very subtle thing, but it's not as sneered at as most people like to think. It's a little game they play." "Hah-vud," said Frederick Flather III, '54, "is an intellectual institution. It's the pride in something you don't have to boast about. It's a great institution. We're Hah-vud, and Hah-vud is still No. 1 in this country." A famous ex-Harvard athlete spoke up. "Don't use my name, but the spirit could be better." "But then," said Fred Flather, "it wouldn't be Hah-vud."
Sunday morning. Cambridge was still. At noon alumni began leaving town. In the late afternoon Ernie Zissis, Rick Beizer and Mike Foley relaxed in their suite in one of the new towers in Leverett House. Zissis, a junior, had played his last game of football for Harvard. A transfer from West Point, he had lost a year of eligibility. Football was really important at the Point. "Here," said Zissis, "there are so many things to do; there's no need to get fired up about football. It's a good thing. I like it that way."
"The whole thing is to put football in the right perspective," said Foley. "And we come as close here as anybody."
Beizer said that he and Zissis had started a Gentlemen's Corner in the Varsity Club. "Anybody could sit in," he said, "but there was no jock talk." Early in the season, he and Zissis had passed the word to four sophomores to cut out the jock talk. "It was football, football, all the time," Beizer said. "Now these guys are bright. This was in the beginning of the season and it's funny to see how their attitude changed. Ernie and I got them alone and tried to wise them up. We told them to leave football in the locker room, to talk a little Plato and Aristotle."
"I'd hate to walk around the Square and have people point me out and say 'Hey, he plays football,' " Zissis said. "I really would."
"Actually," said Foley, "we're an arrogant team, but with a sort of quiet determinism."
"I'm awfully proud of this place," Zissis said. "I know what it means to me. Well, we all know what it means to us."
"There's this new philosophy called borghese," Beizer said. "I heard it from my brother who's at Yale Law School. It's concerned with only the important things in life and none of the trivia. Everybody's interested in it. The coaches were all crazy about it. It's very subjective. I tell Jimmy Lent, [the defensive line coach], "Jimmy, you're borghese.' He is. Henry Lamar [the freshman coach], he's borghese. And football, it's borghese when we're playing. In July it's still borghese for Jimmy Lentz, but not for me. And the Yale game, sure, it's borghese. The Yale game is borghese."