1.) The most important thing to think about when discussing Harvard-Yale is to not discuss Harvard or Yale. Pretend that those two schools are not involved. The Harvard-ness or the Yale-osity of Harvard or Yale played absolutely no part in what actually transpired in Harvard-Yale 2014. Despite what College Gameday might have you believe, Harvard did not win because of its endowment (which is fucking huge). Yale did not lose because George W. Bush went there (which he did.) Pretend that the game is between two fictional schools of your choosing. West Coast Burrito Tech versus Middle Taco State. Whatever.
2.) The reason for doing this is that "Harvard" and "Yale" evoke thought patterns that are not at all useful for discussing this game. Thought patterns like, "I wish I had gotten into either of these schools" or "I could not have gotten into either of these schools" or "I would strangle a live cat to get my kids into these schools because then their success will be assured and my parenting strategies will be verified by a third party" or "the Ivy League is what's right/wrong with America and here is a think piece on the subject that'll be $150 please." It is best to not think about Harvard or Yale.
3.) The students and alumni mulling around outside the stadium certainly were not thinking about Harvard or Yale. They were not thinking about the game at all. Players for Harvard and Yale could have wandered into the tailgate, eaten six donuts, and meandered their way back out without anyone recognizing them. This is the magic of FCS football.
4.) They were going to make snarky signs. They were going to be tremendously irritating at times. They were probably going to get drunk. I was okay with this.
5.) Before the game, Harvard hosted what amounted to a reunion combined with a pretty solid house party. I was told multiple times by Harvard alums that "we don't know how to do this football thing." "This football thing" meaning the traditional college football experience, I guess, though they seemed to have the "provide food and alcohol" part down. The most college footballish discussion that occurred at the tailgate focused on how none of the Harvard alumni in attendance had ever witnessed a Yale win. No one seemed terribly concerned about the game - in fact, many in attendance didn't have tickets for the game. They did, however, know to provide mulled cider and screwdrivers. That proved critical.
6.) I should note that it was mind-bendingly cold. Hand warmers work. Foot warmers do not. Lesson learned.
7.) I met one person who had attended Harvard for undergrad, Yale for medical school, and was back at Harvard for business school. He seemed mildly sheepish about the whole thing, saying that at this point, his parents told him that that was enough school for one person. I concurred.
8.) I say all of this and then I will add that Harvard-Yale was one of the best football games I have ever seen in person.
9.) This year's Yale team was the best in years, coming into Cambridge with an 8-1 record and having scored at least 40 points in seven games this season.
10.) Yale's quarterback, Morgan Roberts, transferred from Clemson and has played both quarterback and wide receiver. He threw for more than 3,000 yards in 2014 with a 67% completion percentage. Yale's offense averages 571.5 yards per game, including 323.6 yards passing.
11.) That is insane.
12.) Harvard was undefeated and looking for its 16th Ivy League title. Harvard's defense recovered 13 fumbles in 2014, intercepted passes 10 times, and scored four touchdowns on defense. Harvard's defense also sacked opposing quarterbacks 27 times in 2014.
13.) Yale had not won the game since 2006.
14.) That was tremendously problematic for Yale fans, who came to Cambridge in droves hoping to see a major upset.
15.) Harvard and Yale fans have the unique contempt built on being remarkably similar. Many in attendance had attended both schools. Both are among the world's best universities. But their fans could not stand the sight of one another once inside the stadium. As it should be.
16.) Harvard's stadium is why there is football. If you are in Harvard Stadium, and no one is playing football, you should demand someone start a game immediately. It is beautiful in a way I cannot fully describe. It makes the muscles behind your ears twitch. It was possible to hear Yale fans celebrate on the other side of the stadium, like one can hear waves crashing a mile away. When the sun broke through the clouds, it shone directly on our end of the field, and everything was right with the world. I was sitting next to USC fans who spend their falls traveling around the country going to rivalry games, and we quickly agreed that this was pretty fucking awesome.
17.) We had field seats, because field seats were $75 and not sold out and because I would literally buy a seat in the damn end zone if that were available.
18.) Harvard was up on Yale 24-7 at the beginning of the fourth quarter, scoring on a wild end-around pass:
and a 90-yard pick-six that I believed would end with senior linebacker Connor Sheehan running directly into me.
I have never seen a pick-six in person. I had certainly not seen a pick-six in which the linebacker ran towards me at top speed. I highly recommend it.
19.) In the fourth quarter, Harvard couldn't finish a drive and kept turning the ball over. Yale scored three times in under ten minutes to tie the game.
20.) I had no real feelings about this game coming in. I was planning on being an impartial observer. My impartiality lasted roughly an hour before it gave way to full-fledged Harvard Crimson fandom. This was partly due to the fact that Yale's marching band's performance at halftime centered its criticism of Harvard on the fact that Harvard would have classes the following Monday (Yale did not) and Harvard no longer offered hot breakfast. The Yale marching band sucks. I did not want them to win anything. Even though the Yale mascot is a bulldog wearing a sweater who spent much of the game either asleep or eating, I could not allow Yale or the Yale marching band the pleasure of victory.
21.) With 55 seconds remaining in the game, Harvard quarterback Connor Hempel threw the game-winning touchdown to Andrew Fischer.
22.) The stadium reverberated. It shook down to its foundations. I could not hear anything besides pure sound. I was standing on a bleacher and I'm pretty sure I jumped onto a man wearing camo-printed Patriots gear.
23.) Football is awesome. Football between two teams that hate one another and desperately want to win is beyond awesome. When the game ended (after Harvard picked off Yale for the final time), we ran onto the field because doing anything else seemed illogical. I have never rushed a field or a court or anything before. But I had to, because I had to.
24.) After the game, Harvard students followed a Yale fan for roughly five straight minutes and chanted "No Yale, No, They know better, They know better" to the tune of "No-Flex Zone." It was great.
25.) It's hard to see the forest for the trees. It's hard to watch a football game between two good teams without seeing the schools and their histories and that overshadowing the game. But Harvard-Yale wasn't a game between two Ivy League schools or some sort of statement on "how the game should be played." Sometimes, there isn't an overarching message. There are just two teams and a ball and two end zones and 60 minutes of game time.
Harvard-Yale was a hell of a game. Let's just leave it at that.