The Harvard Yale football game is a microcosm of how the world has changed in my lifetime and yet has remained exactly the same. I have been going to THE GAME, as it is known to its students and alumni, since the early 1960s when I was in college. At the time Yale and Harvard were all-male schools. My boyfriend was a Yalie and all the girls who were lucky enough to be invited to THE GAME (and it was an invitation we all wanted desperately) wore pretty suits and stockings and heels and were given corsages made of big clunky chrysanthemums, which our dates who were in ties and tweed sport coats, would buy for us. We all wore gold circle pins, our hair was set and shiny and our nails polished to match our lipstick. If we were rooting for Harvard we often wore a red crimson scarf or suit or ribbon; if rooting for Yale a blue scarf -- if not suit. We sat on the bleachers in the stadium with our friends and drank out of silver flasks, smoked with abandon, and most of us got quite tipsy. We had dined beforehand at the clubs (like Fence or DKE) that our boyfriends belonged to or we would tailgate with Bloody Marys, sandwiches from William Poll, pate, and so on.
At this year's game, I smiled at the current college students tailgating happily with their Bloody Marys and still flaunting proudly the color of their school -- but it was sweatshirts they wore which were blue or crimson, not dresses and ties. No one spent two hours getting ready as we did in the early 60s. No one was sporting a corsage that's for sure! But they were getting drunk, as we did, and the fun was just as palpable. What was intrinsic to THE GAME has not changed -- the anticipation, the partying, the camaraderie, the excitement. At half-time we are still entertained by the Yale band and the Harvard band who continue the tradition of skits mocking one another and playing their school songs.
The difference in today's crowd from the 1960s is in the makeup of the student body which exemplifies the diversity of today's admission process. They don't care about the silver flasks or the pate, but they still care about being at THE GAME. They traveled down from Cambridge to New Haven Saturday as my husband and I traveled up from New York to New Haven just to be part of this celebration. To be part of this tradition is not only a social event but a phenomenon and it is a small but important part of what makes Harvard Harvard and Yale Yale.