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Ritual Combat

State of the Union: Gaudeamus igitur, the 139th Game is played today.
(The 1875 Yale Bulldogs/public domain)

The American Conservative is irregular in its sporting coverage, but pretty assiduous in its treatment of American folkways and traditional practices. Today at New Haven, the Harvard Crimson (8–1) and the Yale Bulldogs (6–3) are going to contest the field per the rules of American football for the 139th time. The wicked sons of Eli—the Yalies, that is—lead the series 69–61–8.

Your humble correspondent is, alas, unable to cover the event live, but imagines it will be much like earlier iterations of The Game (this meeting of athletic titans is called The Game, so styled). Blackie Sherrod, a sportswriter from Texas, got to the heart of the thing when covering the 1960 meeting:


This one dignified old gent in Tyrolian hat, Tattersall vest and stout brogues stood discreetly behind a rock wall and produced a brown bottle from somewhere in his Brooks Brothers garments. He pulled heroically at the stuff, while his freshly powdered wattles quivered in protest, and went into a spell of coughing and eye watering.

You just knew that this fine gent would never repeat this torture on any other day of the year. He usually sat in a lush leather chair at the club and had Jarvis or Cleve or Hamilton fetch him an ale for his appetite.

But, by gad, sir, this was The Game and these things have to be done.

Sherrod had a good time, despite the perhaps disappointing football on display, which is not the point anyway.

And so, it seemed to this scarred fugitive from the grim, grim world of Southwest football, that The Game isn't The Game at all, in our provincial terms.

Rather it's a holiday to be anticipated and relished, a place to take your best gal with a calm realization that there has to be a loser just as there has to be a winner, and the sky ain't gonna fall down, regardless of the result.

The Hahvuds lost, to be sure, and the pure blue amateur sky stayed up there and everybody had a ball and who's to say these citizens ain't got the right idea?

Gaudeamus igitur. Go Harvard.