The Day Before

The Day Before

Nov. 21, 2008

The day before The Game is not just about the varsities of Yale and Harvard preparing for the 125th gridiron meeting. In addition to the Bulldog and Crimson junior varsity squads battling on the synthetic surface of Harvard Stadium early in the afternoon, there were luncheons, dinners, receptions and an alumni touch football game today along the banks of the river Charles. In addition, the eve of The Game brought the premier of the movie Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29 at a Cambridge theater.

It's quite possible that no other rivals could gather former players in the same room for an annual luncheon the day before the big game. Despite the emotional toll The Game tends to have on its student-athletes, former players and other alumni, the guys who used to be the combatants in this historic event come together to share their experiences. They talk about the old times and the next game while breaking bread and reveling in the spirit of the sport's value in a way scholarship schools could never comprehend.

The Tim Clark Luncheon, named after a former Harvard player (Yale's luncheon on odd years is named after Walt Levering '33), is the venue for that rivalry gathering. It was held today in the magnificent athletics history room of the Murr Center. The crew shells that hang from the ceiling and the timeline of Crimson athletic history on the walls create the perfect backdrop for former college athletes who competed in the one of sports' most historic rivalries.

Nearly 40 Old Blue (over 100 overall) attended the luncheon including Brian Dowling '69, who reflected on his experience in the 1968 contest and how his perspective on the tie has changed over the years. Speaking on behalf of the former Yale players, Dowling talked about that game being an important learning experience for everyone, and a result he has come to terms with in a positive manner.

"I look at it from a different perspective now. Watching the movie about the game certainly gave it new meaning to me," said Dowling, the record-breaking QB who is among the most famous of any Yale players.

Looking out the giant Murr Center windows, the lack of activity is strange the day before The Game, especially when the Harvard Ticket Office is located on the North Harvard Street end, next to the site of the luncheon. The game had been sold out since mid week and the allotment of tickets to Yale went just as fast. A few stragglers walk in and ask about tickets but are quickly turned away.

The Harvard Athletic Department expects to announce a crowd of over 31,000 tomorrow on a very cold day that could include single-digit wind chills. A national TV audience tuned into Versus adds to the prominence of the rivalry.

Meanwhile, back in New Haven, the Bulldog varsity runs through its plays as the JVs get set to kick it off in Harvard's ancient horseshoe. The varsity, which wants to send captain Bobby Abare (Acton, Mass.) and his senior classmates off on a high note Saturday, is performing its walk-through back at Yale without Casey Gerald (Dallas, Texas), one of the most decorated Ivy League scholar-athletes ever. The senior CB, who has won numerous awards this year, was interviewing for a Rhodes Scholarship in Houston today and hopes to be in Boston in time for tomorrow's noon kickoff. The pressure of facing Harvard's offense might be comparable to the interview process.

A three-hour reception at Dillon Field House to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the famous 1968 Yale-Harvard tie and the 125th meeting overall brought back some fond memories for the Cantab alumns. The premier of the movie about the 1968 game would seem to have too many bad memories for the old Blue to stomach. However, so many of them have come to terms with it and realized how famous they have become for having played in it. Yale coaching legend Carm Cozza, not among the packed theater goers this evening, witnessed enough of that contest from the visitor's sideline that gray day.

It's time to stop all the talk of respect and mutual admiration on the Yale and Harvard sides. Someone has to win on Saturday, there are no more ties in college football.

Report filed by Steve Conn, Yale Associate AD and Sports Publicity Director