Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Beautiful Day - Harvard Tops Yale 45-7

John Tepper Marlin

Robert Trentlyon is a member of the Class of 1950 at Yale. He called to invite me to join him at the Harvard-Yale game this year, which took place on Saturday. For many years, Bob has gone to The Game with two friends, his college roommate and Ambassador Walter Carrington, Harvard ’52, whom he met when both were involved in Students for Democratic Action. One year neither of Bob’s colleagues could make it, so I joined Bob in lieu of the other two. Harvard came from behind and won. Bob consoled himself at the time, by muttering: “Well, at least Walter isn’t here to gloat over me.”
Bob Trentlyon, Yale '50

I met Walter on Bob’s 80th birthday. This year the three of us went to New Haven on Saturday, November 19. Bob is a former NYC newspaper publisher (Chelsea-Clinton News etc.) and a prominent civic leader, his POV distinct from that of his classmate, the late Bill Buckley Yale ’50. Bob told me that Yale calls the Class of 1950 its “greatest class”, swelled by GIs to twice the pre-war size of 800. We took the 7:55 am New Haven RR train from Grand Central (see photo). It was so crowded with young fans that many had to stand.

In New Haven, we met up with Walter, who came down from Boston. He served Presidents Carter and Clinton as Ambassador to Senegal and Nigeria and before that headed up the Peace Corps in Africa during the Kennedy-Johnson era. We took the Yale Club bus to the stadium for $15, round trip. We purchased general admission tickets for $5 each but then decided we wanted to sit closer to the 50-yard line so we purchased reserved seats at Portal 30 for another $30 each. Walter was delighted to find his seat number matched his birthday. It was our lucky day. We sat right by the 50-yard line.

Since the three of us purchased six tickets, the attendance figure put out by Yale is overstated by at least three, making it 55,134. This number amounts to 90 percent of the 61,446 capacity that the Bowl was left with after alterations in 2006. But the Yale Bowl was never 90 percent filled. Many people, especially on the Harvard side, must have bought tickets and didn’t come. And after the first half I regret to say a large number of Blue supporters threaded their way out well before the end of the game; for this game, the Sitzfleisch award goes to the Harvard fans.

L-R: Walter Carrington H'52, Robert Trentlyon Y'50, John Tepper Marlin H'62
Update January 2013 - Sadly, Bob Trentlyon tells me he was at a memorial
service for Ambassador Carrington - at Tony & Lucille's (see below) in the
second week of January.
We sat on the Harvard side, where the sun shines after the first quarter. Our caps shaded our eyes (see photo). The sun meant we shivered less than the Yalies on the other side of the Bowl. It was windy, especially in the first quarter, and several missed forward passes were probably  blown off course. The lateral passes had a higher completion rate but gained less yardage than a forward pass would have (duh!).

One reason some Harvard fans didn’t show is surely that Harvard was undefeated going into the game and was already the Ivy champion after beating Penn the week before. But the Harvard team reportedly had decided not to accept their Ivy championship rings if they failed to defeat Yale. Based on this fact, and the formidable team statistics at the front of the game program, I ventured to suggest to my senior companions that the score would be Harvard 48 to Yale 18.  Neither would wager.

The game began with a fine Yale touchdown. It was a sight to see the Yale side so excited. After the conversion and a 7-0 lead, the Yalies leaped up and waved blue hats and blue scarves until kingdom come. The idea surfaced… they could win this! In the excitement I confess I temporarily forgot my lopsided forecast. After all, no money was riding on the outcome. Ambassador Carrington thoughtfully also failed to remember what my forecast was. Bob, in contrast, reminded me I was the “baby” (his word) of the group, and for all he could tell, I was drinking Milk of Amnesia.

But Harvard’s Quarterback  Collier Winters quickly tied up the first quarter.  The stadium paused for a moment of silence out of respect for a woman who was killed before the game by a U-Haul carrying beer kegs, with two others injured. (The NY Times reported that the Yale undergraduate driver was sober and that the problem seems to have been a mechanical failure.)

Harvard’s second touchdown was at the beginning of the second quarter, as Winters threw a successful 20-yard pass to Wide Receiver Alex Sarkisian in the end zone. The next two scores featured kicker David Mothander, who faked a field goal and ran over the goal line without a single Blue hand being laid on him and then, before the end of the first half, kicked a real field goal.
From the game program I counted 138 names on the Harvard squad, 128 on the Yale squad. So, on average, 8.3 percent of the two squads are on the field at any one time. I couldn't find a roster of the two bands; my impression is that they have shrunk from the numbers in the 1950s and 1960s. If my impression is correct, I wonder what the reason is. 
By the middle of the second quarter when Harvard was well ahead, I re-remembered my forecast. The Harvard defense held up during the rest of the game, blocking a Yale field goal kick, forcing a fumble and intercepting three times. At the third down 18 times, Yale was able to grind out the yardage for a first down only four times, which is a success rate of just 22.2 percent.

As the shadows lengthened, and Winters hammered away, the
 sons and daughters of Eli streamed out of the stadium. 
The Yale announcer kept up his spirits by noting the achievements of many of the other 35 varsity sports the university competes in, and noting the scores of games in the world beyond New Haven. He also made the point that Yale was ahead over the full 128-game series, with 65 games won to Harvard’s 53 (soon to be 54) and the rest tied.  But Yale has been lagging in recent years. Since 1956, when the Ivy League was formalized, Harvard has won 31 to 24, with only one game tied - the one in 1968 that is formally listed as a 29-29 tie but is correctly described (I was there) in Cambridge as a Harvard win. The 21st century has seen ten wins for Harvard, one for Yale. At what point does Harvard start to look like a bully?

After a scoreless third quarter, what sped the sons and daughters of Eli on an early exit from the Bowl was the Bang-Bang Winters Silver Hammer coming down on their heads for three touchdowns in a row.  The most exciting moments were a 60-yard pass to Kyle Jusczcyk and a long runback after an interception by Harvard captain Alex Gedeon.

Ivy Champs '99. This was the last time Yale won against
 Harvard at home. Bob hypothesized this was 1899.
Somewhere in the fourth quarter I observed to Bob that Yale hasn’t beaten Harvard at the Yale Bowl since ’99. I pointed to the “Ivy Champs ‘99” banner on the field (see photo). Bob had by this point in the game become… and I hate to say this about a friend… a bitter man. He looked out over the field and said, with his gallows-humor nostrils flaring: “You realize, of course, that the banner refers to eighteen-99.”

According to Harvard Magazine's report of the game, the final score equaled (was identical to!) the best previous Harvard win, in 1982.

Archway entrance to Little Italy,
New Haven.
To be fair, Yale Quarterback Patrick Witt did his best. During the season he has broken many Yale passing records. He completed 24 of 39 attempted passes during the game, an average of slightly less than 10 yards per pass, with one of them ending with a Yale touchdown. The wind may have contributed to three of his passes ending in Harvard hands. There was a kerfuffle over Witt’s choosing to play with his team instead of showing up for a Rhodes Scholarship finalist interview. He did the right thing for his team and can always apply for a Rhodes in 2012.
Tony & Lucille's, where we ate dinner.

After the game, there being no more Mory’s, we went to Little Italy (see photo of archway at entrance to the neighborhood) and had a really fine meal at Tony & Lucille’s (photo at left). We had trouble afterwards getting a taxi to the train station but fortunately got a lift from a Yalie patron of Frank Pepe’s Pizza  across the road. Pepe’s is reputed to be the most ancient pizza vendor in the United States, says Bob, who by this time was greatly cheered up by a large helping of fettucini, more than he could finish, and some Californian pinot grigio.
Tony & Lucille's restaurant has installed
 an ATM machine. The local bank puts
a distance between  itself and Wall Street.

The ATM machine at Tony & Lucille's was installed by Domestic Bank, which self-describes its mission as "We're Main Street - Not Wall Street".  A sign of the times. This led to some stories by Bob of his days as a newspaper publisher, including the time when his biggest advertisers, NYC’s savings banks (institutions that would now be called “community banks”) were clobbered by the Savings and Loan crisis. It was a hard time for neighborhood-based periodicals, which relied heavily on these bank ads. He once offered a savings bank some toasters in return for advertising - in those days, you got a toaster for opening an account. PS: It didn’t work. “I have a basement full of toasters,” said the banker.

That story was as close as we came to talking about the reality of the world of 2011, laid low by excessive risk-taking by American financial institutions and facing the possibility of another whammy from the asset-shrinking impact of U.S.-originated derivatives on European banks. It was a welcome respite. It was, for Walter and me, and maybe even for Bob, a beautiful day.

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