Nov. 16, 2007
by Ron Vaccaro '04
In Yale-Harvard circles, that means one thing.
The score is about all that is agreed upon. For Yalies, it's "that damn tie", whereas the Crimson call it the 29-29 "win".
In a sentence, Harvard scored 16 improbable points in the final moments to tie Yale - the only blemish for a Yale team that featured Calvin Hill and Brian Dowling. The rival teams had to "share" the Ivy championship.
That marked the last time Yale and Harvard both brought undefeated league marks into The Game. Tomorrow, it happens again, with a crowd of over 60,000 expected inside the restored Yale Bowl. Only this time, thanks to rule changes within the past decade, there will be no tie. Either the Elis or Cantabs will win the 124th renewal of the storied rivalry, taking all the loot along with it. Winner: 2007 Ivy League Champions. Loser: Nothing.
The Yale coach back in 1968 was hall-of-famer Carm Cozza, currently my broadcast partner calling Yale games. At dinners over the years, he would cringe whenever someone uttered any one of the following phrases: "the tie"; "1968", "29-29", heck, sometimes even the number "29" coming up in any fashion was enough to tweak him. Now, in the interest of preserving the 77-year-old's health, everyone knows to steer clear of anything that may bring up the tie. Still, last week at Princeton, while having breakfast, Carm brought it up, out of the blue:
"You know, people are going to be talking about that darn 1968 game again," he said. 'They still say they won it. Well, they didn't."
Those words aren't spoken with any mean-spiritedness. Yale and Harvard may be each other's biggest rivals, but they also have a tremendous amount of respect for each other.
The Yale-Harvard relationship can best be described as a healthy competitiveness between the schools, one that extends beyond football and athletics. It permeates every aspect of the universities. John F. Kennedy, when receiving an honorary doctorate from Yale, famously quipped that he had received the best of both worlds - a Harvard education and a Yale degree.
When the two teams meet on the gridiron, it's like siblings doing battle - both want to beat the other in the worst way, but at the end of the day, handshakes prevail. You can probably count on one hand the number of cheap shots that have taken place in this game, ever. And even then you'd probably have a few fingers to spare.
It is said that Yale-Harvard is played at a faster clip than the other games that these teams play. I've asked numerous coaches and players how that can be true, and they all say that it is. Maybe it's the fact that for the seniors, it's one last chance to make it real - most will never play a football game again in their lives.
Tomorrow at noon, The Game kicks off with more on the line than its had for the past 39 years. By the end of the day, 1968 may be replaced with another year that will long be greeted by grunts from one side: 2007.
Ron Vaccaro '04 is the voice of Yale Football on News/Talk 960 WELI-AM, which covers The Game starting at 11:00 Saturday. Vaccaro also produced a special about The Game for the Yale University section of iTunes U.