Exclusives: The Varsity Typewriter
PAW web exclusive column by Patrick Sullivan '02 (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Meeting of the mediocre on the gridiron
Tiger/Bulldog rivalry is more than butting heads
By Patrick Sullivan
Ask the typical Tigers
fan who Princeton's biggest Ivy League archrival is, and the answers
inevitably vary. For the basketball enthusiast, it's the Pennsylvania
Quakers. For the baseball or the swimming fans, thoughts of the
Harvard Crimson stir competitive ire. For the track team, the Big
Green of Dartmouth or the Navy Midshipmen (the quasi-Ivy "anchor,"
as the joke goes) prove formidable foes.
For football, however,
the Yale University Bulldogs reign indisputably as Princeton's nemesis.
The two squads have faced each other for 124 times now, the last
meeting on November 10, ending in a resounding 34-14 Tiger triumph.
Only one other college football rivalry boasts a longer legacy;
Lehigh and Lafayette Universities faced each other for the 137th
time last weekend. The Bulldogs command the century-and-quarter
To rehash the game
which was a classic, if not chaotic meeting of two mediocre, war-weary
teams would be a waste of time in a sports column, where
after all, unbiased writing serves little purpose . . . But in brief,
the game was quite exciting.
Before a Homecoming
crowd of 20,129, on a Saturday afternoon that could not have been
better scripted as the epitome of picturesque "football weather,"
the Bulldogs exploded to a quick 14-0 lead. Gloating from the visitors'
side (which incidentally, was ingeniously positioned by the stadium
architect so as to be directly in the glaring afternoon sunlight,
making it harder to see) quickly stopped when the Tigers regrouped
and proceeded to score 34 straight points. This included a demoralizing
40-yard touchdown drive by junior running back Cameron Atkinson
on the first play of the fourth quarter, a run that deflated the
Yale defensive and essentially ended the game.
Bigger than the game,
however, were the fans, whether Princeton alums, local residents,
or those poor souls from New Haven. The carnival atmosphere of the
afternoon exemplified the tradition and legacy surrounding the two
schools, a relationship far more important than the mere outcome
of a football game. Princeton grads come back to games like this
one, not only because of Homecoming, the chance to meet old friends
or even the opportunity to rag on Yale, but moreover because they
feel or want to feel a part of the history behind
the two schools.
So maybe we're not the
Florida Gators, and Yale is certainly no FSU, but our rivalry is
different and equally special. The Princeton-Yale game marks the
meeting of two of America's oldest, most prestigious universities,
and players and fans alike realize that by spectating or competing,
they are witnessing and writing history. Ours isn't merely an athletic
As an undergraduate
at Princeton sporting events, I love watching the alums and families
that walk around, proudly adorned in gaudy black and orange clothing.
There is something humorous yet strangely special
about seeing an elderly Tiger alumnus, donned in a the classic staple
hat of all alumni (the simple black one with the orange "P"
on the front), pulling his grandchildren to the Student Souvenir
Agency booth to buy them all "Yale Sucks" T- shirts! Even
some Yale fans bought these mocking shirts.
Princeton alumni, whether
young or old, remain for the most part fiercely loyal to their alma
mater. They don't return to games like this one merely as spectators
because let's face it; if watching football were the primary
impetus, better athletic contests abound on cable television. They
come back because of the pride in their school, because of the values
and formulative experiences garnered while here and because of the
tradition and history enveloping Ivy League sports rivalries like
the Bulldog-Tiger battle.
Twenty-five years from
now, I know that I will be an alum who comes back for the "big
game" with my kids, proudly wearing my most obnoxious orange
and black tie (sadly, I have two already) or my "Tigers"
cap. With the same wide-eyed pride and appreciation I observed in
so many visiting alums last weekend, I too want to walk around this
campus, and show my family how special how molding
a place like Princeton can be on one's life. Yes . . . and I also
want to be that alum who goes to buy the "Yale Sucks"
T- shirt, removes his wallet, and is (sigh) forced to break a $100
bill as payment . . . !
After the 34-14 drubbing
of Yale, I attended another event that only furthered my appreciation
of the importance surrounding the Bulldog-Tiger rivalry. Curiously,
no competitive spirit pervaded this event, which was the annual
"Yalejam" hosted by the Princeton Nassoons, a tradition-steeped
all-male a cappella group. Every year since the mid-1950s, the Nassoons
and the Yale Whiffenpoofs, an equally acclaimed and even older a
cappella group, get together after the football game for an evening
I attended out of curiosity,
but my interest was piqued when on the stage before me, I saw many
of same students, both from Yale and Princeton, who not four hours
ago had been screaming wildly from the stands, or stumbling from
tailgate to tailgate in the parking lot. Now they wore tails instead
of orange and black, or Yale's blue pallor, and rather than shouting
across the stadium at each other, the two groups gave a beautiful,
two-hour concert before a capacity crowd of more than 1,000.
Whether a Princeton
student or alum, or a "phony" hailing from that community
college in New Haven, Connecticut, the point remains the same. The
Tiger-Bulldog rivalry exists not merely in two-hours of mediocre
football, but more important in the realization that both universities
share an incredible history and a rich tradition, both of athletic
talent and intellectual and artistic excellence. By returning for
a football game on a beautiful fall Saturday, Princetonians and
Yalies young and old become a part of what may arguably be the most
special and tradition-steeped college rivalry/friendship in the
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