GRUDGE REPORT/Harvard vs. Yale at Fenway Park is a Big Whiff

Why moving storied college football game to baseball park is a big league mistake

They will play The Game for The 135th time on Saturday, Harvard and Yale.

It marks the 50th anniversary of the most famous game in Ivy League history, a stunning Harvard comeback which produced a 29-29 tie and prompted what is arguably the most famous sports headline in history--"Harvard beats Yale, 29-29"-- which appeared in the Harvard school newspaper The Crimson (more about that later).

In terms of college football, Harvard-Yale (although not at the same competitive level) deserves a spot at the same table as Auburn-Alabama, Ohio State-Michigan, Texas-Oklahoma, California-Stanford, UCLA-USC and Florida-Georgia, which are regarded as the signature rivalries of big time college football.

It has been and always will be a special weekend for Harvard and Yale students, alumni and fans, filled with much more than football. But this year, maybe not so much.

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Game, which matched an unbeaten Yale and an unbeaten Harvard team for the first time since 1909, is a big part of the weekend since both the Crimson and Eli are wrapping up average (5-4) seasons.

But there is one huge cloud hovering over this game. Instead of playing the game at historic Harvard Stadium, The Game will be played at--Fenway Park.

This is so ridiculously WRONG for so many reasons.

Let us count some of the ways.

One "official'' reason given by Harvard for the one-time switch is that Harvard Stadium, which is nine years older than Fenway Park, which opened in 1912, will be undergoing renovations, which makes no sense since the Crimson played all of their home games at Harvard Stadium this season.

Did we miss some deadline for construction which could not wait a few weeks?

Of course, not.

This appears to be the brain fart by some Crimson officials and members of the Fenway Sports Group, who have attempted to market Fenway Park as a quaint, historic change of pace for college football the past few years, staging games such as Notre Dame vs. Boston College and UConn vs. BC.

Despite having a period when Fenway served as the home of the Patriots--they put temporary bleachers in front of the Green Monster in left field--Fenway is NOT a football-user friendly venue. There are no really good seats for football.

What is also doesn't have is any kind of football game day atmosphere.

Tailgating on Landsdowne Street?

What it does have is over-priced parking, normal Saturday traffic and bad sight lines.

Yet, Harvard-Yale is coming to Fenway.

Ridiculous.

If any game doesn't need a build up it is Harvard-Yale, particularly THIS version of the game. Part of the game experience at a Harvard-Yale game was checking for faces in the crowd. You might see a former President, Senator or Supreme Court justice. You might see someone much more famous than any of the players (at least at this time) on the field.

Harvard Stadium and the Yale Bowl are every bit as iconic in the world of college football as Fenway is in baseball.

And what is the lure for Fenway for fans coming to the game from Cambridge, Ma. and up the I-95 corridor from New Haven and southern New England?

Come early and chow down on a Fenway Frank?

The only real site which works in a neutral setting is the Texas-Oklahoma game each October played at the historic Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

Kudos to the officials from both schools for keeping it at the Cotton Bowl instead of moving to a bigger, more tech friendly stadium such as the Jerry Dome in Arlington, Texas (the Cowboys ultra modern palace).

Part of the mystique of Texas-OU is that is played each year while the Texas State fair is being held in the surrounding area, with items such as corn dogs, huge fried turkey legs and fried candy bars available, as well as other rides and attraction.

I remember attending a Harvard game and noticing a commotion in the stands as JFK, Jr. had just arrived at his seat and then proceeded to take his shirt off, which caused even greater interest from some fans.

Paul Kenney, who spends his days working as a supervisor for the Mass Department of Transportation and his weekends in the fall, writing about college football for The Patriot-Ledger (Quincy, Ma.) says he has been to about 20 Harvard-Yale games. He follows the same routine each time he goes.

"Park in Boston, get on the Red line (subway) out of Harvard, walk around, watch the game, come back and have a great dinner in the North End (Italian). Great day,' said Kenney. "I remember going to one Harvard-Yale game and walking right next to Ted Kennedy."

Kenney says he will go to this year's game at Fenway "But it won't be the same. Why are they doing this?''

The official word out of Harvard is that it will be a great experience. ""This will be a special experience for our student-athletes, alumni and fans,'' Harvard put out in a release, announcing the switch in game sites.''

The 1968 game will be the underlying star of the weekend, with a 50 year reunion, remembering a game in which Harvard, trailing 29-13 with two minutes remaining (no overtime then), put together a comeback which was highlighted by 2 two-point conversions following Harvard score, the game-tying play in the last few seconds.

And that prompted the historic headline in the Crimson***.***

But according to a story in Harvard Magazine, the first headline, which was part of the story in a special game-day edition put out by the Crimson staff, was a simple, Harvard ties Yale 29-29.

Crimson night editor Bill Futik, Harvard '70 was looking at the pages for the next regular edition of the Crimson on Monday and decided the headline needed some oomph, since everyone knew the score.

Enter Crimson night photo editor Tim Carlson, Harvard '71, who suggested "Harvard beats Yale, 29-29.

When Harvard Magazine tracked down Carlson eight years ago, he told them he had indeed suggested the headline, but fessed up it wasn't his idea. It came instead from a jubilant Harvard fan, who was running onto the field after the game and saw Carlson with his camera and shouted how great it was that Harvard had just beaten Yale, 29-29.

Those are stories of a great rivalry in a special place. Good luck finding many new stories at Fenway Park this weekend.

Harvard-Yale at Fenway is flat out wrong.

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Mark Blaudschun
EditorMark Blaudschun
Mark Blaudschun
EditorMark Blaudschun
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Mark Blaudschun
EditorMark Blaudschun