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Full Online Book HomeEssaysSome Of My Best Friends Are Yale Men
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Some Of My Best Friends Are Yale Men Post by :mardys Category :Essays Author :Heywood Broun Date :November 2011 Read :2458

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Some Of My Best Friends Are Yale Men

"Oh, Harvard was old Harvard when Yale was but a pup,
"And Harvard will be Harvard still when Yale has all gone up,
"And if any Eli------"

THIS is about as far as the old song should be carried. Perhaps it is too far. Our plea to-day is for something of abatement in the intensity of the rivalry between Harvard and Yale. To be sure we realize that the plea has been made before unsuccessfully by mightier men. Indeed it was Charles W. Eliot himself, president of Harvard, who rebuked the students when first they began to sing, "Three cheers for Harvard and down with Yale." This, he said, seemed to him hardly a proper spirit. He suggested an amendment so that the song might go, "Three cheers for Harvard and one for Yale." Such seventy-five percent loyalty was rejected. Yale must continue to do its own cheering.

Naturally, it is not to be expected that Yale and Harvard men should meet on terms of perfect amity immediately and that the old bitterness should disappear within the time of our own generation. Such a miracle is beyond the scope of our intention. Too much has happened. Just what it was that Yale originally did to Harvard we don't profess to know. It was enough we suppose to justify the trial of the issue by combat four times a year in the major sports. Curiously enough, for a good many years Yale seemed to grow more and more right if judged in the light of these tests. But the truth is mighty and shall prevail and the righteousness of Harvard's cause began to be apparent with the coming of Percy Haughton. God, as some cynic has said, is always on the side which has the best football coach.

Our suggestion is that whatever deep wrong Yale once committed against Harvard, a process of diminution of feeling should be allowed to set in. After all, can't the men of Cambridge be broadminded about these things and remember that nothing within the power of Yale could possibly hurt Harvard very much? Even in the days when the blue elevens were winning with great regularity there should have been consolation enough in the thought that Harvard's Greek department still held the edge. Seemingly nobody ever thought of that. In the 1906 game a Harvard half-back named Nichols was sent in late in the game while the score was still a tie. On practically the first play he dropped a punt which led directly to a Yale touchdown and victory.

Throughout the rest of his university career he was known in college as "the man who dropped the punt." When his brother entered Harvard two years later he was promptly christened, and known for his next four years, as "the brother of the man who dropped the punt."

Isn't this a little excessive? It seems so to us, but the emphasis has not yet shifted. Only a month or so ago we were talking in New Haven before an organization of Yale graduates upon a subject so unpartisan as the American drama--though to be sure Harvard has turned out ten playwrights of note to every one from Yale--and somehow or other the talk drifted around to football. In pleading for less intensity of football feeling we mentioned the man who dropped the punt and his brother and told how Yale had recovered the fatal fumble on Harvard's nineteen-yard line. Then, with the intention of being jocose, we remarked, "The Yale eleven with characteristic bulldog grit and courage carried the ball over the line." To our horror and amazement the audience immediately broke into applause and long cheers.

Some of my best friends are Yale men and there is no basis for the common Harvard assumption that graduates of New Haven's leading university are of necessity inferior to the breed of Cambridge. Still, there is, perhaps, just a shade of difference in the keenness of perception for wit. Practically all the Harvard anecdotes about Yale which we know are pointed and sprightly, while Yale is content with such inferior and tasteless jibes as the falsetto imitation which begins "Fiercely fellows, sift through." Even the audience of graduates to which we referred was singularly cold to the anecdote about the difference in traditions which prevails at New Haven and at Cambridge. "When a Yale man is sick, the authorities immediately assume that he is drunk. When a Harvard man is drunk, the authorities assume that he is sick."

Nor were we successful in retelling the stirring appeal of a well-known organizer who was seeking to consolidate various alumni bodies into a vast unified employment agency for college men. "There should be," he cried, "one great clearing house. Then when somebody came for a man to tutor his children we could send him a Harvard man and if he needed somebody to help with the furnace, we'd have a Yale graduate for him."

Joking with undergraduates we found still more disastrous. After the last Harvard-Yale football game--score Harvard 9, Yale 0, which doesn't begin to indicate the margin of superiority of the winning team--we wrote an article of humorous intent for a New York newspaper. Naturally our job as a reporter prevented us from being partisan in our account of the game. Accordingly, in a temperate and fairminded spirit, we set down the fact that, through the connivance of the New York press, Yale has become a professional underdog and that any Harvard victory in which the score is less than forty-two to nothing is promptly hailed as a moral victory for Yale.

Developing this news angle for a few paragraphs, we eventually came to the unfortunate fist fight between Kempton of Yale and Gaston of Harvard which led to both men being put out of the game. It was our bad luck to see nothing but the last half second of the encounter. As a truthful reporter we made this admission but naturally went on to add, "Of course, we assume that Kempton started it." For weeks we continued to receive letters from Yale undergraduates beginning, "My attention has been called to your article" and continuing to ask with great violence how a reporter could possibly tell who started a fight without seeing the beginning of it. Some letters of like import were from Princeton men.

Princeton is always quick to rally to the defense of Yale against Harvard. This suggests a possibly common meeting ground for Harvard and Yale. Of course, they can hardly meet on the basis of a common language for the speech of Yale is quite alien. For instance, they call their "yard" a "campus." Also, there are obvious reasons why they cannot meet as equal members in the fellowship of educated men. Since this is a nonpartisan article designed to promote good feeling it will probably be just as well not to go into this. Though football is the chief interest at New Haven, Yale men often display a surprising sensitiveness to attacks on the scholarship of their local archaeologists. Nor will religion do as a unifier. Yale is evangelical and prays between the halves, while Harvard is mostly agnostic, if it isn't Unitarian. No, just one great cause can be discovered in which Harvard men and Yale men can stand shoulder to shoulder and lift their voices in a common cause. Each year some public spirited citizen ought to hire Madison Square Garden and turn it over to all graduates and undergraduates of Harvard and of Yale for a great get-together meeting in which past differences should be forgotten in one deep and full throated shout of "To Hell with Princeton!"


(The end)
Heywood Broun's essay: Some Of My Best Friends Are Yale Men

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