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Got $8? Buy ‘Harvard Beats Yale 29-29.’

Spoiler: Harvard comes from behind to tie Yale.

Had some cycles today and teed up a favorite movie/documentary on this snowy day and I want to share it with you.

Coming straight to the point and not to oversell this:  Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 is the best sports movie/documentary I’ve ever seen.

The Crimson’s classically ironic headline provided the title.

“Rafferty’s no-frills annotated replay is the best football movie I’ve ever seen: A particular day in history becomes a moment out of time.” — Village Voice.

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Where to begin?

Harvard-Yale is of course a fantastic rivalry in everything.  The football game, ‘The Game,’ is the pinnacle.  But since they’re never in the elite echelon, not much notice is paid nationally.  However in 1968, both teams were undefeated.  Yale, with Calvin Hill, was ranked 16th in the country and the clear favorite.  The better team.  Had never been behind in a game all year.

Harvard recovers fumble on their own 14, down 16, with 3:34 to go.  Inexplicable time-outs, bizarre penalties, haughty Yalies, unexpected stars emerge; heroic plays ensue.  Harvard scores 16 points in the final 42 seconds for the tie.*

This documentary consists of players’ reminiscences cut with actual game footage.  It is elegant in its simplicity.  The story of the game in itself is magnificent.  The narration by the participants is sublime.

Yale QB Brian Dowling (St. Ignatius!) had lost only one game since the sixth grade: the 63 City Championship to Benedictine. (His collarbone was broken and he didn’t play the second half of that game.)

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Interesting
Fascinating characters.

The game is one thing.  The old players, though, are what makes this film remarkable.

I was struck by the diversity of personalities.  You’ve got quirky, you’ve got the ‘good shits,’  You’ve got saintly (not meant in disparaging/sarcastic way.. one guy’s goodness of soul jumped through the screen to me).  And you’ve got a stereotype Ivy elitist, straight from central casting.

Frank Champi, Harvard backup QB.  “I love to throw the ball.  I love throwing things.  Baseballs, javelins, footballs.  To this day I’ll go out in a field and throw the ball.  I just love the aesthetics of throwing something and watching it fly.”

Pat Conway, Harvard cornerback.  A couple years before 68, he quit Harvard, joined the Marines, was at Khe Sanh, came back to Harvard, and brings unique perspective.

JP Goldsmith, Yale safety.  Just a thoughtful, intelligent, classy guy.  You can’t get enough of him.  “I got a lot more out of Yale football than it ever got out of me.”  He’s the saint referenced above.

Mike Bouscaren, Yale linebacker.  He’s the elitist stereotype.  Wonderfully unaware.  You’ll see. (more…)