September 25, 2001

Not Like Any Other Football Game

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I wish I could say that last Saturday’s Cornell-Yale football game was like any other. I wish that I could talk about the history related to the Yale Bowl and how the N.Y. Giants even played there in the early ’70s. I wish I could expound on the nostalgia created in the open-air press box (even though it was constructed in the ’90s, well after the stadium was built).

But I can’t.

As the crowds walked towards the stadium’s entrance, they were met by signs asking attendees to leave their bags in their cars. Throngs of Yale security agents searched backpacks and picnic baskets that weren’t left behind- something I had never seen done other than by fish-smelling ushers at Harvard hockey games.

The tee-shirt stands running from the gate to the entrance sold American flags and paraphernalia broadcasting slogans such as “God Bless America” and “United, We Stand.”

Random students and New Havenites alike clutched canisters in their hands and darted around the main entrance. “Donate to the New York firefighters fund,” “Support the families of lost policemen” and “Spare change for the victims of the recent terrorists attacks,” they cried.

At 12:45 both the Big Red Marching Band and its Yale counterpart jogged onto the field in solidarity. They assembled themselves into a human USA in order to play the national anthem. Rarely did such a ritual prior to the beginning of a college football game take more significance and solemnity than it did before Saturday’s game and every other sport venue since September 11th.

Yale’s chaplain followed with a prayer and call for a moment of silence. In the past, a public display of religion would have elicited disapproval from the crowd, but it was more than appropriate Saturday.

Then Yale kicked off to Cornell and the team’s 2001 season officially began.

And as the game progressed it was obvious that the attempt for normalcy America is undertaking is in vain.

All week long the football players spoke of the therapeutic nature of football. They could put on their blinders to the real world during practice and would need them going into the first game.

It wasn’t as easy for the fans. After being bombarded with reality on the way to the game, having to contemplate the horrors at the pre-game ceremonies, the flags continued to wave at half-mast. Not only the stars and stripes, but the Ivy League flag as well.

It was hard not to notice that the uniforms of both teams wove together a red, white and blue pattern that moved through a kaleidoscope on each successive drive.

And although a respectable attendance of over 20,200 sat on the freshly painted benches, one had to wonder how many faces were missing in the crowd on that warm, sunny afternoon.

Watching the Red fall further and further behind the Bulldogs was torturous as points and the high expectations of Ivy titles came crashing to the ground. But things didn’t seem so bad in retrospect.

But next weekend the team will visit Colgate. The flags will be raised to their usual height, the national anthem will play, but the coin toss will follow. And although security will most likely be a little tighter than usual, the concessions will have already sold most of their supply of patriotic mementos. And instead of mourning the unfortunate deaths, we will celebrate the resilience of the nation and its fortitude in the aftermath of tragedy.

Archived article by Amanda Angel