One of the most thrilling games in the history of college football serves as a window to the turbulent 1960s and as a mirror for our present.
Colt (Brothers, 2012, etc.), whose 2003 memoir, The Big House, was a National Book Award finalist, offers a richly detailed, engaging story of the 1968 Harvard vs. Yale football battle that pitted against each other two undefeated teams and two different cultures and served as a metaphor for the cultural clashes that were erupting in the late 1960s: civil rights, anti-war protests, political assassinations. There is a personal voice here, too: The author, who was 14 at the time, attended the game with his father; near the beginning and end of the book, he discusses that experience. In between, he takes us to Yale and Harvard (alternating chapters), introduces us to key players and other personnel, rehearses the games earlier in the season (“The Game” ends the season for both teams), and focuses on the cultural clashes and confrontations that were a mark of the era—and ours. Casual football fans may be surprised to see Colt’s reminders of some of the personnel involved in the game. Yale’s backfield featured running back Calvin Hill, who went on to a stellar NFL career; one of Harvard’s offensive linemen was Tommy Lee Jones. The author’s extensive coverage of the game does not commence until nearly 250 pages have passed—but they pass quickly and engagingly—and he concludes with stories of campus unrest at Harvard (and some players’ involvement) and updates on the lives of his characters. Colt is careful to credit filmmaker Kevin Rafferty, whose documentary on the game inspired the author, and he also includes an appendix with some relevant statistical charts and tables about the teams and the game.
First-rate reporting and writing that will appeal to gridiron fans and general readers as well.