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Around the Ivies: One Last Time

Yale celebrated an instant classic over Harvard under the cover of darkness, the lack of light perhaps signaling the lost season to come.
Yale celebrated an instant classic over Harvard under the cover of darkness, the lack of light perhaps signaling the lost season to come. By Timothy R. O'Meara
By Joseph W. Minatel, Crimson Staff Writer

Just over one year ago, the Ivy League cancelled all spring sports due to the emerging COVID-19 pandemic. While virtually all other sports institutions in the country would soon follow suit, the Ivy League was the first to make such a drastic move. Today, one March later, the Ivy League is still not playing while other leagues, both collegiate and professional, trudge forward.

The heartbreak for fans, my fellow sports reporters, and — most of all — athletes, continues as the Ancient Eight remains sidelined. As I sat in my dorm with only weeks left in college, I reminisced of the days when I would travel the East Coast with my fellow writers and cover Ivy League sports. Our sports board GroupMe remains active, however, and I realized that while sports remained paused, the campuses were still alive, even if in remote fashion. Even without our beloved athletics, the show goes on.

Maybe it’s just the graduation goggles, but I realized that I don’t need football to do one of my favorite things as a Crimson reporter: write my Around the Ivies column. While they sometimes contained football analysis, they often didn’t, relying equally on quotes from Churchill and Batman. Although it may be harder to berate the Brown football program — don’t worry, I still will — the Ancient Eight is still alive even without sports. So without further ado, let’s take one last trip Around the Ivies.

BROWN

Thanks to alphabetical order, Brown finds itself somewhere it never could during the football season: the top. Now that I have met my contractual obligations to insult Bears football, I’d like to take this chance to uncharacteristically praise Brown in my last tour Around the Ivies. I admit, I have beaten up on Brown during my reporting career: stating that they would benefit from an exploding playing surface, likening a possible win to Joker-level chaos, assuring losses with the utmost guarantee, referring to a Brown win as “basically against the laws of nature,” claiming they would go winless, calling their subsequent win “a blind squirrel finding a nut,” and even saying that my high school football team could defeat them by three touchdowns while picking Princeton to win by 63 points (the Tigers scored 65). As my Crimson career comes to a close, however, I hope it isn’t too late to ask for forgiveness.

Brown is home to the greatest invention known to higher education: the Open Curriculum. For the uninitiated or soon to be lustful, Brown University offers an Open Curriculum plan that requires virtually no general education courses, allowing students to personally craft their own path. As I sit in my very last semester, I am especially envious. I expected to enjoy my post-thesis nirvana on a cruise to graduation. Sadly, I am forced to trudge through my final general education requirement thanks to poor planning that surely would have slid by in an Open Curriculum.

So here’s to you, Brown. You truly are the best of us in curriculum design, meaning the football cellar is only an equitable destination for the Bears. I apologize for four years of constant berating, and hope that you may share your amazing program with other institutions of higher learning that have much to learn from you. I sit in equal awe and jealousy.

COLUMBIA

While official athletics have been nearly non-existent at the Ivy League schools since the pandemic began, sports reporters have technically been allowed to operate, despite a lack of events. The slowing of my journalism career as it comes to its anticlimactic end serves as evidence of this phenomenon.

At Columbia, however, the sports journalism space is much more complicated. Following the 2018 board elections for Columbia’s version of The Crimson, an unfortunate process we share referred to as the “Turkey Shoot,” a majority of the sports board of the paper resigned in protest. For years, the paper’s election process had been criticized for unfairness and shrouded in mystery. Columbia’s version of The Crimson — or the Columbia Spectator, if you prefer — was left mostly without a sports staff.

The newly unemployed sports writers formed their own website, The Change-Up, designed as a Ringer-type blog. As a fellow sports journalist, I commend these brave souls. Sports journalism on these campuses is sometimes cast to the background by others who consider themselves more important, and founding your own organization on a campus where a storied school newspaper reigns supreme is no easy undertaking.

Unfortunately for the revolutionaries, The Change-Up seemed to have trouble staying out of the dirt. They haven’t published a story in a long while, and were posting articles with decreasing frequency even before the pandemic cancelled Ancient Eight sports. Columbia’s version of The Crimson, funny enough, never even reported on the incident. Thanks to noticeably empty seats and friendly conversation in the press box during the Columbia-Harvard football game last fall, it seemed that The Change-Up had become practically defunct.

Columbia’s version of The Crimson, however, seems to somewhat have a sports staff back and has, without needing to rush to cover sports thanks to the break, built back a relative foundation for coverage. A sports story has even highlighted the website’s home page recently! From personal experience, this takes a certain dedication. Sports clearly still mean something in the Big Apple, something to be proud of at a time in which we have been deprived for so long.

CORNELL

Ithaca is as close to the geographical description of “socially distant” as I can think of. I will not, however, harp too much on upstate New York’s sparse population density. This is partly because I now have a couple of very close friends from the area whom I often go to great lengths to annoy, but mostly because I sympathize with the fact that they still have approximately four months of winter left while spring has sprung in the Boston area.

Speaking of population density, the area is grappling with important questions on the subject. The Village of Lansing, just north of Cornell and the City of Ithaca — I know what you’re thinking, and I also have no clue how it’s legally considered a “city” — recently held a public debate regarding the zoning of a 25-acre empty property. Lansing’s Board of Trustees is considering re-labeling the property from medium density residential (MDR) zoning to high density residential (HDR) zoning.

I only bring this up to ask two questions. Firstly, I previously assumed that 25 acres of undeveloped property in the Ithaca area was simply everyone’s backyard of snow instead of an economic opportunity; is this not true? Secondly, what qualifies as “high density residential zoning” in upstate New York? I figured that just means a family of more than four, so I guess you learn something new every day.

DARTMOUTH

I should have saved my “socially distant” joke for Hanover, it’s a shame that I write these in one take. I refuse to lazily repeat jokes about the wilderness that is New Hampshire, so I’ll leave it at that.

In Big Green sports news, the golf team has found itself recently homeless. The school cut five sports teams, including men’s and women’s golf, and permanently closed the Hanover Country Club last July. The teams, however, were fortunately reinstated in January. The reinstatement of the teams is, in and of itself, a triumph. Especially during the pandemic, sports at colleges across the country have sadly been cut for financial and logistical reasons. Seeing Dartmouth reinstate teams is clearly a welcome sight.

The Hanover Country Club, however, remains closed, and the teams have spent the past two months searching for a new home. Admittedly, I am concerned for Dartmouth golf. If you click on the hyperlinked story in the previous sentence, you can see that the old course was still covered in mounds of snow into March. I can only assume that the snow will take time, likely well into the golf season, to melt for acceptable play. I extend an invitation to Dartmouth's teams to practice with me this year, as I plan to live on the Cleveland Metroparks Golf Courses from my (virtual) graduation to the start of northeastern Ohio snow in October.

PENN

I usually write this column during the football season, allowing me to easily use the Philadelphia Eagles as written cannon fodder. Unfortunately, I was out of commission this fall without Ivy League football, when the Eagles were perhaps at their most vulnerable. For now, I’ll simply thank the Eagles for our new Colts quarterback, Carson Wentz. Please let last year be the mixed outlier result of a pandemic fluke and Philly’s egregiously porous offensive line.

It is, however, no longer football season. It’s basketball season, and that’s all Philadelphia seems to care about at the moment. The Sixers are on top of the world, and the City of Brotherly Love is loving being the leaders of the NBA’s Eastern Conference, so the professional sports world in Philadelphia gets a pass.

The students at Penn should also feel better about the transition to spring. The University creatively engaged in “Spring Stay” instead of spring break, organizing outdoors-focused programs throughout the campus and the city in order to give students a well-earned break from class without having to engage in risky pandemic travel.

The Spring Stay was only two days, but still served as an actual break from classes. To fill the gap, Penn gave students three additional “Engagement Days” throughout the semester. Harvard has a similar system, albeit sans Spring Stay, spreading five “Wellness Days” throughout the semester that professors barely protect, since they’re really just homework days. So congrats to the students at Penn, I hope you enjoyed your mini-spring break. In my final spring semester, I definitely could have used one. The Class of 2021 clearly has it hardest among college students right now, despite what some first-years may think.

PRINCETON

Princeton also received a nice mini-spring break, while the nation had a short-lived romance with a fellow New Jersey school. Rutgers won its first NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament game since 1983 with a victory over Clemson earlier this week, grabbing the nation’s attention. Despite a heartbreaking loss in the second round to Houston, the resurgence brought back some fantastic Sopranos throwbacks on Twitter, and for that I thank the Garden State.

While Rutgers has captured the hearts of underdog-lovers across the country, I would be remiss if I did not turn my attention back to the underdog heroes in the Princeton area. City engineers recently announced that changing the direction of South Tulane Street, a one-way side-street on the north edge of Princeton’s campus, would be impossible. If you’ve never been to the area, this means absolutely nothing. If you’ve been stuck in the pouring rain while your co-writer dashes back to the car as you start hour seven (out of 12 total) of driving for the day following a heartbreaking Harvard defeat in Princeton Stadium while sitting on the one-way South Tulane Street as a safe haven from the madness of a rainy, post-game Nassau Street, then this is fantastic news.

That day also served as the first time I had to watch someone pump my gas for me, an absolutely bizarre concept for a Kentuckian, or anyone from 48 particular states for that matter. That being said, I do want to cut New Jersey state policymakers a big break. They seem to really know what they’re doing lately.

YALE

Yale always seems to follow Harvard. It was founded 65 years after Harvard, and the catchup continues. While a reliable jab on our campus, they truly did blindly follow us before the last Harvard-Yale football game (a tradition I will surely miss, I’m glad I got my second year of promised New Haven pizza and Yale dorm hopping, for that I am forever grateful to our brethren in Connecticut). Us football writers always trade “trash talk” columns from our most senior writer, with the articles published in each other’s respective papers. Yale’s version of the Crimson blindly printed the story from my former co-writer, Cade Palmer ‘20. Instead of a normal trash talk column, however, Cade had included a hidden message from the first letter of each sentence, severely duping our Bulldog friends.

It seems, however, that Yale is attempting to jump the gun ahead of Harvard in one regard: shopping week. Yale recently announced the official termination of its shopping period, one that had been under review for some time. As Harvard continues its assault on our shopping week, I plead them not to follow Yale. Does my shopping week usually just cause me intense stress related to class lotteries and enrollment deadlines? Sure. But it was here when I got here, and it means something to me (RIP Harvard Time, even as your last class graduates, we’ll never forget you). Please don’t just blindly follow our neighbors to the south, soon enough we’ll be posting hidden conspiracy theories in our newspaper, too.

Speaking of conspiracy theories, Yale was recently paid a visit from infamous (emphasis on the “in-”) conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. I have negative interest in the content of his visit, but the picture posted on the website of Yale’s version of The Crimson caught my eye. Apparently, Jones films his segments on the same device that I make memes regarding the dining hall’s lunch on: an iPhone. While I’m busy asking Harvard not to follow Yale’s last week, let’s just file this situation in the same folder. No need for me to see Alex outside my dorm anytime soon.

HARVARD

When I usually sit down to write these columns, I start by scanning the other schools’ student newspapers. It usually isn’t that hard to find something hilarious to parody going on in the area (especially if you focus on the sections titled “Editorial”). While I attempted to praise my fellow Ivy League institutions that I respect greatly this time around, I still couldn’t help taking a few pot shots. On the contrary, the Harvard section usually contains some type of pre-game ribbing aimed at the school facing our football team that week.

But there is no football this week, and there haven’t been any Ivy League athletics for a really long time. In fact, the sports mood in the area has been as dismal as I’ve ever seen it. I’ve lived here through multiple championship parades, but you wouldn’t think so judging by the current sports climate. The Pats just finished their worst year since I was in diapers. The Bruins have had a tough last month and a half. The Red Sox find themselves underdogs in the division to the league’s 26th largest payroll and the Canadians, not to mention the hype surrounding the you know whos in New York. And the Celtics are probably the only people on the planet that actually wish it were still 2020.

Did I just spend my chance to ferociously attack Harvard instead bashing Boston sports, an institution I’ve rooted against my entire life anyways? Yes. But that’s because I’ve genuinely loved all my time here. Comedic satire has separated this column from the designation of downright insulting for years, and in my last go, I’ll keep my blind partisanship alive. I’ve loved every moment spent with my dear friends at this school, and the time spent writing and playing pick-up with the best sportswriters in the country at 14 Plympton. One of them will soon take up my mantle, and spend countless hours writing ridiculous columns under the guise of touring “Around the Ivies” for a readership that probably doesn’t include people that I don’t directly send the link to. And I hope they love it as much as I did.

—Staff writer Joseph W. Minatel can be reached at joseph.minatel@thecrimson.com.

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