On November 23, 1968, Yale and Harvard's undefeated football teams met in Cambridge, with Yale heavily favored. Contemporary interviews with 30 men who played that day mix with game footage... See full summary »
On November 23, 1968, Yale and Harvard's undefeated football teams met in Cambridge, with Yale heavily favored. Contemporary interviews with 30 men who played that day mix with game footage (with instant replay). Led by Brian Dowling and Calvin Hill, Yale goes up 22-0. With less than one minute to play, Yale leads 29-13. For Harvard, the end is exhilarating; for Yale, supreme confidence gives way to a life lesson and to being a small part of football history. Adding context are comments about the Vietnam War, the sexual revolution, Garry Trudeau's Yale cartoons, and players' friendships with George W. Bush (Yale), Al Gore (Harvard), and Meryl Streep (Vassar). Written by
George Gipp and fiery halftime speeches do not figure in this film. Rather, what is fascinating about it is to hear a bunch of 60-somethings, Ivy League football players whose athletic careers mostly concluded on a Saturday afternoon in 1968, talk intelligently about what an exciting game with a story-book ending meant to them in the context of those times. The interviews are excellent, with an overlay of retrospection and introspection totally missing from post-game interviews on, say, Fox Sports today. The game footage that we see interspersed between those interviews -- undefeated Yale, ranked an unheard-of sixteenth in the country, played its traditional rival Harvard, also undefeated, in the final game of the season -- is interesting enough but not likely to hold the attention of non-sports fans. Of course, 1968 was a watershed year in a tumultuous decade, before "women were invented," as a Yale player puts it, so the game could not be played without accounting in some way for Viet Nam, student protests, ROTC on campus, political assassinations, class differences, sex, the fleeting nature of fame, and the necessity and unexpected results of growing up. Oddly enough, the words of Tommy Lee Jones, who played guard for the Harvard team and roomed with Al Gore, are among the least insightful. Producer, director, interviewer, and cinematographer Kevin Rafferty is a cousin of George W. Bush, but you would not know it from his film. There is something of the spirit of "The Fog of War" in this documentary which I greatly enjoyed. Full disclosure: I graduated from Harvard College in 1966, will never wax nostalgic about my years there, and remember Harvard football as a laughable excuse to enjoy autumn sunshine in New England.
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