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March Madness Infects Harvard Campus – Med Students Working on a Vaccine

harvard-sports-2In the land of Crimson Cantabs known for its academia, billionaire drop outs, and the athletic prowess of legends Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, “NBA Star” Jeremy Lin, and figure skater Paul Wylie, these bright young minds are joining the rest of the country in actually giving a hoot about the NCAA tournament. What was it that pulled their noses out of their volumes of A Critical History of Philsophy and turned their eyes to the television? Why it was a bid to the big dance as a #14 seed and an even more incredible upset of the #3 seeded New Mexico Lobos. The upset heard ‘round New England.

I had the good fortune of visiting the hallowed grounds of Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts and joining in the madness for their second round match up vs. the #6 seed Arizona Wildcats. On campus for a tournament game for a Cinderella in the making, I figured this would be a great occasion to paatty with some smaat kids and get a feeling for their sports culture and feverish fandom. How excited were these future founders of innovation?  Well…Let’s explore.

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1 hr till game time – I’m strolling the campus looking for signs of basketball life with none to be found. Students looked either out of a Brooks Brothers catalog or as if their shift at Urban Outfitter just ended. I opt for local bar Grundel’s Den and notice very casual folks sitting down to eat their killer bar food and drink Harpoon IPAs.

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Like a scene from Goodwill Hunting the chatter is about global socioeconomic issues or in an indecipherable rough Boston accent. I’m looking around for a TV and realize there is not a screen to be found, so I eat my nachos slam my beer and bounce.

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30 min till game time – I roll to Charlie’s, with two TV’s, one on basketball and one on hockey. But no sound on either! Instead the juke box is playing so I pound my beer and bounce.

5 minutes till game time – Someone recommends I check out Tommy Doyle’s, as they’ll probably have people watching the game. Walking up the alley I see what I presume to be damages due to riots from their first round victory.

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I roll in and see Harvard warming up on the tele, a few students around, tables definitely still available, a family, an edlerly couple, some Harvard-y looking group of dudes that definitely like apples. I sit at the bar and the hipster gal bartender indifferently pours me a Harpoon Irish Stout. I’m rocking out to some 90’s Weezer followed by 7 Mary 3, when I notice the game has started. I ask “Are you going to put the sound on the game?”  She just replies, “I don’t think so…”  Chumbawumba “I get knocked down” plays next on the jukebox. What mythical land am I in where students can’t feign interest in an impressive sports achievement that most would revel in? I don’t even see anyone in Harvard gear.

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The studious looking gentlemen to my left is analyzing the price to oz. ratio on the menu, the three to my right are discussing the dynamic of their own friendships, and the guys behind me have glossy slicked back hair, fine tailored clothing and tweed jackets and aren’t speaking.

I need a breath of fresh air and maybe need to relocate again.  As I step outside, I find my first signs of fandom! Rocking an IronMan helmet and Hardvard Hoodie, this guy and his friends are ready to drink a coldie and root for some history!

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“It’s kind of dead in there” I say.

“Did you go upstairs?” sideways Hat Girl says.

WTF!? There’s an upstairs? Ok so there are people getting juiced, Harvard Table Cloths on some of the tables, the bar is five deep all with eyes on the TV’s above and yes, finally, there is sound.

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The crowd is a blended smoothie of a Vampire Weekend video, Dead Poets Society, and Good Will Hunting. I found my first jersey rocked by one of the three girl superfans who were incredibly nice and blasted my perception of Harvard girls (Although it is true that to be at Harvard you must study History, Law, or Medicine. Two of them were from the Chicago Area which attributed to their awesomeness).

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They entertain me for a bit and I roll through the crowd to see if I can find anymore diehard hopefuls. Down 17, Harvard drops a shot and the crowd erupts.

I spot a gentleman in a numbered and named Harvard Jersey so I must say hello and get a pic of his threads.

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This is the point in the night where I discover that Harvard has heart. I ask if I may include his jersey in this post and he says of course, but there is more to this particular jersey. David Murphy actually attended Holy Cross, but this jersey was in dedication of his nephew Niall Murphy, Free Safety for Harvard who passed away two years ago from complications due to juvenile diabetes. Family members were there to watch and cheer. David and his charming wife Gail welcomed me to their group and we discuss life beyond the Crimson campus while breaking to cringe or cheer at the NCAA action.

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Read about Niall’s remembrance, amazing character and accomplishments here.

Arizona is running away with the game but that doesn’t stop the crowd from cheering for every bucket or block. As the buzzer sounds and the crowd dissipates, I chat with a med student who tells me it was nice to see her school on a national stage.

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The general population only cares about sports once maybe twice a year. The Harvard vs. Yale game for Ivy Pride and again if they ever make the NCAA tournament in hoops. Oh and sometimes for Crew…

So Harvard, you may now continue to drink your Honey Brown bottled beer in your paperboy caps, read that philosophy book, and go on to lead the world in thought, culture, medicine, and business. But at least for one night I got to see a side of you rarely shared with the outside world. So for that I thank you.

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Martin Dieffenbach

Martin Dieffenbach

That career in creative writing is spent college preparing for? Yeah that didn't happen. But the bug to write and capture moments of the human condition is always interesting to me. So enjoy, or don't, but I hope it takes you on a journey.
Martin Dieffenbach

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3 Comments NBA
  • HookTSB

    Nice post. You got that from Vickers’ “Work in Essex County,” page 98, right?

  • MARVFAN

    Marv joins the team! WOOOOO! BACON! Any hot Harvard girls?

    • baconsports

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