This past weekend both schools celebrated the 150th Lehigh vs Lafayette game, coined “The Rivalry”. For the occasion, New York City baseball field Yankee Stadium was converted into a college football field specifically for this game. This has been done before, though it is rare. Last year, they filled it up with ice to become a hockey rink for the Winter Classic NHL series. For me, anytime I can go to Yankee Stadium and not have to watch baseball, is a good time.
It may seem odd that two tiny private colleges in Eastern Pennsylvania, part of the Patriot League of College Football, get the honor of being able to play at Yankee Stadium. Well, this isn’t just any college football game.
It’s About History, Not Football
I love college football. And not because I love sports, but because I love history. American college football has such a rich history as a sport and to our culture. And especially on the east coast, where it all began.
The first American (college) football game was Rutgers vs Princeton in 1869 [wiki]. Some consider it the first American football game played, some denote it specific to college. Either way, the final score was Rutgers Queensmen 6, New Jersey Tigers 4. (Princeton was originally the College of New Jersey.)
Although that game in 1869 was more of a cross between rugby + soccer than American football as we know it today. Back then there weren’t helmets, trophies, or the forward pass.
Lehigh vs Lafayette
Let’s move ahead sixteen years to 1869 for the very first Lehigh vs Lafayette football game. Even on Wikipedia this is coined as, simply, The Rivalry. It is the most-played football rivalry in the nation.
November 22, 2014 was the 150th time the two teams have met to play against each other. Final score Lafayette 27, Lehigh 7. This is a bit closer than the first game. The first game of “The Rivalry” was held October 25, 1884 and ended with Lafayette 50, Lehigh 0. Quite the shutout.
Live Football at Yankee Stadium
Watching college football at home on television, as I spend most of my Saturdays in the fall, means missing the marching band at half-time. Sometimes it is nice to hear from commentators and get caught up in the other football games. (Almost all college football games are played on Saturday.) But most of the bigger colleges have really great marching bands. Those kids work hard at coming up with original material and choreography. I wish I had more of a chance to catch it live.
So it was a special treat to see the Lehigh and Lafayette bands + choir all play together for the first time in history, during half-time. It didn’t matter that Lehigh’s marching band was small or that Lafayette had a pep band. The bands, singers, and dancers all put on a great performance. It added to the experience.
Let’s not forget these are two very small private liberal arts colleges in eastern Pennsylvania, less than 20-miles apart. Lafayette has 2,500 undergraduates, and Lehigh has 4,800.
What was I doing at a football game for schools I didn’t attend? I actually have various ties to both schools. I went to the game with a friend who did attend Lafayette, so that is who I was cheering for. Plus, as a college football fan I was not going to pass up the experience of watching a game in nyc. Something that is pretty much impossible.
The closest opportunity I have to watching live college sports is at Rutgers, in near-by New Brunswick, NJ. They may be in the B1G now but that doesn’t make them any good. I will probably catch MSU play RU in basketball later this year, but going out there for a football game, would not be worth it. I much preferred simply taking the D train to the bronx.
Also, although I did not attend either Lehigh or Lafayette, I am familiar with both cities they are located in. Bethlehemn and Easton Pennsylvania. For several years, I lived in Phillipsburg, NJ. This is “the last exit in New Jersey” as the sign says on I-78 East. It is on the NJ/PA border. And there isn’t too much to do there. So often times, our group would head into Bethlehem and meet others there. It’s a loose connection to the schools, but I’m counting it.
Lafayette Wins the 150th Game
Okay, back to the matter at hand. After half-time, Lafayette got cocky with their 21-nothing lead and let Lehigh have a touchdown. That was enough of that though. Lafayette scored another touchdown, though missed the extra point. It didn’t really matter.
Lafayette won the 150th game of The Rivalry. And since that is who I was rooting for at the time, let’s consider it a happy ending.