Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 (2008)

DailyView: Day 290, Movie 408

Tomorrow there is a little football game that is going to be played called The Super Bowl. I did some research about football movies to watch in honor of the Big Game and I found a couple that I had not seen that would work as films for the DailyView. One of them was a 2008 documentary by Kevin Rafferty, which detailed the final game of the season for Harvard and Yale, a season in which both teams had been undefeated.

Of course, if you were not aware of the game, as I was not, the title of the documentary is a gigantic spoiler: Harvard Beats Yale 29-29.

The season in question was 1968, and the documentary compiled a group of players from the game (including actor Tommy Lee Jones) for their insights into not only the game, but also their whole season at their respective schools.

What a fantastic film. I have to say that, even though I knew the title of the doc, as the film was winding down and Harvard was trying desperately to come back from their deficit, I was totally engaged and, if I am being honest, considerably nervous.

In 1968, the two Ivy League schools’ football teams were undefeated heading into their season’s final game. Harvard was an unheralded undefeated team while Yale was fully expected. The air of attitude around the Yale players indicated that they had every expectation of winning this game too.

The first half, Harvard was getting destroyed, but a replacement quarterback, Frank Champi, brought a big strong arm into the game and swung the momentum into Harvard’s camp. However, it did not seem to be that it would matter as Yale led Harvard 29-13 with but 0:42 seconds left to play.

The documentary featured interviews from over 50 players involved in the game and it brought so much depth to the story, not only about what that game meant, but how an instant in your life could affect you for the rest of your lives.

There were also mentions in the documentary of the life at the two universities and how other famous people were in the orbit of these players. They mentioned Meryl Streep as a girlfriend of one of the players, George W. Bush and his antics as a known drinker, Al Gore as Tommy Lee Jones’ roommate who would play Dixie on the touch tones of the phone. These stories may not have added to the story of this famous game, but it helped us see these football players in a more humanistic view.

The film also brought us a villain. Yale linebacker Mike Bouscaren was one of the players interviewed for the doc and he admitted freely that he was trying to take players out of the game because he thought that would help Yale win. He claimed to have injured the ankle of Harvard half-back, Ray Hornblower. He claimed he targeted Hornblower in revenge for making him look foolish on a play the season before. However, replays showed that, despite his insistence that he caused the injury, he was nowhere near Hornblower when the injury occurred.

Bouscaren admitted that he was going after Champi as well, but this led to a vital 15-yard penalty for a face mask violation that help Harvard get themselves into position to score. At the movie’s end, Bouscaren spoke like a person who had realized his part in the game and how it helped him become a better person.

The film had color kinescope video from a WHDH station mixed with the interviews conducted by Rafferty. The video featured play-by-play from sportscaster Don Gillis.

As I said, I was thrilled with this documentary, loving every minute of it. I was totally engrossed with the game and, even though I knew the outcome, was never bored. I hope tomorrow’s Super Bowl is as exciting as this dicumentary.

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