From the Archives: 1968, When “Harvard Beats Yale”
As the golden anniversary of the 29-29 stunner approaches, enjoy this magazine’s original 1968 reporting—the issue closed late to permit coverage of the first contest between unbeaten Harvard and Yale teams in 59 years—and learn more about the origins of that famous headline.
For more background on Harvard’s 1968 football team, read “The Players,” by George Howe Colt ’76, in our current issue.
For additional background, read “The Football Industrial Complex,” by our football correspondent, Dick Friedman ’73. Check back at www.harvardmagazine.com for his coverage of this weekend’s anniversary game, at Fenway Park, where players from the famous tie game are expected to play a prominent role in the festivities.
And for a pre-2018 Game reminiscence by Thomas Zubaty ’72, a claimant to authorship of The Harvard Crimson’s deathless Monday-morning headline, read on:
Last night I received a call from a Jeff Jacobs, a sports journalist writing for, among other papers, The New Haven Register. He was working on a story about “The Game” 1968, and wanted background on (his words) the “greatest sports headline ever written.” I was shocked, but not surprised. The Heritage Foundation had already called my headline the greatest newspaper headline ever written because...“Dewey Defeats Truman” at first appeared to be true but ended up false, while my headline, “Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29” at first appeared to be false but ended up being true. To wit: Harvard sports fans celebrated the outcome. Yale's fate was to live to rue that day. Yet they soldier on. Good on them. Learning to deal with failure is...a learned ability and not a God given talent. We all need to learn that.
Be that as it may, my summary of the day’s events remains burned into my memory, the same as it has ever been. Myself and a classmate, Rich Genz of Gainesville, Florida, headed to the Stadium on a perfect balmy autumn day with 4 student tickets in hand. We scalped 2 of them to a couple of Yalies, middle-aged guys (now I would call them young men) for 25 bucks apiece. What a coup. We were paid to go to the game! We walked in and sat on the 50 yard line, in the aisle no less. No one cared, this was for the Ivy League Title. Harvard struggled, Yale asserted itself. The halftime show by the band was the greatest halftime show I have ever seen performed, brilliant, inspired, frenetic. Midway through the fourth quarter, Genzy had to leave, to work in the dining halls. I was left to my fate, on my own. And what a fate it was, to watch live what is to this day the greatest comeback in sports history performed right before my unbelieving eyes. Down by 16 points with 46 seconds to go, Harvard drove for a late game score. The outcome would be respectable. They went for 2, failed, but on a penalty got a second chance at the try, and got it. Onside kick time. It failed, but clearly there was a penalty, they got a second try, and got the ball on the second onside kick. One, maybe two plays, and they were in the endzone. Incredible. The fans went wild. With about two seconds on the clock, they went for 2. They failed but there was clearly pass interference by the defense. A game cannot end on a defensive penalty. They went again. Varney made the catch. Pandemonium broke out. We all ran on to the field, in startled disbelief but joyous about what we had just witnessed. The equivalent of making 8 successful Hail Mary passes in a row, in quick succession. Unbelievable! Ecstasy.
John Roberts is right. We were sitting in a Hollis North dorm room, where we shared the entryway with several others. I floated my idea: the Crimson headline should be... “Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29.” It seemed self-evident. A...fait accompli. Seriously. But I had no phone so he suggested I use his, and I called it in to the Crimson. John's encouragement was instrumental. The night manager answered. He had no idea what had just happened but said he would take the message...my suggestion for what the headline should be...and leave it on the editor's desk. The rest is, as they say, History. And what a wonderful history it is, elevating football from the mud and gore of the gridiron to a pursuit of the Gods. Well, why not, everyone else is hard at work these days, blowing their own horn. Brian Dowling, Calvin Hill, Tommy Lee Jones, Pete Varney, Vic Gatto...the names echo down the halls of Harvard sports history. And what a fine history it is. Harvard and Yale, two sports Titans who sheparded in the athletic competition that, in the guise of the Super Bowl, a billion-dollar event, is now the single biggest sports event on the planet. Take that, all you Renaissance men and Renaissance women of the Ivy League. Contrary to the thoughts expressed by a writer quoting Mark Twain in a previous Letter to the Editor of Harvard Magazine on the subject of this headline, no one is rushing to falsely claim credit here. What happened is what happened, and it was, is, as I have written it here. Anonymous no more, I remain as ever ...
Thomas M. Zubaty ’72 (’73)
November 14, 2018
The 50th anniversary...and counting.