At Home with Harvard: Crimson Sports Illustrated

With 2020 winter sports ending early and the spring collegiate season wiped out almost entirely, we look back at some Crimson highlights from past years. 

This is the tenth installment in Harvard Magazine’s series “At Home with Harvard,” a guide to what to read, watch, listen to, and do while social distancing. Read the prior pieces, featuring stories about Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum, famous and not-so-famous Harvardians in the movies, the climate crisis, and more, here.

With 2020 winter sports ending early and the spring collegiate season wiped out almost entirely, it’s nice to look back at some Crimson highlights from past years. This week, we picked out a few key moments and profiles from the past few decades that we think you’ll enjoy. From a profile of Jeremy Lin ’10 (pre-Linsanity!) to a shoe-less track win, we hope this will tide you over just a bit before sports return for good. 


Happy campers: For their team photo, a day or two after The Game, the Crimson wore practice jerseys, giving them rather a raffish look.
Photograph courtesy of Harvard Athletic Communications

In this excerpt from The Game: Harvard, Yale, and America in 1968, author George Howe Colt ’76 examines the period when changing demographics began to transform Harvard’s football team, and then the institution itself. Overtaking the “dyed-in-the-wool New England preppies” were the sons and grandsons of immigrants, public-school graduates, players from different socioeconomic classes and far-flung regions of the country. Among those whose stories he recounts here is that of one “talented thespian” named Tommy Lee Jones ’69: “the son of a cowboy turned oil rigger…an eighth-generation Texan whose life had revolved around hunting, fishing, and football.” 

~Lydialyle Gibson, Associate Editor

Quarterback Frank Champi ’70 is carried off the field as the Yale game ends.
Photograph by Gary Mottola

I love nailbiter football games—waiting in anticipation as the quarterback steps back, angling for a last-second win. In those moments, you can practically feel the comeback. There’s no other feeling like it. That’s why I enjoy reading our original coverage of the 1968 Harvard v. Yale game with the famous 29-29 “win.” In 2000, we searched for the person responsible for the famous Crimson headline “Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29,” and after months of investigating, we finally found out who wrote it. You’ll be surprised by the answer.

~Kristina DeMichele, Digital Content Strategist

Dick Friedman, Harvard Magazine's football correspondent, is a master of his craft. If you think you're indifferent to sports, his writing, immersing the reader in the drama, visuals, and emotion in each game, might change your mind. His authoritative profile of Harvard's longtime football coach Tim Murphy, "Murphy Time," was the cover story the month I started working at the magazine. It was, and remains, a pleasure to read; it's like you're given exclusive access to a world that few outside of Ivy League sports ever understand. 

~Marina Bolotnikova, Associate Editor


The celebrating fourteenth-seeded Harvard Crimson led almost the entire game and held off a late New Mexico rally to top the third-seeded Lobos, 68-62.
Photograph courtesy of Gil Talbot

The Ivy League’s March Madness representative never enters as a favorite. In the opening round, they always face a team expecting a deep tournament run. It was no different in 2013, when 14-seed Harvard topped 3-seed Arizona with stifling defense and a flurry of threes. With that win, the Crimson established themselves as a nightmare first-round matchup—an underdog that wouldn’t back down easily. They strengthened this reputation in 2014 with a first-round win over Cincinnati, and the following year, with a near upset of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. 

A jubilant come-from-behind victory for women’s lacrosse
Photograph by Jerry Millevoi

In “25 Great Moments in Harvard Sports History,” former Harvard Magazine editor John T. Bethell recounts the best Harvard sports memories between 1986 and 2011—a period packed with 184 Ivy League championships in 17 different sports, 11 national team titles, and 30 individual national titles. 

~Jacob Sweet, Staff Writer/Editor 

Jeremy Lin
Photograph by Stu Rosner

A few years before Linsanity and the improbable, iconic late-season run of the 2012 New York Knicks, Jeremy Lin ’10 was a Harvard shooting guard in the midst of maybe the first comeback of his rollercoaster career. A kid from whom college coaches hadn’t expected much—larger schools had passed on giving him a scholarship—he arrived in Cambridge and quickly became one of the Crimson’s most important players, outshooting and outguarding opponents, making steals and giving assists. In early 2009, former Harvard Magazine sports editor Craig Lambert caught up with Lin after an upset win at Boston College, and in their conversation, you can see flashes of what would later make him such an entertaining NBA player to watch. “Hoops Houdini” is a fun and revealing glimpse at that earlier chapter, when pro ball seemed like a long shot, before he knew the Linsanity that was coming.

~Lydialyle Gibson, Associate Editor

Kieran Tuntivate ’20, shoeless and in the lead
Photograph by Gavin Baker/Sideline Photos

After losing a track spike mid-race, most runners would give up. Continuing without the added traction is a disadvantage as is, and in a sea of metal spikes, no one wants an unprotected foot. But when a competitor accidentally stepped on the left shoe of Kieran Tuntivate ’19, sending it flying off the track, he continued, running almost the entire Ivy League 3000-meter championship with just the other one. Tuntivate won anyway, clearing the field in the final lap. After the race, pictures of his beaten up foot went viral online; it was hard to believe someone could run through something so painful.   

~Jacob Sweet, Staff Writer/Editor 

From the original cover in 1997: John Dockery ’66, the only alumnus to earn a Super Bowl ring, displays mementos of his varsity sport. Such three-letter men have given way to single-sport stars like Naomi Miller ’99, a striker on the women’s soccer team. Updated 6/26/19: In 2013, Matt Birk ’98 became the second alumnus to earn a Super Bowl ring, playing for the Baltimore Ravens.

For a big-picture look at the changing landscape of Crimson sports, check out this smart, encyclopedic, and prescient 1997 feature “The Professionalization of Ivy League Sports.” Ivy League athletics doesn’t rise to the level of the biggest college sports programs, but Harvard athletes experience the pressures of increasing specialization, year-round training, and early recruitment all the same.   

~Marina Bolotnikova, Associate Editor 

More from “At Home with Harvard”

  • Spring Blooms: Your guide to accessing the Arnold Arboretum as the seasons turn in Boston
  • Harvard in the Movies: Our favorite stories about Harvardians on screen
  • The Literary Life: Our best stories about the practice and study of literature 
  • Night at the Museum: Our coverage of Harvard’s rich museums and collections
  • Nature Walks: Walking, running, and biking in Greater Boston’s green spaces, even while social distancing
  • Supporting Local Businesses: Our extensive coverage of local restaurants and retailers, and how you can support them during this time of crisis
  • Medical Breakthroughs: Our best stories going deep into the ideas and personalities that will shape the medical care of tomorrow
  • Rewriting HistoryFrom race and colonization to genetics and paleohistory, our favorite stories about the people reshaping the study of history
  • The Climate Crisis: Highlights from our wide-ranging coverage of the environment

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