The Big Scrum

by Richard Brookhiser

John Miller first told me about the idea of the The Big Scrum in the East Room of the White House. Rummy and Condi were having one of their hissy fits, so John, W., and I drew aside … In fact it was a reception for the NEH to which we were invited with several hundred others.

I told John I loved the idea, and I’m half way through the book now, loving it still. My favorite bit so far concerns Harvard president Charles W. Eliot, a major American educator and a dedicated enemy of college football.

Even the behavior of spectators appalled him. Before the start of a game against Yale in Cambridge, he heard a group of his students chant: “Three cheers for Harvard and down with Yale!” He regarded this as bad mannered: “Of course it’s right to be enthusiastic for your own side, but why sing a song that’s rude to our guests?” So he proposed an alternative: “Why wouldn’t it be better to sing ‘Three cheers for Harvard and one for Yale’?” His suggestion did not catch on.

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