As a resident of the town with the oldest public high school football rivalry in the country (with only those dandies from Exeter and Andover, and Norwich Free and New London having played more) and an alum of the most played rivalry in college football, I know a thing or two about rivalries. This weekend will mark the 145th meeting of Lehigh and Lafayette and everyone is gearing up for the biggest weekend of the year for these two schools. So make sure the Star is polished and all the light bulbs work, the Fritch Electric sign is on, and the pierogies are on the grill, because hordes of outsiders are about to invade the Christmas City.
All of us recent Lehigh grads remember the horrible 4 year span in which Lehigh did not win a game against Lafayette. We shall call that era "The Dill Administration". But here are a few things that you might not know about "The Rivalry". First and foremost, this writer's very first citation for underage drinking came on the eve of the Lehigh/Lafayette football game in the fall of 2003. After a long day of small drinking games involving skill, I meandered back to my dorm room. However, I fell just a bit short and ended up taking a nice little nap on the bench outside the dorm. I should like to think that there is a plaque with my name on it on that bench now.
In the early years of the rivalry Lehigh used to get trounced by Lafayette, including a 50-0 loss in the first game. It wasn't until 1887 that Lehigh finally upended Lafayette 10-4 (on a grand slam by Jesse Novalis no doubt), and the students burned down the stands in celebration. Some say that this man rose from the ashes of that burnt offering.
In 1917 Lehigh dominated the Leopards by a final score of 78-0. That Lafayette team then went on to play the Cleveland Browns to see who sucked more.
The very next year in 1918, Raymond "Snooks" Dowd is said to have had a 115 yard touchdown run for the Engin-, er, Mountain Hawks. Apparently, he ran the wrong way into the end zone, circled the goal posts and ran all the way down the field for the 6. Snooks also went on to play baseball for the Philadelphia Athletics, Detroit Tigers and the Brooklyn Robins, where he compiled a .115 average with 4 runs, 3 hits and 6 rib eye steaks. Talk about a double threat!!
Despite all of these interesting little tidbits that only add richness to the great tapestry that is Lehigh/Lafayette, it seems that the rivalry does not get as much respect as say a Harvard/Yale or even an Amherst/Williams. This is pretty upsetting. I would like to see a little more press on this rivalry. Maybe Donk can talk to his boy Kornheiser and get him to give us a shout out on PTI. A unique trophy would also help create a little more tradition in this game. The rivalry is so old that it pre-dates trophies, but maybe something like a golden railroad spike, or a gift certificate to the Apollo Grille would be iconic and nice for bragging rights. I would also really like to see College Gameday make a stop at Goodman Stadium, though I doubt that will ever happen. Bottom line is, we don't need all this stuff to know that our rivalry is legit.
As much as Lehigh/Lafayette is a great rivalry, it is my opinion that nobody really cares about the football. In my four years of the Lehigh/Lafayette rivalry, my most vivid memories include sleeping off my citation in the dorm, tipping over porto potty's at Lafayette, telling a girl that I "was her father" (much to the chagrin of her mother, whom I didn't know was standing right there) while wearing a fur coat and Gerry McNamara jersey (IFC Beirut Champs!), and bleeding profusely from the finger after smashing bottles at the Lafayette tailgate area. It is the camaraderie, the intensity, and yes, the debauchery that is most important to us fans.
Though it is the most played rivalry in college football, Lehigh/Lafayette is so much more than a football game. In fact it is more about heading back to the old alma mater, walls in ivy dressed, and re-living the best years of our lives. We don't need no stinking send ups in the newspaper, or national TV time, we just came here to party. See you all this weekend. Let's go Lehigh!!