More Than a Rivalry

Anybody could feel the electric atmosphere that filled the air on the 4 train to Yankee Stadium on Saturday. Even somebody absorbed in music blasting through ear buds and busily beating level 335 of Candy Crush couldn’t help but notice the wave of brown and maroon that filled each and every subway car. There was definitely something going on—and you couldn’t ignore it.

Stepping on the train amid of sea of brown and white, my heart leapt for joy at the massive amount of fellow Lehigh fans. I had never seen so many donning my beloved alma mater’s colors in one place outside of Pennsylvania. Usually it’s a rare treat for me to run into somebody with a Lehigh connection. But not Saturday. From the second I pushed my way onto the train, I was surrounded by Lehigh friends, alum, and professors. There was no doubt in my mind that if I started singing a Lehigh fight song, the whole subway car would join in.

The spirit and excitement in the car made it the most enjoyable subway ride I had ever had. I civilly interacted with Lafayette students, sharing some good-natured teasing, agreeing on how happy we were that people outside of our two schools were finally recognizing the significance of our rivalry. The rest of the ride was spent speaking with a Lehigh professor and his wife who had been at Lehigh for a few decades. When they first got there, they intended to make it a brief stay and then move on. But as they quickly found out, “nobody stays at Lehigh for just a few years.”

As I entered Yankee Stadium, my skin got goose bumps. There was something eerily wonderful about the game being on such a national stage. Seeing our players stretch in perfect unity out on the baseball-turned-football field sent chills through my spine. The nation was finally realizing something that every Lehigh student knew from day one: this is more than just a rivalry. It’s history, and we are all part of it.

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And there was no denying the historical importance of the most-played college football rivalry.  We were taking over icons that symbolize the great city of New York, that have historical significance of their own.  From ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange, to Eco Flaming Washington Square Park, to filling Yankee Stadium with over 48,000 fans, this previously little-known rivalry was becoming “The Rivalry” in the eyes of the nation, too.

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With the Empire State Building emblazing the New York City skyline in maroon, brown, and white, all those who already understood The Rivalry were beaconed home to take part in the historic 150th playing.  But we didn’t need lights in the sky or a ringing bell to tell us the importance of this game.  We would have come home to The Rivalry even without all the national attention.  We already knew it was more than a rivalry.  It’s a chance to meet up with friends with whom we’ve spent countless previous Lehigh-Lafs and to relive the memories—the joys of the wins and pains of the losses—and to make new memories that we’ll get to relive at Le-Lafs to come. Most importantly, it was a chance to cheer on Lehigh and be one of the 48,000 people making history.

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As the game clock ticked down to its last minutes of this historic game, I sat sulking in section 316.  On my way home, though, the brown and white atop the Empire State Building reminded me I had nothing to sulk about.  The Lehigh-Lafayette Rivalry was finally getting the attention it deserved.  I had just spent the historic 150th game cheering for Lehigh with friends at Yankee Stadium.  And on top of that, I was 8/50th of the way to joining the 50 Game Club, a goal which I was sure I’d reach.  Because after all, nobody stays at Lehigh for just a few years.

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