Homecoming 2014: Fall Weather Brings Classmates to Celebrate But Not the Game

By Howard Zien '71, Class Treasurer

Photo credits: Howard Zien

Otober 29, 2014

Experiencing homecoming weekend is like the preparation of a fine meal. You identify all of the key ingredients, gather them together, then combine them and prepare, cook, and enjoy the meal. The specific ingredients that come to mind are:

Wonderful weather,

Good food and drink,

The sense of identify that only Princeton can bring,

The presence and friendship of our classmates,

And a football game.

As often happens in events of this type, some of the ingredients exceed our expectations, and others fall short. So it was last weekend, October 25.

The weather in the mid-seventies was spectacular. The sun brilliant. We witnessed students pouring into Princeton Stadium in T-shirts, shorts and shower-style flip flops. It caused most of us alums to refer to the calendars on our smart phones to confirm that it was in fact the last week of October. We remembered in our undergraduate days how late October caused us to decide how many layers of woolens to put on as we walked about the campus.

The campus-wide tailgate gathering has become a campus tradition. Good food abounded, and a carnival atmosphere prevailed, punctuated by the Princeton Band. The tailgate offered 71-ers a chance to get together and also to interact with other classes. Beer, Sandwiches, Desserts. All good. The tailgate gathering started at 11am. The football game, a few short blocks away, began at 1pm.

Inside the stadium, the color orange was redolent. It was difficult to find an empty seat on the Princeton side of the stadium, so I found my place on the visitor's side. There was method in my madness. In addition to finding a place to sit, I was able to see the enormous throng of Princetonians on the other side in a sea of orange. And as the game progressed (I'll get to that in a minute), when there was something to cheer about, the enthusiasm of the Princeton fans was unmistakable.

Prior to the weekend, I had glanced at the results of previous matches for Harvard. And I must say I was a bit concerned because they had won their previous games convincingly. As it turns out, my concerns were justified. The Tigers seemed to be outcoached and outplayed. Harvard, for its part, conducted a clinic in football logic and practice. It was as if their chalkboard had come to life and the Princeton team mere smudges in the background.

I have to confess, I became somewhat distracted from the activity on the gridiron below. So I busied myself admiring the stadium and the undiminished enthusiasm of the Princeton fans when my eye caught a very large banner hanging low down behind the south end zone. The banner said:

Princeton Football

28 National Championships

Truthfully, I had never seen this banner before and I thought it contained two unrelated phrases. First, that Princeton plays football, which until this particular day we were all aware. And second that Princeton has had 28 national championships in a variety of sports.

So I researched the matter further. When we were undergrads, this research would have taken several days. But with the miracle of the Internet, on my phone and later that night on my computer at home, I was able to confirm this most unlikely of facts.

Princeton has more National Football Championships than any other college or University. Yale is 2nd with 27. The closest university we would recognize as a modern football power is Notre Dame with 22 national championships. Feel free to check my work on Wikipedia.

Funny. When I applied to Princeton, I liked football, but this was an unknown fact to me at the time and had no impact on my decision to matriculate here.

I won't dwell on the football game. Except to say that all things, good and bad, come to an end.

We were able to retire to Tiger Inn for a wonderful class cocktail party. As we approached TI, the yard in front of the Inn was teaming with students celebrating. Since the recently concluded football game was unlikely to be the catalyst for their celebrations, I can only conclude that the beautiful weather and Princeton environs were cause enough.

It certainly was for me and the other 71ers I spoke with. 

See the rest of the photos of the day in the Gallery.

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