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"The Hate"

(Photo Credit: Brown & White)

The picture to the left certainly isn't politically correct. It's raw. It's irreverent. And it sums up the feelings between these two schools perfectly. Oddly enough, this tails into a tradition at Lehigh and Lafayette where fraternities and houses hang banners celebrating the game to come.

Why is it that we hate what we most resemble? It's not unique to Lehigh and "that school from Easton": Harvard and Yale are both schools with global academic brands that are more similar than different. Army and Navy detest each other, but both share in that armed forces life and face the same challenges as institutions.

Demographically, Lehigh and "that school from Easton" are very similar: most of their students come from New Jersey and Pennsylvania. They are schools that are known for their hard-studying, hard-partying attitudes - and have had rocky relationships with the towns that host them in Bethlehem and Easton.

Yet there are differences. Lafayette is a college, focusing on a liberal arts education. Lehigh is a university, with a top Engineering department and business school. Lehigh has traditionally been male-dominated; Lafayette's ratio of men to women is close to 1:1. Lehigh's enrollment is almost 5,000: Lafayette's is just over 2,400.

It's the similarity - but also the different -that characterizes the craziness that centers around "The Rivalry".

History of "The Hate"
There are lots of great sources for all the crazy traditions of "The Rivalry". PBS produced an excellent documentary called "The Lehigh/Lafayette Legacy," produced in 2003, and the book "Legends of Lehigh/Lafayette", written by Todd Davidson and Bob Donchez in 1995. Both are extremely hard to find collector's items, and are priced accordingly, and both talk a little bit about the "tradition of excess", to put it mildly, around "The Rivalry".

What happens on the Bethlehem and Easton campuses the week before the game? In 2004, the Brown & White's Nora Mattern in this article described it as "the energy across campus has intensified." That's the best way to describe a lot of this excess around the rivalry: a buildup of energy.

For players, especially the seniors, it's a cumulation of their football playing careers and will almost certainly be the top of their competitive lives in football. For passionate alumni, it's the last throes of the year and the one chance a year many alumni get to see many of their own outside their busy lives.

And for students, this could mean the nearing of the end of a semester of tough classes, which all comes together with an outpouring of directed energy that leads to things like the banner above. It is a way to deal with the stresses of being away from home, being away from the nest, and to be individuals. It's the one thing that unites everyone who is or has been Brown or Maroon. It's unadulterated school spirit, frequently tinged with alcohol, inundated with emotion and coming of age all at once in a common direction. It's Hunter Thompson meets The Beach Boys meets "Animal House".

Traditions
Some of the original traditions involved pep rallies called "smokers". For two all-male schools, you couldn't get much more macho: smokers involved wrestling matches, boxing matches, coaches' and players' speeches, and lots and lots of tobacco products being consumed (hence the name "smoker"). They were present on both campuses: in the New York Times in 1913, a smoker was described at Lafayette: "All week long there have been daily demonstrations. To-night there was a smoker, at which the building literally rocked with the vehemence of the cheers."

Today there are still pep rallies, but the most famous is the one organized by the South Side Boosters prior to Thursday's Bonfire from 6:30PM-9:00PM.

Another common aspect of "The Rivalry" which continued well into the 1960's was the idea of raiding the other campus, frequently starting riots. Over the years, these campus raids were a right of passage at the all-male schools, complete with the occasional fistfight. On the Lehigh side, those demonstrations involved storming the Easton campus to vandalize statues, notably Lafayette's Leopard or the statue of the Marquis De Lafayette near the opening of Fisher Field. The New York Times reported that "since 1933, the statue of the general has been minus a sword when a student riot on campus preceded the game". One year, recounted Al Pedrick '43, the statue was painted purple. “Anyone who was caught got dismissed from school for three days,” Pedrick said. “I know that for a fact because my brother got caught.”

Bonfires
For Lehigh, the bonfire is linked to Lehigh's first-ever win in "The Rivalry", a 16-0 win in 1887. To quote Legends of Lehigh/Lafayette, to celebrate the victory freshmen set fire to the grandstand that were seen as “an eyesore and a disgrace to the athletic grounds.”

Soon after that, the bonfire became a Thursday or Friday tradition before the big game. And Lehigh and Lafayette students would frequently try to sneak to the other campus to "light the fire before its time". Freshmen were assigned to guard the fire to keep opposing students out. A typical early-year bonfire from 1919 was retold in this photo album.

The tradition was banned in 1968, a year with lots of campus unrest across the nation, but was resurrected in 1998. It continues this Thursday at Goodman Campus, featuring live music, a step band, the LU dance team, pep band, and the director of athletics and head football coach Andy Coen.

Parades
Linked to the Bonfire was the also Lehigh's "Marching 97". All throughout "The Rivalry" the Brown & White marching band has been involved with parades on campus and in Bethlehem for over 100 years.

Traditionally, the band would make their first appearance in a "pajama parade" after the bonfire was lit. Band members, dressed in pajamas, marched over the Lehigh river using the "Penny Bridge" to serenade the ladies of Moravian College (then an all-female school). The "Penny Bridge" was now in the site where the Fahy bridge is today, and cost a penny to cross; the band would play the song "We Pay No Tolls Tonight" as they crossed.

Nowadays, the "Marching '97" still parades around campus the Friday before "The Rivalry", famously stopping first at the legendary 8:00AM "Eco 1" class that nearly every Lehigh student attends.

Bed Races
This week, the class of 2010 revived an old Lehigh tradition from Greek Week: the bed race. Traditionally down "fraternity row", it was cancelled years ago due to safety concerns, but has been resurrected as a brand-new tradition centered around the game. It doesn't go around the deathly curves around fraterniyy row anymore, however: it starts on the lower part of the Mountain.

Another new tradition on campus involves the "brown-out", meaning on Friday students, faculty and alumni are supposed to wear their Brown with pride, as I will definitely be here at my place of employment.

Turkey Trot
Another rite of passage on the Lehigh side is the "Turkey Trot", an intramural run which involves a run up and down South Mountain. It's been around at least since the 1970's, and is a great way to stay in shape. Hard to believe the winner last year ran the course in 14:46! That's about the time it would take me to get halfway up South Mountain. If I could do it in an hour and a half I'd be pushing it.

Before the drinking age laws were strictly enforced, fraternities used to hand out beers to contestants going up and down the mountain.

Drinking
No article on the history of "The Rivalry" would be complete without the mention of drinking. Whether we adults like to think about it or not, somewhere along the line drinking to excess became one of the rites of passage of the week. "The Lehigh/Lafayette tradition has extended way beyond football over the years," said the Brown & White's Alexis Novick ('00) in 1999. "I’m not saying it’s right, but this weekend has become a tradition to most students to get wasted beyond belief."

Stories abound of sunrise cocktails, shots, and other dangerous drinking activities that could take them near death take place on this weekend, more so than other weekends. Even students who have no intention of going to "The Rivalry" use it as an excuse to get plastered and become "rebels without a cause" for one week.

This extends to tailgating. The students, in the mosh pit that is their tailgate area (complete with Guns N' Roses blaring, even in 2007) celebrate the pregame under the watchful eye of Bethlehem's finest, while on the other side Lehigh alumni enjoy their elaborate tailgates, complete with deep-fried turkey - and their own assortment of mixed drinks, from Yuenglings to fine wine to Boilermakers. The only thing really separating the students and alumni is a sense of moderation.

NOTE: I am a great proponent of "drinking responsibly" and do not condone people drinking to the point of self-poisoning and generally making an ass of themselves.

Goalposts & Postgame Riots
In the past, a postgame tradition was to tear down the goalposts after the game - the caveat being "after the game" was generally optional. Some years, they came down at halftime.

Since at least 1943 the postgame riot and tearing down of the goalposts was a violent rite of passage. Lehigh and Lafayette students (and others) stormed the field to secure parts of the goalposts, specially constructed of easily-torn down wood. Fistfights were commonplace in the anarchy that ensued. Some years, the riot was the big story of the day, the competition on the gridiron coming a distant second place to the action on the sidelines.

In the late 1980s, I caught the tail end of this tradition. In a 52-45 marathon won by Lafayette, I nabbed one of the end-zone markers which I proudly brought back to my freshman dorm.. and had it sweet-talked away from me by some girl. In 1991, in which would turn out to be the last year for the postgame riots and goalpost grab, I ended up with a sliver which couldn't have been more than four inches long. Proudly, I put my piece of goalpost in my pocket and got my ride home - amidst other fraternities fighting each other for pieces of the post that just a bit longer.

In the 1991 game, Lehigh erected metal goalposts, and got the local authorities involved in keeping order. Even though students and fans were repeatedly warned not to storm the field (in a game which Lehigh dominated, 36-18), many fans still did storm the field (me and my friends not being among them). The fans on the field, frustrated at not being able to rip down the goalposts, picked up hunks of turf and started to throw them at the cops trying to restore order on the field. Not surprisingly, the cops went out, pepper sprayed and beat up a lot of the "fans" on the field that day, in front of many horrified students and alumni. Not a banner day for "the Rivalry" when the president of Lehigh at that time, Peter Likins, got a whiff of pepper spray.

Energy. It spreads out in all directions from "The Rivalry": some of it good, some of it bad. All of it unforgettable.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Some good memories arise reading this. However, the Turkey Trot goes back much farther..It certainly existed in the early '70's and I'm sure before then. We also had bonfires in the '70's as well. Not sure when it stopped, though. There is no other rivalry in the country like this one--and it transcends football.

-Ngineer
Anonymous said…
More fun facts from a '70's student....

Along with the goal posts being torn down at half time of the '75 game, some "clever" pre- med students smuggled in surgical elastic bands and were sling shoting water balloons directly over the field from 1 side to the other!... Lafayette's version of a marching band was a single congo line who's band leader wandered all over the field like a schizophrentic Pie Piper with his dutiful mice in tow. It was like a scene directly out of Monty Python!
In the early '70s, the maintance staff at Lafayette spent the entire week prior to the game boxing up all statues on their campus... it seems that some enterprising Engineer had separated the Leopard from his "bag of onions" with a blow torch in the early '70's!

And on the subject of "adult beverages" ... my fraternity ALWAYS ordered between 20- 25 kegs for Lehigh-Lafayette week (and I'm quite sure we weren't alone!). The 70's was also a time when most students attended the game in sport coats and ties due to the pre and post game cocktail parties... at least our version of mayhem and dibotchery was executed with some style!

And most importantly,during the early '70's, Lehigh had Kim McQuilken throwing NFL quality "darts" all over the field and Lafayette had a clever Little All-American tailback, Tony Giglio, who was one of the nation's leading rushers. It was not a bad time to be a student experiencing "The Rivalry".
parz '92 said…
The picture sums it up.

Laf-at-it Sucks.

GO ENGINEERS!!!!

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