Skip to main content

"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.

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, both with echoes of a blue-collar past.

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 differences -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 39 produced an excellent documentary called "The Lehigh/'Lafayette Legacy produced in 2003 (recently put, in its entirety, on YouTube), and the book "Legends of Lehigh/Lafayette", written by Todd Davidson and Bob Donchez in 1995. Both talk a little bit about the "tradition of excess", to put it mildly, around "The Rivalry". In addition, the best tradition is that the staff on the Brown & White student paper open up their archives to talk about the craziness around "The Rivalry". I always look forward to their take on it every year, and it's invaluable in putting together this blog posting right here.

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".

In this year's Brown & White, one recollection only makes sense if you think about it as energy buildup around campus: ">'07 left me with the hazy recollection of racing shopping carts up and down East Fifth, pushing Delta Gamma girls clad in bird costumes as neighbors climbed onto their roofs and danced to the hit single, 'Soulja Boy.'"
Energy, indeed.

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."

Another common aspect of "The Rivalry" which continued well into the 1960's was the idea of raiding the other campus, sometimes resulting in 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.” (Mercifully, after that administrators thought that maybe an official bonfire was a better idea.)

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. This year, the Thursday Bonfire is a big multimedia event this Thursday at 8PM, complete with step team, Fraternity/Sorority contests, and "Pie a Lehigh Celebrity in the face." (As of this blog posting, I am not, repeat not, the "Lehigh Celebrity" being "pied.")

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. As a result, it's unofficially called the "Eco 1 Flame".

Bed Races
Four years ago, an old Lehigh tradition from Greek Week was revived: the bed race. Traditionally down "fraternity row", it was cancelled years ago due to safety concerns, but returned for the second-straight year. It doesn't go around the deathly curves around fraternity row anymore, however: it starts on the lower part of the Mountain. (This year's moniker? "Pimped-out Beds." Nice!)

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 1960's, and is a great way to stay in shape. Hard to believe the winner three years ago 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.

Beirut, the unofficial drinking game of Lehigh, is common during this week - even among alumni of both schools. Seeing a Beirut table during a tailgate isn't an uncommon sight, as is plastic cups, cans of National Bohemian and other cheap beers. For the more well-off young alumni, Yuengling. For the well-heeled, imported Heineken.

Not everyone likes it, but it happens. I don't have any personal stories of wasted mayhem - ones that I'll share, anyway - and the stories I do have involving other people, well, let's just say that I know where they live. There's no need to display them to the world... yet. But I'd be remiss if I didn't at least mention my trip to Lafayette in an old VW Bus with a bunch of buddies and about six cases of beer. That's the game I remember the least.

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. (And yes, we had a designated driver of the VW bus.)

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 - like 1975 - they came down at halftime, meaning the football teams would have to go for 2-point conversions instead of kicking extra points.

"A lot of fraternities would take those pieces of wood and put them up on the wall like an award," QB Mike Rieker said in this year's Brown & White piece.

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.

"The Hate"
It's fashionable to say these days that Lehigh and Lafayette students and alums really only don't like each other for one or two weeks a year. A couple weeks of obscenity, and then the Leopard lies down next to the Hawk and sits around and sings "cum-ba-ya". For some that might be true, but let's not downplay it: there is genuine dislike here. The obscenities don't simply come out of thin air; there's really something to it.

While Lehigh and Lafayette alums work and live next to each other - and we're cordial. love our families, are kind to our dogs and whatnot - when it comes to the Mountain Hawks and the Leopards, we're different. If Lehigh wins, we'll be sure to mention it to them. Often. And if Lafayette wins, you're going to hear about it. Often.

And with internet message boards, blogs like this one and Facebook and the like, fans don't need to simply limit their gloating to a couple weeks a year. The banter and competition lasts all year round. (Banter which really starts to get going two weeks before kickoff.)

This year, if the message boards are any indication, the Rivalry seems to be in fighting form, with Lafayette fans crowing about their great record, awesome facilities and such, with Lehigh fans saying that we haven't seen the best of this Mountain Hawk team yet - and when we do, the Leopards are in trouble. (I'm paraphrasing here; I try to keep this blog at least somewhat PG-rated.)

And it's good to have a rivalry like this, even if it veers out of PG to R-rated territory at times. It gives folks a rallying point, pride in their school, and a lifetime of fun memories and experiences, as long as you're not totally demented about it. It's unique; you never forget it the rest of your life.

It's something worth experiencing.

Comments

Anonymous said…
what about in the 90's when they decided to move the game to 10:30 to combat pregame drinking --- that didn't last long once they realized the students would just pull all nighters.
Anonymous said…
I'll give you a "brown out". Lol!

Popular posts from this blog

Nick Shafnisky Is Pushing Hard to Get To Play at the Next Level in Football

"Don't take anything for granted, just keep pushing."
Those are the words of QB Nick Shafnisky, told to The Whitehall-Coplay Press all the way back in 2013, about his preparation as a high school athlete.
And they seem to summarize the Whitehall, PA native perfectly, then as now.
Dubbed the "Male Athlete of the Year" by that publication, the article goes on about Shaf's many exploits at Whitehall high school - leading the Zephyr football team to a co-Lehigh Valley Conference title, becoming the first player ever in that conference to rush and pass for over 1,000 yards, and earning the league's co-MVP award as well.
He also was a member of the Zephyrs playoff basketball team, and for good measure also helped set a record for the 4x100 relay team as well.
At Whitehall, and at Lehigh, coaches pushed him, but it was his own hard work that helped make him the best athlete he could be.
This weekend, Shaf, like every eligible college football player, will be …

What Are You Doing the Night of Lehigh's 2017 Home Opener?

I have this vision.

It's the weekend of the home opener at Murray Goodman Stadium, Labor Day weekend.  It could be a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday.

And it's 6:00 PM.

In 2018, the Lehigh football team will open the season with a big celebration of the football program - at Navy, Lehigh's first game against an FBS team in over a decade.

In 2017, why not, as a one-off opportunity, try to have one Lehigh football game, the home opener, be the first-ever night game at Murray Goodman Stadium?

Will it cost money?  Yes.  Will it be easy?  Probably not.

However, is it doable?  I've got to believe the answer is "yes".


Seven Positive Thoughts About All the Patriot League Recruiting Classes

It's recruiting season.  Every incoming recruit is a Patriot League all-star, everyone is a first team all-American, everyone is undefeated.  It's all good times, a chance for kids to be admitted to some of the best Universities in the world.  In that, it's a win for everyone.

While we wait for each of the remaining recruits to be announced as a part of their recruiting classes, I thought I'd comb through all of the incoming classes of the Patriot League and tell you what sticks out to me.

This summart isn't a ratings-based system, than folks like 247Sports have in terms of measuring the number of "starred recruits" (they list Holy Cross as the "winner"), or even a hybrid-based system, like LFN's yearly Patsy Ratings (last seasons "winner": Lehigh) or HERO Sports' list of the top overall FCS recruits (which lists Lafayette as the "winner").  It's just one guy, looking at the recruit lists, and giving his opinion.