Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Pictorama swerves over into an unexpected direction with this portrait of a sincere young Harvard man posing in his football uniform, peeled from an old cardboard frame I think. Unlike our muscle bound behemoths of today, this fellow looks a tad spongey by our current standards. A quick read on the subject (I probably don’t need to assure you that I am not a historian of long-standing on the history of football at Harvard) reveals that he probably represents a time of Harvard’s early hay day in football. The football program is one of the oldest in the country, beginning competition in 1873, and dominated from about 1890 to 1919. I would guestimate, looking at his attire, that this gentleman slips in around 1920. Harvard did in fact win the Rosebowl in 1920 – their only appearance ever. They had three undefeated seasons, ’12-’14, and perfect seasons in ’12 and’13. Seems like it has largely been downhill from there.
I purchased this photo in a fashion I rarely have access to these days, a nice deep drawer of old photos, well curated, at a store in New York’s East Village, Obscura and Oddities, where I spent a nice bit of my recent birthday happily digging around. Utterly out of my usual realm of collecting, it appealed to me because of his sincere and almost diffident expression. It is hard to imagine him slugging away at his opponents on the field, easier to imagine him assuming a life in banking which is probably what he ultimately did, but perhaps not fair to make assumptions. Again, by today’s standards, his attire seems utterly inadequate for the game as we know it today. Clearly it was a different game and another time and a day when a Harvard man could expect to exceed on the football field as well as in playing the game of a privileged life.
Personally, I didn’t find and embrace my inner jock until relatively recently. Although I did yoga for decades, it wasn’t until about six or seven years ago that I started working out with a trainer and became a devoted gym rat. My sister, Loren, was however always a great athlete. Tennis, running, swimming, skiing – sports for every season. She’d swim in the morning and bike in the evening, lift at lunch and run later. A truly restless and peripatetic soul, we as her family always joked that she didn’t need more than four hours or sleep a night and would drive you nuts if she didn’t burn off energy every day. I mostly remember her running cross country and track and swim team at the beach club in the summer, but there was tennis, field hockey and soccer teams too. (In high school she always wanted to lifeguard in the summers and passed the test, but her severe astigmatism disqualified her.)
As an undergrad at Princeton she discovered rugby and she reveled in it. I visited once and saw a game and, although I kidded her about being mud covered and with bloody scrapes from contact with some gargantuan woman’s poorly shaven leg, I got it. There was a visceral delight in the game and the team was a great group. It wasn’t for a number of years after Loren died that I started working out and developed a passion for it. I had always been the one with a paintbrush in my hand rather than breaking a sweat, so I think she is probably somewhere getting a pretty good chuckle out of seeing middle aged me doing one legged squats and swinging kettle weights these days.