Lux et Veritas over Veritas: Yale Divinity defeates Harvard Divinity in frisbee foray

By Sean McAvoy ’11 M.A.R.

It was a bright morning in New Haven on Saturday, April 9, when an intrepid ragtag band of misfits from Yale Divinity School, cheered on by a crowd of well-wishers, bested their powerhouse rival from Harvard’s own divinity school in a do-or-die game of Ultimate Frisbee.

TrophyThe origins of the game stretch back to months before April, when an anonymous member of Harvard’s Ultimate Frisbee team taped a challenge to the doors of Marquand chapel.  Discretion being the better part of valor, the intramural team from YDS wisely declined to respond.  Things escalated when William Graham, dean of Harvard Divinity School, issued a formal challenge to YDS’s own Dean Harold Attridge, “encouraging them [the players] to take up the challenges of teamwork and sportsmanship in friendly competition” against Graham’s own team, aptly named “Veri-TOSS.”

Not a group easily cowed, Yale Divinity’s athletes flocked to the call of Alex Peterson ’12 M.Div., current coordinator of FADS – Friends and Athletes at the Div School.  “Playing Frisbee is a wonderful job requirement,” Peterson said, adding that “the goal of this was first of all communion and friendship-building, and competition a distant second.”

Peterson’s gracious words belie the ferocity with which Yale’s team played.  Though the Harvard team was more coordinated and had the benefit of being a regular team, Yale’s mettle proved to be the deciding factor that no amount of Cantabrigian rehearsal could overcome.  Power-forward Kathryn “Gracie” Killman ’13 M.Div., a veteran of the Ultimate Players Association High School National Championship, said, “We were a bit of a rag-tag group that hadn’t practiced and were unsure of the rules, but . . . we had more athleticism and females on our team, so once we settled into a basic rhythm and camaraderie things fell into place.”

Things did not start well for the Bulldogs.  “They were ahead out of the gate because their team was more organized on the front end,” Killman said.  Harvard scored the first three points in a first-to-fifteen-point game, but by halftime Yale was up with an 8-5 lead.  A combination of daring plays and stouthearted bravura kept the Elis on top.  “It was really nerve-wracking to see everyone diving to make those catches,” Peterson said.  The second half started with Yale sending out an all-female squad, a formation nicknamed the “Letty Hustle” in honor of legendary YDS professor Letty Mandeville Russell, which the Harvard team could not match, because, as Killman quipped, “We had an abundance of women, and that as a contributing factor to success also feels marvelous.”

In the end, Yale was victorious, 15-11, and both teams, along with several Yale fans who had been in attendance, retired to a cookout hosted by the winners.  A good time was had by all, and friendships were formed between both schools.

“I have a very firm feeling that sport can help bring us closer to one another,” Peterson said.  “The game was great, and watching my classmates work together and grow as a team in a common endeavor was wonderful to watch. Getting to know my opponent was also a great gift. Our competition, in my opinion, bred great respect.”

Peterson and the triumphant team presented a unique trophy—featuring a gilded pair of hands grasping a Frisbee, created by Harvard for the game—to Dean Attridge, who earned his Ph.D. at Harvard, in a ceremony during Coffee Hour on April 12. “I'm delighted our team won,” Attridge said, “and it seems as if both sides had a good time at the encounter.  What can I say about the trophy?  I have never seen its like!”

This friendly rivalry looks to be more than a one-time drubbing.  “I would happily travel to Boston next year to play them [Harvard],” Killman said.  “We will certainly be playing more matches in the future,” Peterson added. “We’ve already started discussion for making this a yearly engagement, with teams rotating the location.  We look forward to defending the trophy next year at Harvard.”

Peterson’s clear challenge dispenses with chapel-door shenanigans and expresses YDS’s intentions with steely eyed resolve.  Harvard, you’ve been warned.


Posted: 05/02/2011

Revised: 05/10/2011