The real Bush v. Gore
Crest Theatre1013 K St.
Sacramento, CA 95814
Let it not be said that 1968 lacked fodder for eventual back-in-the-day documentaries: Vietnam in bloody chaos, King and Kennedy in coffins, Black Panthers in the Olympics, Beatles in India and—oh yes—two academically elite yet athletically average college football teams in a tied game.
This last is the subject of Kevin Rafferty’s film, which has the chutzpah to suggest that even the most tumultuous years are only as good as their diversions. So if we’re going to call this a contender for the Best College Football Game Ever award, in the category of Well, Ivy League, Anyway, we might as well also nominate Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 as the Best Football Movie Ever, in the category of Well, Documentary, Anyway.
The title comes from the next day’s Harvard newspaper headline: Both teams went in undefeated, but the Bulldogs’ superiority was so unanimous and the Crimson’s comeback so astounding that a tie counted as a Harvard victory. The movie mostly consists of old game footage and astute not-so-instant replay from the robustly aging players, whose educations clearly inclined them to philosophizing. What began as a rote baby-boomer crucible of solidarity and self-actualization became a dramatic epic of improbable turnovers. How fitting that it’s also the first historically significant contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore, whose respective roommates happened then to be facing off on the gridiron.
Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey was new in theaters that year, too, so why shouldn’t the Crimson pep band strike up the commanding first notes of “Thus Spake Zarathustra” during the game? If Rafferty doesn’t call attention to it, maybe that’s because the mythology of otherworldly grandeur already has been established.