BOSTON — The Crimson stink.
Actually, that would be the Crimson stinks.
Not the team itself. The team is a very, very good one despite losing to Northeastern in the Beanpot semifinal. It’s ranked 10th in the country and will be heard from again in the postseason. This is no attempt to kick an admirable squad when it’s down after a tough loss.
But the Crimson stinks.
The nickname, that is. Not that the color is the problem. The Harvard Blue, Pink or Lavender would be no different. The problem is that a century or so ago some linguistic sadist assigned a singular nickname to the school’s athletic teams.
That means that you can’t say, for example, “the Crimson were facing Northeastern last night” because it must instead be “the Crimson was facing Northeastern last night” which sounds right only if you’re completely tone-deaf or you’ve been covering the team for so long that scraping your fingernails down that particular chalkboard has become appealing. You can’t even say “they have a six-game winning streak” since you can’t use a plural pronoun unless it refers back to something that is plural. And with Harvard athletics there are no plurals.
Which is why the Crimson stinks.
Just to be clear, I have no issue with the school itself. In fact, as one who spent a couple years doing differential equations at MIT, I’ll even concede that Harvard is clearly the second-best school in Cambridge.
I’m also no cranky curmudgeon when it comes to nicknames in general. For example, some complain that Notre Dame’s use of the Fighting Irish is an ethnic slur, but I’m willing to let it slide. In fact, considering that my wife’s maiden name is O’Donnell, I’d contend that Fighting Irish is deadly accurate.
The point is that when it comes to the Crimson you can’t talk about them — there I go again with the accidental plural — you can’t talk about it without lapsing into apoplexy.
In Division I hockey, there are only two other schools with singular nicknames, the Cornell Big Red and the Dartmouth Big Green. Which has to make you wonder. Is this a case of hoity-toity Ivy Leaguers with perfect SATs inflicting verbal torture on the rest of us common folk to show how superior they are?
According to Harvard Sports Information Director Jamie Weir, however, there is no conspiracy with the Big Red and the Big Green. Her school stands alone.
“We’re not big anything,” she says. With a laugh she adds, “We don’t feel the need to tell people that we’re big.”
So subtracting Cornell and Dartmouth from the picture, this writer begs for a new Harvard nickname. Anything that is a plural would be an improvement. Anything.
For example, how about the Harvard Rotting Corpses?
Infinitely better, I say.
“The Crimson faces Rensselaer this Friday” becomes “the Rotting Corpses face Rensselaer this Friday.”
“Rotting Corpses” would even offer some interesting twists. A reporter could write, “the Harvard Rotting Corpses came to life last night, rallying from a three-goal deficit to defeat Cornell, 5-4.”
There’s no downside, I say. The “Rotting Corpses” nickname would be a win-win for Harvard athletics and journalists alike.
And as a gesture of good faith, I’ll even offer Harvard a break on the naming rights royalties. I’m that kind of guy.
Face it. It’s a great school with some great teams. But the Crimson stinks.