It was a beautiful day for a win: crisp, bright and warm enough for those die-hard shirtless fans. As I walked into the Yale Bowl, I literally saw light at the end of the square tunnel, the dark cement framing brilliant white rays. Walking into the open, I found myself immersed in orange and black — scarves, hats, fuzzy shorts, stomachs and faces all bore Princeton’s colors. Hundreds of us had braved the journey; baby tigers, alums and students stood together in support of our team, creating our own little Orange Bubble in New Haven.
I stood at the 30-yard line, my bench covered with peanut shells. To my left danced our orange-eyed mascot with slightly frightening teeth. To my right played our plaid-clad band, featuring a prominent didgeridoo and a man with a furry hat. In the row in front was a girl wearing a tiger cape complete with a hood and claws; next to her stood a freckled boy who passionately led our section’s chants. All around me stood the legion of loyal fans with whom I jumped and screamed as Trocon Davis ’14 made his amazing 100-yard interception in the second quarter.
Those 100 yards were absolutely beautiful — as Davis ran down the field, I could feel the sheer adrenaline of the crowd, “Yuck Fale” posters waving, benches shaking and voices breaking from pride. Each time he escaped from Yale’s clutches, our energy grew thicker, and as he sprinted to the end zone, we broke out into a pure roar. Our mascot’s hands lifted high in the air, the football fight song mixed in with our cheers, the freckled boy was finally at a loss for words — it was a moment of unity. Who was Yale? This was our school cheering for our team in the Orange Bubble we had created at what had become our game.
A few thrilling touchdowns later when the clock went to 0, the bubble burst — some took the stairs, others jumped the wall, but we all ended up on the field, black and orange dots amidst an expanse of green. Sweaty football players took their helmets off and grinned as we surrounded them. Guys lifted girls on their shoulders, the didgeridoo belted out some long notes, our mascot went crowd-surfing and happy fans ran aimlessly around with silly smiles on their faces, simply soaking in the moment. I high-fived an old man in a Princeton sweater and saw someone hugging his orange-clad dog.
I was born and raised as a Nittany Lion in State College, Penn., the home of Penn State, a huge football town where everyone bled blue and white. My friends warned me that Princeton games would not be the same. In some ways, they were right — football doesn’t carry the same weight here as it did back home. No one buys season tickets or camps out before the big games. But Saturday, I saw how powerful and heard how loud we could be. Connected to all — alumni, students and dogs alike — I felt the strength of Princeton pride.
On the bus ride home, I opened Bruce’s congratulatory email with a picture of the bonfire from six years ago. When I saw how big it was, I wondered at first how Fire Safety could approve of this and not certain types of coffee makers, but mainly, I got really excited. When I’m watching those flames this weekend, I’ll be remembering last Saturday — the day I left my Nittany Lion roots behind and truly became a Princeton Tiger.