Archive For The “Bonfire” Category
It’s something you ought to see once in your life, if you can, because it’s unique, it exudes its own special energy, and it has an emotion and spectacle that many bowl games would dream to have.
The short version of the tale of the football Rivalry between Lehigh and Lafyette is simple: It’s the most-played college football Rivalry in the world.
It’s been waged every year, with only one interruption since 1884.
And the two schools, in competition in pretty much everything since the founding of Lafayette (1826) and Lehigh (1865), eventually coalesced around football as the main driver of The Rivalry between them.
I’ve spent a good portion of my adult life being around The Rivalry. I’ve studied it, blogged about it, and even written a book about it.
The world has changed, and football has changed, a lot since 1884. What hasn’t changed, I think, is the weird and particular chemistry that seems to happen when these two teams get together for a football game. To call it a big tailgate party doesn’t really describe it. To call it schoolyard intensity doesn’t do it justice. To call it a “bowl game” doesn’t really capture it either. It’s just The Rivalry. It’s all of those things, and more.
And even if you’re not a hardcore fan of Lehigh or Lafayette, it’s worth coming to experience the craziness if you can.
There are other intense Rivalries. There are other big regular-season games that have lots at stake. But The Rivalry, the most-played Rivalry in college football, has all the energy yet also has a level in intimacy that is unmatched by any other game.
You can go to the Iron Bowl and watch a game between Alabama and Auburn in the nosebleeds. You can go into the cavernous Yale Bowl and watch Harvard play Yale. You can experience the craziness when Michigan plays Ohio State. But a game versus Lehigh and Lafayette packs the fans into an intimate setting that has all the energy and intensity yet is much more accessible and, at times, feels much more organic than those other Rivalries.
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For a very long period during the Rivalry, parades and bonfires have played a large part of the festivities, though their timing and purpose have changed over time.
And just like “smokers”, parades bonfires started out as athletic celebrations separate from the Rivalry, but ultimately became intertwined with the traditions of the game.
The tradition of the parade and bonfire dates from the times when cars were still rare, and most of the transportation into South Bethlehem came by the Lehigh Valley Railroad, whose station was only a few blocks from campus.
Bonfires celebrating athletic victories were not unknown in the late 1890s at both Lehigh and Lafayette, as well as parades for successful athletic teams. They may have been inspired by Harvard, Yale and Princeton, who were starting to celebrate their biggest victories over each others with large bonfires.
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