On Thursday night, outside of the stadium where Harvard and Yale have played “The Game” every other year for the past 111 years, young people who met a required height could compete in “The Gentle Giant Challenge.”
The enthusiastic adolescents would run up a set of stairs connected to a slide, jump down the chute, and land hard on a cushioned mat.
Such was the infusion of old and new Thursday at Harvard Stadium, when the mountainous stone structure hosted the 2014 Major League Lacrosse All-Star Game.
The horseshoe-shaped sports ground accommodated the best players from a league in its 13th year of existence. Team USA beat Team MLL, 10-9, in front of 10,327 lacrosse-loving fans.
“It’s great,” Team USA midfielder Paul Rabil said. “The level of competition was high for us.”
Outside of the stadium — which hosted the All-Star Game for the fourth time, the most of any in the league — there were promotional giveaways, lacrosse competitions, and a festive feel. Inside, the inevitable wear of 11-plus decades of living juxtaposed the nascent league.
For every young fan donning the jersey of Rabil, the Boston Cannons’ ever-popular, free-spirited midfielder, there was a rusting handrail or swath of missing paint.
For every attendee who tweeted a location during the “Tweet Your Seat Challenge” in the first quarter, there was a stair topped by a puddle from the day’s rain.
All of that, of course, is what makes Harvard Stadium wonderfully historic, and in an era when professional sports arenas are becoming increasingly mechanized, a league playing its All-Star Game at the venerable facility could be considered refreshing.
“It’s a historic venue,” MLL commissioner David Gross said. “We’ve always had great support here in Boston. It’s just an amazing venue.”
The contrast of age dissipated when the game began. In the first half, the teams traded goals until Cannons attacker Kevin Buchanan scored with 8:58 left in the second quarter to put Team USA ahead by two.
Team USA led, 5-4, at halftime.
After Team MLL won the third quarter, 2-0, to carry a one-goal lead into the fourth, Team USA’s Rob Pannell scored the winner with just under seven seconds left.
The crowd exploded, and Gross was optimistic that the league’s reach will continue to swell.
“It’s just going to keep growing and growing,” he said. “It’s going to become that new family tradition: You go to the lacrosse game.”
On Thursday, the most telling moment of the fusion of new and old happened before the game, when the singer of the Star-Spangled Banner trotted out to the field. After a flawless start, he missed one of the last verses. It wasn’t his fault, though: The microphone had malfunctioned.