So this headline has been doing the rounds:

Cure lots of jokes about how the Yanks don’t get football. So, let’s set the record straight. It is of course, a fully-intended joke, and more than that, an in-joke: it’s mimicing a famous headline from the past.

It stems from the Harvard-Yale American football game in 1968 (varsity games being taken very seriously over there). Yale, strong favourites to win the game, were 29-13 up, but in the last 42 seconds Harvard scored 16 points to tie the game and deny their great rivals Yale a 100% win record. The student newspaper duly reported this as "Harvard Beats Yale 29-29" - no doubt part out of relief, part because the underdogs denied the favourites the win everybody was expecting, and part because of schadenfreude at denying your closest rivals (think how happy Spurs were to draw 4-4 at Arsenal last season, and you’re probably getting there).

Such is its significance in American sporting memory that a film was made about it a few years back:

And oh yes, Tommy Lee Jones really did play in that game - good for pub trivia, that.

Anyway, the point is Americans are not that clueless about the game. They know what a draw is (even if they call it a tie). The point was they were the underdogs in the game and got more out of it than they expected, and so the NY Post used a reference to their own sporting news culture to emphasis the point. It might be lost on outsiders, just as our endless references to Green’s “Hand of Clod” might be to an ordinary American, but it’s definitely not a case of “Hur hur stupid Yanks”.

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