Each year, the Ithaca College Bombers take on SUNY Cortland’s Red Dragons in a usually sold-out Cortaca Jug football game. The rivals had been battling each other for three decades when, in 1959, the Cortland captain picked up a jug at a yard sale to use as a trophy.
Both captains then painted the jug blue and gold (for Ithaca) and red and white (for Cortland). Sports Illustrated once called the annual matchup “the greatest little game in the nation.” Come take a view from the stands with me at the 51st annual Cortaca game.
It is an Ithaca College hoodie day: warm, yet sunless, with a soft breeze. Dream weather. I’m surrounded in the stands by a sea of blue with crests of gold and white.
Straight across the field is a little section of red. I hear the band all around me, loud and crisp. I move with the rhythm unconsciously. Above all, I hear talking, screaming, chanting—all the chaotic sounds that come along with the most important football game of the year: Cortaca.
This year’s sold-out game starts with the Ithaca College Bombers taking the football. Within the first five minutes we make a touchdown and the crowd is rowdily cheering. The band joins in the celebration with a victorious melody.
My friends are pointing, and I look to see what’s going on.
“What?” I ask.
“The blue girl! Look at her!”
I turn and see a girl in pants and a short blue shirt. Her arms, belly, back, and face are all painted blue. It’s fun to see someone do that, but I’m not shocked.
I laugh and then my friends and I dance to the band’s “Proud Mary.”
Back on the field, Bombers intercept the ball and the crowd goes nuts again.
“ITH-A-CA, ITH-A-CA” we all cheer. The chant dies down, although the sound of fun continues throughout the game.
Everyone is simultaneously happy and serious. Game faces are on, eyes are on the field, but smiles stay put.
It’s now the second quarter, and we are pleading with the Bombers to keep Cortland from scoring. “De-FENSE, (clap-clap), De-FENSE, (clap-clap)!” Cortland has the ball, but the player fumbles it. Everyone gives each other hugs or high-fives or just smiles and cheers. Freshman, senior, female, male, theater major, chemistry major—everyone is here to be here, together with the student body.
The score is 13-6 at the half. Ithaca had two field goals and Cortland got a touchdown (which we were not happy about!). “You still suck!” we rudely informed Cortland. Their small audience fit in the bleacher space we gave them, which is only about a sixth of the bleacher space we have. We stare at them like bullies. We get them back for last year, when we were the minority on their home turf (though we still won).
Bomber cheerleaders and dancers entertain the crowd during halftime, while everyone is scuttling to get food and drinks. The stands begin to smell like hot dogs.
The band plays the Monday Night Football tune and the third quarter is here. Everyone is back in their spots and watching the game. “Everywhere we gooo,” my friend starts. “People want to know,” everyone around her follows. She started a chant! She is shocked and starts cracking up. “Whooo we arrre,” she continues leading.
The Bombers get another field goal, making it 16-6. The band starts up “YMCA,” and the crowd forms the letters with their arms.
Touchdown for Cortland, and the fourth quarter starts 16-12.
With three minutes and six seconds left, the Bombers make another touchdown and the extra point, making it 23-12. We have the game. The band plays “Thriller” and everyone is smiling and putting their arms around one another’s shoulder and saying, “Yes, man!”
Not so fast. Cortland comes back with a touchdown and a two-point conversion. One minute left and the score is 23-20.
“Here we go, Bombers, here we go (clap-clap)!” the crowd roars. We can’t lose. Not here, at Ithaca’s stadium, where the stands are filled with fans displaying their finest school spirit through attire and face paint. And not now, when everyone from IC is on the edge, dying to taste victory.
“We want the jug!” we yell. And while we are chanting that phrase, a Cortland player throws the ball and an Ithaca player catches it (not the Cortland player’s intention). The field fills with Bombers and their coaches. We get the jug.
The audience is in an uproar! “Woo-hoo!” I exclaim and raise my hands. The crowd starts singing “Na-na-na-na…” while six guys run and stand on the poles of the bleachers and face the crowd. They are shirtless, and their fronts have I-T-H-A-C-A painted on them in blue and yellow.
“Hey, hey, hey. Goodbye.”
Are you a prospective student with college planning questions? Then myIthaca has got you covered.Sign-Up Learn More
Fuse is a student produced publication about the Ithaca College experience. All content in the print and web versions of Fuse is developed by current Ithaca College students in a breadth of different areas of study.