Hill, No. 30, made a couple of cameo appearances in bull tales, but it was B.D. whom the strip revolved around—except for a few brief visits to Mike (the Man) Doonesbury, who was trying to score with girls. The strip was so popular that by Nov. 2 it had earned the sweetest flattery—a parody in a joke issue of the Daily. Next to a companion spoof of Peanuts, which showed the Great Pumpkin devouring Lucy, the parody of bull tales—simply called bull—depicted the Yale team assaulting Trudeau.
The strip obviously worked so well precisely because it made Dowling human, a figure of fun—a typical vain and dim-witted jock who wouldn't even take his helmet off. Worldly-wise Yalies, attending this prestigious institution of learning, preparing to spend the rest of their lives as stockbrokers or CIA operatives, had suddenly found themselves going bananas over a silly football team, just as if they were in the Big Ten—and Trudeau gave them back their sophistication. Once they had laughed at the idiotic football players in bull tales—and certified their Ivy cynicism—they could go out and be hero-worshipers, just like everybody else.
And so Trudeau sends B.D. off in his helmet ("It's part of my goddamn life style!") to try and make out at Briarcliff—and all he gets is a lousy invitation to a deb party. Meanwhile, back at Yale, Doonesbury, a sort of Everynerd, is all of a sudden scoring with female visitors. The lesson is clear: Football players really are no better than the rest of us. Or, chicks really can like us for our minds.
B.D. was so popular that, although Trudeau's work has since become more and more politicized, the strip kept the electric world of 1968 from intruding into football. Nowadays Trudeau regularly attacks that old Yale baseball captain George Bush; in that campaign year there was only one fleeting reference to politics in the strip, when Hubert Humphrey entered the huddle, seeking to be the new quarterback.
Trudeau's strip fueled the legend of Dowling the student (or antistudent), which grew in concert with the legend of Dowling the athlete. The darkest secret at Ivy League schools is that the hard part is getting admitted. Once in, almost any dummy can get by. Dowling, who had been a solid B+ student in high school and who was, after all, spending hours a day practicing on one or another sports team for the entire school year, was infamous for signing up for the easiest courses—guts, they were called. One of the myths about him was that at the start of one term Dowling entered a lecture hall and the entire room stood up and cheered—not because he was No. 10 for the Blue and White, but because his presence certified that this course was a true gut.
Dowling and Trudeau, though they will go to their graves coupled in their way, met on only one occasion, shortly after the '68 season ended, when Dowling agreed to write a foreword for the first collection of Trudeau's strips. Trudeau came by Dowling's room, the two exchanged bashful, uneasy "hellos," Dowling handed over the foreword, and Trudeau thanked him and left. "I never even got a copy of the book," Dowling says. "That ticked me off a little. But I've never minded any of the B.D. stuff. I've always been able to laugh at myself." He shrugged. "And besides, we won every week."
The last game of his Yale career was against, of course, Harvard. The Game. The Harvards were also unbeaten that year, but they were dismissed as nothing more than a good local act. Although the Eli first string played only fragments of the one-sided games, Dowling broke school career and season records for total offense and passing. He amassed 324 yards total offense against Dartmouth. Against Brown he took five stitches in his face in the first quarter, came back, played barely 20 minutes before he was injured again, but accumulated 303 yards—192 passing, 111 running. Against Princeton, Cozza let him run back a punt, and he took it for 32 yards. The coach then promised Dowling that he could return a kickoff against Harvard; there wasn't much else he hadn't done.
Tickets to the game in Cambridge were being scalped for $100. The Yalie Daily ran bull tales on the front page, over the logo, and everywhere Yalies were tacking up posters or screaming out: "Flush the Johns!" For John Harvard. Get it? What is this? Texas A & M? Lincoln, Nebraska?
"Physics majors, art majors, fundamentalists—what we called the Jesus squad—radical atheists, all rallying around us," Hill remembers. "People who had never been to a game got caught up in it. It made people feel better. It was just a nice time...all of it. It was a nice time for me. It was a nice time to beat Yale."
Although the Bulldogs lost six fumbles in the game, they led 29-13 late in the fourth quarter. Then Harvard scored and made a two-point conversion with only :42 left—29-21—and Cozza kept his promise and sent Dowling in to receive the kickoff. But Harvard squibbed the kick, recovered onside and started driving.