It was exactly 39 hours before the kickoff of the Yale-Harvard game Saturday at 1 p.m. -- The Game as far as a small tribe of tweedy fanatics is concerned -- and Rich Diana was on the job.
Not the job of carrying a football, which Diana has done with unprecedented success for Yale, done better than Calvin Hill or even Yale's gift to football mythology, Albie Booth. That comes later.
Not the job of preparing for medical school, either -- another task that Rich Diana has pulled off with aplomb, majoring not only in football and baseball (.341 as star center fielder last spring, with major-league possibilities) but also in molecular biochemistry and biophysics. He's already got one acceptance letter from a med school.
And not the job of playing local-boy-become-Yale-legend, which is one of Diana's best performances. His dad repairs televisions for Sears in nearby Hamden, which is not your standard Yale pedigree.
No, this job was for money -- 10 bucks for two hours' work as a delivery boy for Spiro Matsos, proprietor of The Bulldog Pizzaria and purveyor of the best pizza anywhere between West Haven and Naples. In Spiro's Greek accent, Richie's nickname comes out "Ritzy," although 10 bucks one night a week isn't enough to make it accurate. Maybe there is a team in the NFL that will.
But for now the objective is the nightly delivery to the Yale Daily News, America's oldest college daily, and also, by chance, the unaccredited school of journalism where this scribbler got his start in the newspaper game 21 years ago.
Ritzy, the scribbler and three large pizzas all settle into Spiro's beat-up old Plymouth Valiant for the four-block run over to the Daily News building on York Street. For Rich Diana it's just another pizza run; for the scribbler it's a nostalgia trip.
Diana has never been anywhere in the Daily News building except to this ground-floor room, where he delivers the pizzas. The scribbler invites him upstairs for a look around. Wearing a baseball cap, jeans and a pullover that barely gets around his fire-hydrant neck, Diana looks like no white-shoe Yaley.
On the way over in the dilapidated Valiant, Diana has admitted that he doesn't read the student paper very often and isn't a subscriber. But he is a gentle, nice guy who knows how to play diplomat. "You're doing a good job," the football star tells the sports editor of the Daily News. She gives him a shy grin, just short of a blush.
"So are you," she says.
"You want to see my picture upstairs?" the scribbler asks Diana -- no match for the tailback's diplomacy, just a vainglorious attempt to establish his Old Blue credentials. On the wall of the beamed board room at the top of the building they find the photo of the 1964 editorial board -- which, it turns out, was composed of a bunch of kids wearing neckties no wider than a strand of spaghetti. "There I am," the scribbler points.
"Yeah, it's you," the diplomat replies. "Younger -- but you still look the same."
Rich Diana delivers pizza for Spiro Matsos every Thursday night, a fact pregnant with implication for any Old Blue. On Thursday nights Yale's infamous secret societies meet -- Skull and Bones, Scroll and Key, Wolf's Head and the rest. If Diana is delivering pizzas, he's obviously not performing secret rituals in one of the windowless tombs where these spooky clubs meet.
Yes, he says, he's not a member of any of those societies. He doesn't like the idea of all the mumbo-jumbo.
When Yale was still Old Blue -- still snobbish and disdainful, still a single tribe of like-thinking young men who nearly all worshipped the same totems -- a great football player who is also a good student would have been sought after by every one of those secret societies and by every club and fraternity on campus.
Yale is vastly more democratic now. The Daily News no longer bothers to print the list of money of the secret societies. The old clubs and fraternities have folded; the new breed of student wouldn't support them.
When the scribbler asks Rich Diana if he ever feels uncomfortable at Yale, ever feels like he is an interloper at a gathering of America's self-anointed aristocracy, he seems genuinely not to understand the question. "I love Yale," he says.
Diana passed up offers from football powerhouses to come to Yale. (He also rejected ardent advances from Harvard, mercifully.) But he has never abandoned the childhood dream of becoming a professional football player.
"Dallas has sent someone to see me," he acknowledges, overcoming what seems to be intuitive modesty. "So has Cleveland. And Cincinnati," and several others.
Says Gil Brandt, the Cowboys' vice president for personnel: "He's a prospect. He's a gifted athlete . . . I don't think he's a first-round choice or anything like that . . . maybe fourth, fifth or sixth round.
"He's going to have to make a hard decision after the draft," Brandt adds, "about whether he wants to go football or go medicine."
Diana wants both -- sequentially.
His Yale record is extraordinary. Had it not been for an injury sophomore year, he'd easily be the leading ground gainer in Yale history. Dick Jauron (class of '72) holds that honor, and Diana stands second. But he set a single-game rushing record against Princeton last week with 222 yards in 46 carries, bringing his total for the season to 1,355 yards.
Unfortunately, Princeton won the game, Yale's first loss of the season, although a victory over Harvard will ensure at least a tie for the Ivy championship. But The Game is more important than any season record. Not least because of Diana, Yale has sold 78,000 tickets to this year's game, which begins 39 hours after Rich Diana delivered those pizzas.