longer will it take them to lose?"
minutes," I said. "When you see the white handkerchiefs come out on the
Yale side—then you'll know."
I tried to
entertain her. We watched individual players to see what happened to them when
the ball was snapped. I took another crack at third and 10. I told her about
the pigeon that had caught the attention of the huge crowd one year—a pigeon
that had settled down a yard or so from the goal line. A number of people in
the stands noticed that in pecking here and there in the grass, the pigeon
seemed to go right to the brink of the goal line and then back away, as if
forced to do so by some psychic power. The stands took sides. Megaphones were
raised. Cries began to go up, "Go, bird, go!" erupting from the far
side and "Hold that pigeon!" from the Harvard supporters. At the
opposite end of the stadium the football players toiled on in what must have
seemed a bewildering maelstrom of sound—standing in the huddle as a crescendo
of pleading would give way to shouts of triumph as the pigeon, unbeknownst to
the players, had turned toward or away from the goal line. Medora wanted to
know if the pigeon had crossed the goal line. I said I couldn't remember.
making a paper airplane from a page torn from the Lampoon parody. "I'm
going to fly this down to the field with a message on it," she said. With
her hands trembling from the cold she laboriously wrote a sentence across the
inner folds of the airplane; after creasing it and preparing it for flight, she
wrote OPEN, OPEN along its length to indicate it should be read by whoever
picked it up.
"What did you
say in it?" I asked.
She spread the
airplane apart. The message read: YALE
How odd, I
thought, as she showed it to me, that she should add that demure
She refolded it
and asked me to throw it for her. She wanted it to reach the Yale huddle. So I
tried to do it for her, half standing and attempting to sail it into the wind.
The airplane stalled and crashed into the hat brim of a man two rows down from
us and fell off into his lap. He turned and could see from my expression, and
the fact that my arm was still extended, that I was the one who had thrown the
paper airplane. He looked, from the glimpse I had of him, like a professor or
perhaps a Harvard overseer. He opened the airplane and read the message. He
didn't look at me again. From the heavy set of his shoulders, I sensed that he
was gloomily reflecting on an educational system that had produced a grown man
capable of setting down such an infantile thought and in such execrable
handwriting. I kept hoping he would turn around again and catch sight of
Medora, who was giggling into the folds of my sheepskin coat.
From our side of
the field the Harvard undergraduates began a melancholy chant of "We're No.
2! We're No. 2!" Across the way the handkerchiefs began to flutter in the
Yale stands. Medora said she felt sorry for the Harvard team. I wondered
vaguely if it was healthy to decide to go to a college because you "felt
sorry" for its football team.