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Medora Goes to The Game
George Plimpton
November 16, 1981
With an ulterior motive, the author took his 9-year-old daughter to see Harvard play Yale, and may have learned more about her that day than she did about football
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November 16, 1981

Medora Goes To The Game

With an ulterior motive, the author took his 9-year-old daughter to see Harvard play Yale, and may have learned more about her that day than she did about football

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"I'm afraid so."

"How much longer will it take them to lose?"

"About 10 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.

Medora began 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 "right?"

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.

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