That they did. Pluta gathers the players in the middle of the field and tells them to keep their heads up, that they had a great season and that they have nothing to be ashamed of.
Later I asked Pluta what the football team's bus ride back to Norwich had been like, and he said, "They were crying at first, but they kept their heads up the whole way, and they began talking about all the good things that had happened to them. To tell you the truth, I was never prouder of them than I was that night."
For the first time in 20 years, I wake up in Chenango County. I am not in the rural delivery #2 shack I lived in back then but rather the Howard Johnson Motel on North Broad. Nothing but the Bluebird will do for breakfast, but it is a Bluebird of sadness on this Sunday morning after the loss to Chittenango. The patrons are replaying the game in excruciating detail, almost enough to ruin a splendid breakfast. I walk by the Grille, which is shuttered temporarily, awaiting new owners, and then I walk into the Smoke Shop. A man buying the Binghamton paper tells the cashier, "Leave the sports section out. I don't feel like reading it today."
But then I turn the corner and see the sunlight reflected off the gold dome of the Chenango County courthouse. At the top of the dome is the familiar gold figure of Lady Justice, sword in one hand, scales in the other. If there is any justice in the world, those scales will once again tip back to prosperity. Maybe that class the stars have shined upon will take a shine to Norwich. Maybe those kids who have already learned how to handle success and disappointment will turn their community's fortunes around.
In the meantime, it's still Bedford Falls. It's still a wonderful life.