Podcast Kickoff

by Paul Hond
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Now, to marching-band huzzahs, the Lions poured into the arena, and when they drew first blood on a six-yard touchdown pass late in the first quarter, the crowd erupted, the cheerleaders rustled their blue pompoms (“F-I-G-H-T, fight, fight, fight!”) and Roar-ee the Lion, glassy-eyed and rigid of tail, gamboled and punched the air. As play resumed, Bagnoli, in his silver-needled crew cut and wraparound sunglasses, prowled the sideline.

Penn answered with two touchdowns. Then, with the Lions punting from deep in their own territory, the kicker fumbled the snap, pounced on the wobbling ball, and was quickly smothered by a horde of Quakers. Moments later the score was 21–7, and you didn’t need a weatherman, or the red fluttering streamers atop the yellow goalposts, to know which way the wind was blowing.

“There are only so many shows you can do on the lessons of losing. Winning creates a broader palette.”

By the second half, the score was 28–7. The temperature had fallen, the crowd had thinned, and up in the press box, a dozen reporters sat quietly elbow to elbow, looking out through the plate-glass windows like medical students watching an operation.

Final score: 42–7. The clouds above the New Jersey Palisades had gone oblong and purple in the twilight, the stadium floodlights blared atop their towers. Marritz and Collette lugged their audio equipment to the A train, and among the many questions left on the field was how The Season would handle the rout on Thursday’s podcast.  

The answer was a lesson straight out of the Core Curriculum.

“There’s this thing that happens in legends,” Marritz says at the start of Episode 6. “The hero leaves his home, goes out into the world, fights his dragons; but eventually he has a reckoning with his own origins.” Marritz could invoke Odysseus but goes instead with Steve Jobs, who was booted from Apple, the company he cofounded, only to return twelve years later as its savior. But, as Marritz notes, Bagnoli doesn’t have twelve years. 

“The difference between winning and losing is very fragile,” a pensive Bagnoli tells Marritz and Collette postgame. “It’s a constant battle mentally as well as physically to get kids to understand how fragile success really is.” 

But it’s Bagnoli’s wife, Maryellen, the family optimist, who gets the last word. “Like I say to him, it’s not an overnight change,” she says. “You knew you weren’t going to have an Ivy League championship the first year. That’s unrealistic.” Rather, “it’s going to be little baby steps.” And as long as those steps are going in the right direction, she adds, “I feel that is a win.”

Two weeks later, the Lions beat the Yale Bulldogs 17–7. It was their first Ivy League triumph since 2012, and their first in the Yale Bowl in almost twenty years.

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