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A forgotten poet’s unknown legacy

April 13, 2012

If there’s a heaven, they’ll be playing NFL Films music there, and John Facenda will do the voiceovers. (He is, after all, the voice of God.)

For American males of a certain age, the sound of echoing trumpets and Facenda’s voice cause a surge of testosterone that cannot be denied.

There’s glory in the legends of this hard-muscle life
and there’s poetry in each season, made of sweat and strife
But now’s the time to work and strain
At a game that a sport that tests the spirit and challenges the brain
One strains with many on summer’s green field
Time to strive, to dare, for all not to yield. 

 I feel like I could lift a Volkswagen right now!

A favorite is this piece, read over suitably heroic music:

The palms of your hands will thicken
The skin of your cheek will tan
You’ll grow ragged and weary and wet
But you must do the best you can
Do you fear the force of the wind
the slash of the rain?
Go face them and fight them
Be savage again 

I figured someone at NFL Films headquarters in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey wrote that. In reality, it’s a modified version of a poem written almost 100 years ago by a poet named Hamlin Garland. As poetry goes, it’s probably not outstanding, but in the context of football played in bad weather (or really anyone struggling with something that could overmatch them), it conveys a feeling.

When he wrote his poem, Hamlin Garland probably couldn’t dream that his work would wind up on a CD with professional football players, then on something called YouTube. Until this week, I didn’t know he even existed. But almost a century later, something he wrote resonates with me in a medium that didn’t exist when he wrote it. Pretty cool.

Now go write something. I’m off to go drink some raw eggs.

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