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"To An Athlete Dying Young" by A.E. Housman
The time you won the town your race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.
To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town,
Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay
And early through the laurels grows
It withers quicker than the rose.
Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:
Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.
So set, before the echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.
And round that early-laureled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl's.
On a similar note, the February issue of GQ magazine ran an article entitled "Jocks Are Lousy Lovers," by Allison Glock.
Glock writes: "Just like Latins and rock musicians, jocks enjoy an unwarranted reputation in the sack."
But, after years of testing the mettle of that thesis (which includes her hoosier groupie years at Indiana University), Glock concluded that the reputation is indeed unwarranted. This realization led her on quite a different tack.
"So I began experimenting with brooders," she said after jocks failed her. "Men who wore greasy jeans and shirts of an indeterminate color. Men who smelled of fried cheese and clove cigarettes and carried a dog-eared copy of On the Road in their army-surplus backpack. Men your father would squint at suspiciously. Flaccid, feeble men who sat on sofas at parties, flicking ashes into their beer cans and making snide remarks under their breath. These were my new paramours. I was prepared for the worst.
"Turns out, slackers make great lovers, if for no other reason than that they have nowhere else to be. They aren't rushing off to the gym or returning to the field, tired and depleted.
"One woman friend, a cyclingrace director who finally broke her pattern of diddling mountain bikers, discovered that while a popcorn vendor might not look as hot in Lycra, he will ride the extra mile with energy to spare. Plus, he has snacks when you're finished."
This poetry and prose about athletic death and ineffectiveness is not meant to be derogatory; rather, it just contributes to humanizing the people made heroes on the field.
As Bill Bradley is wont to say, anyone the public deifies will necessarily be demonized by that same body.
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