Devoid of breath, in darkest cave enclosed,
I lie here, four days’ journey with alone.
Deceived by Death was I — he slyly posed
As Sickness and then sold me tomb of stone
For resurrection waiting room. To die —
Be silent witness to my sisters’ grief —
I now perceive in Adam’s alibi
The futile folly of a dying thief
Who never can steal back his life. Today,
While worms approach my lifeless flesh, I plum
The depth of human tragedy, my clay
Returning to — oh, hear Him bid me come!
Though Death shall beckon still, on skull-scarred hill
Shall Life — through death — triumph. Yes, come I will…
NOTES — POETRY 411
Who is the speaker in this poem? You can vote in the poll below.
Over the years, I’ve written a number of sonnets. Most of them don’t have direct sports themes, but some make references to sports. Naturally, those are the sonnets I’m posting on A Slow Life in the FAST Lane (where FAST = Faith And Sports Talk).
This sonnet, it seems to me, has even a less explicit sports connection. The “journey” reference is one such connection — since some sporting events can be considered journeys (a marathon comes to mind). Another is the mention of a “triumph” in the closing couplet. And there’s “steal” in the third stanza, with its baseball overtone.
Nevertheless, despite the oblique nature of the sports references, the seasonal theme of this sonnet resonates — given the celebration of Easter this week — and thus it finds a place here.
This is another Shakespearean (or English) sonnet — a 14-line poem comprised of three four-line stanzas plus a closing couplet.
Once upon a couch, I was home watching the pregame show before Game 5 of the 2000 World Series — the Mets-Yankees Subway Series. But I fell asleep moments before the first pitch, and soon I started to dream…
… At this outlandish nighttime parade, my eyes have been fixed on the first float, the one bearing the scrawled numbers 9/11 — which, as I’ve come to see, refers to an event that will supposedly occur on September 11, 2001.
The parade stopped soon after it began, when the 9/11 float was directly in front of me here on Broadway in the Canyon of Heroes. I’ve watched video on a gargantuan screen that was on this grotesque float: images of planes crashing into the Twin Towers, which became towering infernos. But then the screen disappeared, and as I peered into the darkness across lower Manhattan, I saw the Towers collapse as if they were made with a diabolical erector set. The skyscrapers imploded in a maniacal rush of severed steel and fractured concrete and shattered glass.
So now, adjacent to New York City’s Canyon of Heroes, the Crater of Broken Hearts, the Chasm of Crippled Hope. An unplanned cemetery and a makeshift memorial, right next door to the roadway where the renowned living have been honored with parades for decades.
As I ponder this, a parachutist descends and lands on the 9/11 float … it appears to be Denis Leary, the actor and comedian. When he unhooks his parachute gear, I can see he’s wearing a firefighter’s jacket emblazoned with the words “Rescue Me.” Behind him is a two-story building that seems to be a firehouse — I hadn’t noticed it before — and both garage doors are wide open. The garage bays are full of a cavernous emptiness. The fire trucks are out on call, apparently. Then it hits me: They must have gone to the Twin Towers.
Now I see a newspaper, floating in the air in front of Leary and to his right, too far away for me to see. Yet somehow I can read this headline: “Final episode of ‘Rescue Me’ to air tonight.” The date on the post: September 7, 2011.
As I read the headline silently, Leary says softly, “It’s really a hole that never goes away.”
Another voice — whose, I’m not sure, and from where, I can’t tell — echoes Leary’s last word: “away” … in a mocking tone, it seems, and again, “away” … now the voice sounds menacing … and a third time, viciously, “away!”
A rushing wind carrying thick dust and debris sweeps across the 9/11 parade float, and before I can react, it envelops me. I instinctively shut my eyes for protection — and without warning, the powerful wind sweeps me up, off the sidewalk! Opening my eyes, I can’t see anything in the hazy dust cloud, but I sense that I’m rising rather than falling, as I did earlier from the top of the Empire State Building. That recollection relieves my anxiety briefly — I somehow landed safely on a pole vaulter’s cushion here on Broadway — yet I’m still … terrified.
This vast dust cloud, I surmise, is the last exhaled breath of the dying Twin Towers. I don’t know why its spread was delayed, since the towers imploded some time earlier.
As I continue to ascend in the obscured night sky, something flies past me in a blur. What was that? Or who was that?
I hear the voice again, with the same mocking, menacing tone — and this time I discern that it’s distinctly a woman’s voice: “Away!” As I keep rising, the dust cloud is slowly receding and the sky becomes clearer. She rushes toward me again, and now I can see the unmistakable form of someone with a greenish face, a pointed black hat and a black robe covering all but her green hands — yes, it must be: the Wicked Witch of The West, flying on her broomstick, far from the merry old land of Oz.
“Away!” she cries. “Away, I say!” As she rushes past me, I’m swirled around in midair and a vortex pushes me higher in the night sky. I’m caught in a mini-tornado. Soaring west, the Wicked Witch glares down at Manhattan and shrieks, “I’ll get you, my city — and your little god too!” (Or she may have meant uppercase “God” — tough to tell.)
Then she turns her hideous head back toward me and screams once more, “Away!” As she speaks that one word, a forceful gale issues from her mouth and I spin and catapult and tumble uncontrollably, rising even farther above the city.
As quickly as I rose into the sky, I begin to descend — I’m plummeting in a free fall far more terrifying than the ascent, with no guarantee of a cushioned landing this time. The asphalt is rushing at me like an angry pit bull.
But just as I brace for impact, choking on my regrets, another voice calls out — “Hey! What ya got here that’s worth livin’ for?” — and a different gust of wind forcefully catches hold of me, propelling my still-airborne body west. In a flash I’ve regained altitude and jetted across the Hudson River, passing the Wicked Witch as if she’s on a bicycle to my Volvo S60, and I cross over the Jersey state line (airspace-wise, that is). I look down, half-expecting to see a “barefoot girl sitting on the hood of a Dodge” … but no, apparently this dream doesn’t include Springsteen’s “Jungleland” coming to life.
The owner of the other voice, who has apparently saved me from a fatal descent onto a lower Manhattan street, speaks again: “And hey, what about a parade for me?”
I look to my left and there, soaring beside me, is Miracle Max!
My previous parade-going companion, of “The Princess Bride” fame, has returned in style.
“That was a close call, kid,” he tells me (as if I didn’t know). “I’ve dealt with some witches in my neck of the woods. But oh my, the bad breath on that one — I was about to lose my lunch. And you were about to lose a lot more than that. Glad I showed up when I did. Hey, they don’t call me Miracle Max for nothin’!”
“Thanks, Max — impeccable timing,” I reply. “But where did you go before? We were at the parade together, and then you vanished.”
“Listen, I can’t give away my secrets,” Max says. “I gotta make a living, you know — if I told you how I disappeared so quickly and quietly, maybe you’ll put out a shingle as a Miracle Man, and then what happens to me? I’ll tell you what — I’m on the unemployment line faster than you can say Prince Humperdinck. And he’s how I got fired in the first place.”
“Yes, I remember — I’m a big fan of ‘The Princess Bride,’” I say. “But I don’t need to know how you disappeared — I’d just like to know where you went.”
“OK, fair enough: I went to look for the mayor of New York.”
“Why the mayor? Did you find him?”
“So many questions!” Max says. “No, I did not find him, and if you must know, I wanted to tell him to throw a parade for me in the Canyon of Heroes. ‘Hero’ is my middle name— just ask that Westley kid I brought back to life.”
Miracle Max’s lined face and white hair are illumined by the light of a half-moon, which I can see clearly now that I’m free of the horrific dust cloud. As we keep gliding on this mini-jet stream that’s carrying us west high above New Jersey, I’m overcome with emotion in the wake of my near-death experience — and the tears flow.
Glancing at me, Max says, “What’s the matter?”
“Just … thank you, Max — thank you.”
“Don’t mention it, kid. All in a day’s work.”
“So Max, I can’t help but notice that we’re still, you know, up here in the sky.”
“Can’t put anything past you, pal,” Max says.
As I gaze at the stars — there’s Orion — I ask: “Where are we going?”
“Again with the questions,” Max says good-naturedly (sort of). “I heard there’s an airplane over Pennsylvania that needs help, so that’s where we’re going — to Flight 93.”
Some samples of humor, intentional and unintentional, from the Internet journalism realm:
Notre Dame To Fix Souvenir Cup Error
Darren Rovell discusses the souvenir cups sold by Notre Dame that included the spelling error “FIGTHING IRISH.”
In other news: There is apparently no truth to the report that Notre Dame graduates have been receiving diplomas for years that bear the title, “FIGTHING IRISH DILPOMA.”
LeBron One Vote Shy Of Unanimous MVP Honor
… LeBron James laughed during a portion of the video when forward Mike Miller said the two of them now have four MVPs between them, “so let’s keep it going.”
In other news: Just to clarify, in case anyone is confused — LeBron has, yes, four NBA MVP awards. And in case the math is too complicated: Mike Miller has zero.
Name Of Four-Team Playoff Revealed
Rece Davis and Kirk Herbstreit report from the BCS spring meetings, where it was announced the four-team playoff will be called the College Football Playoff.
In other news: The NCAA has announced that the immensely popular annual basketball event known as the NCAA Tournament (aka March Madness) will be creatively renamed to … the College Basketball Playoff.
During Race, NASCAR Driver Receives Speeding Ticket
… NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski … was handed a speeding ticket in the form of a pass-through penalty when he tried to exit pit road a little too quickly [during a race].
In other news: There must be a safety reason for this rule, but it sure seems absurd. And from now on, boxers and MMA fighters will be arrested for assault and battery at certain random bouts.
Basketball Recruiting Update
… At 6-foot-11 and about 225 pounds, Turner is a face-up post man with range to the 3-point arc. … He runs the floor well, finishes above the rim, and plays with energy and urgency.
In other news: Is it, shall we say, necessary to write that he “finishes above the rim”? If you’re 6-foot-11 and you don’t finish above the rim … well, let’s go out on a limb: You won’t be showing up in a college basketball recruiting report.
Perhaps a genre of literature, à la J.R.R. Tolkein. Or a classic R&B song by Earth, Wind & Fire. Or a dark world of disreputable city districts and Internet denizens — but let’s not go there.
What does Google say? Here are the top five results when I searched for “fantasy”:
1. Fantasy Sports — Yahoo Sports
2. Fantasy Football — Free Fantasy Football (NFL.com)
3. Fantasy Football — ESPN.com
4. ESPN: Fantasy Games
5. Yahoo Fantasy Hockey …
Yes, for many sports fans at this time of year, as summer wanes and the NFL season beckons, fantasy means one thing: fantasy football.
More than 41 million people have played fantasy sports this year in the U.S. and Canada, according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association. And 33 million are reportedly playing fantasy football.
(For the uninitiated, a brief explanation of fantasy sports is below.)
As I’ve read fantasy sports stories in recent years — I don’t play, but it’s part of my job as an editor — I’ve been fascinated by the relationship between fantasy football and a common human denominator … namely, trust.
By the way, while I don’t play fantasy sports now, I played fantasy football once or twice (I don’t recall which). But I do recall that I made exactly zero transactions during the entire season(s) I played and didn’t change my lineup once — either setting or tying a fantasy record that will never be broken!
If you’re a fantasy sports fanatic, perhaps you’re raising your eyebrows or rolling your eyes or otherwise eyeing me with incredulity. But hear me out.
This was a league with colleagues at ESPN.com, and they were short one owner. I let them know up front that I would likely have little time to devote to fantasy football, and if they were OK with that, I’d join the league. That’s the main reason I don’t play fantasy sports — real life, I find, takes up an inordinate amount of time, leaving fantasy sports in the dust.
But I digress — let’s return to the topic of trust. Check out some statements from ESPN.com about fantasy sports:
Eric Karabell discusses whether you can trust QB Carson Palmer and WR Larry Fitzgerald in the upcoming weeks.
From Matthew Berry — RB Stevan Ridley, Patriots: If coach Bill Belichick doesn’t trust him, how can you?
Should you trust your fantasy playoff fate to QB Kirk Cousins?
Fantasy: Bengals-Eagles Preview
Christopher Harris discusses who to trust in Bengals vs. Eagles.
Fantasy Football Now Friday: Week 13
Michele Steele, Christopher Harris and Stephania Bell discuss which injured running back to trust in Week 13.
Why so much discussion of trust in the context of fantasy sports?
I suppose the answer is simple: Every time fantasy owners set a starting lineup, they’re trusting those starters to produce fantasy points and contribute to a victory.
Naturally, the same is true of real-life coaches and owners in professional sports. When an owner signs a quarterback to a big contract, the owner is trusting the QB to play in a way that’s worthy of the contract. When coaches decide who will play in a given game, they’re trusting those players to help the team succeed. Players trust each other to be at the right place at the right time.
To say that trust is a fact of life is like saying 10 + 10 = 20. Trust is a must in the sphere of human existence. It runs through every community like blood through a body.
Some people believe trust is limited to the religious realm: “I deal with facts, not faith.” But the irony is that in order to accept a fact as a fact, you must decide which facts are actually trustworthy.
Is it a fact that George Washington was the first U.S. president? No historian I know of disputes this, but likewise, no one I know was there in the 18th century to verify it. So to accept this basic component of U.S. history as a fact, we need to take someone’s word for it — we need to trust. In other words, we need to have faith.
This elemental reality is tied inextricably, of course, to the realm of worldviews. The evidence indicates that trust is an inescapable factor in every human life — whether you’re a theist, atheist, pantheist, polytheist or other-theist.
If the fantasy sports examples above don’t convince you, here are some examples from marketing slogans across the years:
Cooks who know trust Crisco — Crisco (baking)
You can trust your car to the man who wears the star — Texaco (gasoline station)
Trust Northern — Northern Trust Corp. (bank)
Technology you can trust — Gateway Computers
Trust the Midas touch — Midas (auto shops)
And to return to the world of fantasy sports:
Dominate Your [Fantasy Football] Draft … #1 Site Trusted By Fans Since 1999! — DraftSharks.com
Apparently, we value trust — in society, in our business dealings, in politics, in families … and in sports (actual and fantasy).
But how exactly does this apply to the worldview conversation?
For the Uninitiated: Fantasy Sports in a Nutshell
Fantasy sports give fans the opportunity to be the owner and general manager of a team.
Fantasy team owners draft actual professional players to form their teams in fantasy leagues, and the actual stats of those players from each game count toward the fantasy team’s score in head-to-head matchups with other fantasy owners. During the season, owners can make trades with each other, release players who underperform or become injured, and pick up players who are available.
The main goal of fantasy sports writers is to give fantasy owners advice about which players to release or keep on the bench, and which ones to acquire or start for a given game.
This is part non-sequitur, part quasi-funny anecdote and part riddle — and it’s a true story, too:
A high school soccer coach was doubling as the van driver — common enough at a small private school — and driving her team to an away game, when she cried out: “Be quiet, I can’t see!”
What could be the reason for such a strange statement?
“Sit down, I can’t see” — that makes sense. Or: “Move your head, I can’t see.”
But … “Be quiet, I can’t see” — huh?
Spoiler alert — if you want to ponder the riddle, hold off on reading the rest of this post…
At one point, the coach was backing up the van while listening to a player in the rear seat who was communicating how much maneuvering room the van had available. Since some players were talking noisily, the coach called out, “Be quiet, I can’t see!”
Without missing a beat, one player replied: “Coach, turn the light on, I can’t hear!”
P.S. How does this story shed light on a key factor to consider when we don’t understand verbal or written communication? Especially before we dismiss something we don’t comprehend — something that doesn’t make sense to us — as nonsense.
Could the communication glimpse this story gives help us in our relationships? Including the one that is said to be of utmost importance — the relationship with our Creator and His means of communicating with us?
“Shot through the heart” — are You to blame? (Who gives
Love a bad name?) Oh human heart Maker,
When my heart aches, let it be … because lives
In me living Sword, the dark heart-Breaker …
Because Your arrow pierces wounded chest.
But You fired at me? How could you betray
So heartlessly, like sewer-lover? Oh, quest
Of ages, test of sages — and belay
Rope threads (as knee-jerk heart rages) into
Scarred soul-jest heart on harpoon of heaven.
Love-Slayer, help me pull Your sure shaft through.
(When Your heart breaks, “no, it don’t break even.”)
Rappel, please, down Your arrow-toting rope —
Tie me and my pain to Your heartache hope.
NOTES — POETRY 411
The first stanza begins with a song lyric from Bon Jovi, and the last stanza ends with a song lyric from The Script. The sonnet addresses — and attempts to reconcile — some song lyrics from the Scriptures:
“Your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down on me.” — Psalm 38: 2
“He drew his bow and made me the target for his arrows. He pierced my heart with arrows from his quiver.” — Lamentations 3: 12-13
“The arrows of the Almighty are in me.” — Job 6: 4
This is a Shakespearean (or English) sonnet — a 14-line poem with 10 syllables per line, comprised of three stanzas (of four lines each) plus a closing couplet. The rhyme scheme — the pattern of rhymes at the end of each line — is as follows: abab cdcd efef gg.
For today’s time-challenged reader, the sonnet might be the best poem structure: 14 brief and (ideally) power-packed lines.
When you’re dreaming with a broken heart
The waking up is the hardest part
— John Mayer
• Fall Classic Dream State: Part 1 • 2 • 3 • 4 • 5
Once upon a couch, I was home watching the pregame show before Game 5 of the 2000 World Series — the Mets-Yankees Subway Series — but I fell asleep moments before the first pitch, and soon I started to dream…
… This mystifying parade along Broadway in New York City has only just begun, yet it seems it’s been going on forever. Actually, the parade halted when the very first float — the one that bears the handmade sign with the scrawled numbers 9/11 — stopped in front of me. But the stoppage appears to be by design, and I’ve been watching video footage, on the float’s huge screen, of events that are ominous and incomprehensible.
Planes crashing into the Twin Towers. Perverse smoke piercing a beautiful blue sky. Stunned witnesses recounting unimaginable sights.
I’m the sole spectator at this strange dead-of-night spectacle — though for a moment I had been joined by Miracle Max (of “Princess Bride” fame) and then Timon (from “The Lion King”).
Miracle Max left earlier, before the 9/11 float appeared. I thought Timon was still with me, but he has inexplicably disappeared.
I turn from the immense video screen and glance west across lower Manhattan — and in the night air I see the Twin Towers burning. What is going on…? This scene was on a video on a parade float, but now it’s happening right before me, a nightmare on Church Street and West Street and Vesey Street and Liberty Street.
I glance toward the first parade float again, and on the huge video screen is a different scene. Gone are the images of the Twin Towers bleeding flames and dark smoke. Instead, there’s a scene I recognize: the Giants celebrating a Super Bowl victory. Such a jarring juxtaposition of images — I wonder who’s in charge of the video content. My mind harks back to the two Super Bowls the Giants won in 1987 and ’91, and I look for coach Bill Parcells amid the celebration. But wait — that looks like Tom Coughlin in the Giants’ locker room … the same Tom Coughlin who’s the coach of the Jaguars.
Suddenly I recall again: I’m dreaming (or at least I think I am) — so perhaps this scene is also from the future, as I presume is the case with the previous video of the airliners crashing into the World Trade Center.
And if that’s true, Coughlin will become coach of the Giants and lead them to a Super Bowl victory.
Then the huge video screen abruptly vanishes … but Tom Coughlin is still there. He appears to be actually there, in the flesh, standing alone on that parade float, peering into the darkness toward the World Trade Center, where the crippled Twin Towers still smolder. He is holding a phone (cell or landline, I can’t tell) and somehow I know he’s talking to his son — who is in one of the Twin Towers.
“Do you know what’s going on?” Coughlin says. “Do whatever you have to do to get out of there right now.”
Now I can hear his son’s side of the conversation: “Dad, can you believe what you’re seeing?”
Coughlin stays on point and tells his son to get out of the skyscraper as fast as he can.
Now another man has appeared next to Tom Coughlin. They embrace, and Coughlin speaks one word: “Tim.” Again, somehow I know this is Coughlin’s son. Tim turns toward me — I’m still the only visible spectator at this odd parade — and says, “Looking back on that conversation, I think that was largely responsible for me kind of picking up my step and realizing that the important thing was to get out of there and get as far away from that place as possible.”
As I turn my gaze from the Coughlins to the World Trade Center, one tower suddenly collapses in a heap of deadly debris and unyielding rubble. Moments later, the other tower does the same.
But I surmise that Tim survived the collapse of the Towers — he was able to make it out alive.
As if reading my mind, Tim says, “It’s not something I really like to bring up. We like to stay quiet and in the background, because we know how lucky we were and that there are so many people who weren’t as fortunate as we were.”
Tom Coughlin looks at me and says, “The Holy Spirit went into that inferno, took Tim by the hand and walked him out of there. … I’m very, very grateful for that, and I’ll be thankful for that for the rest of my life. But I don’t tend to want to dwell on that story. What I want to dwell on is the incredible number of American heroes that died on that day, and I don’t ever want the people of this great country to forget that. No matter how forgiving and moving-forward we are, let’s not forget the tremendous price that was paid on that day for our freedom.”
Here are actual writing samples from official Internet sites — unintentional humor, apparently, but it still makes one wonder…
Since losing to Washington (Mo.) on Oct. 6, the Eagles have won six consecutive games in a row, outscoring opponents 18-1.
Just wondering … Have the Eagles also won six straight games?
The Bob Allen Women’s Player of the Year award is given annually by USA Hockey to the top American women’s player.
Just wondering … Let’s see, is the USA Hockey Men’s Player of the Year award given annually to the top men’s player? But wait — does he have to be American, too? This is so confusing…
The wide receiver was never particularly fast, so he doesn’t have a lot of speed to lose. The team needs to do a better job of playing to his strengths, the main one being his ability to run after the catch.
Just wondering … If the receiver isn’t particularly fast, how can his main strength be running after the catch? (OK, maybe he’s elusive, but still, isn’t that worth explaining so you don’t sound, shall we say, knuckleheaded?)
2. The entire secondary must be replaced
The return of Smith is a boon to this secondary, but he is the only starter returning in the Huskies secondary.
Just wondering … Since Smith is returning as a starter, are you sure the entire secondary must be replaced?
Against Chile, they committed 21 fouls, four times more than the number they registered against Croatia.
Just wondering … So against Croatia, this team committed — hold on, let me get my calculator — 5.25 fouls? Is this a case of unusual officiating, or perhaps unusual rules … or does the word “about” need to be added somewhere in the above sentence? You make the call!
P.S. If — actually, when — I write something unintentionally humorous and/or knuckleheaded … well, enjoy the laugh, and kindly let me know so I can correct it. And now, back to your regularly scheduled program…
Bruce William Deckert — Bio
Journalism career capsule
• Journal Register Co.
• SPJ award-winner — as you can see, I'm not listing the non-award moments ... presumably, we all have them, but go figure — we don't mention them on résumés!