Thursday, August 4, 2011

Words at play.

There's an obituary in The New York Times today of a famed American footballer, the 6'7", 300 lb., Bubba Smith. The obituary led off with a poem about Smith by the great Ogden Nash: "When hearing tales of Bubba Smith, you wonder, is he man or myth?"

That poem brought me back.

When I was a kid, Life Magazine and its over-sized four-color pages had portraits of football players accompanied by poems by Nash. I remember, as an 8 or 9 year old, pouring over these poems and reveling in their fractured rhymes and funny puns.

Even as a little kid I was a bit of a loner and Nash's poems kept me pleasant company. Here's one he wrote about a running back for the Colts who was called on to serve as quarterback after the top two guys were injured:

Is there a Baltimore fan alive
who's forgotten Tom Matte in '65?
The Colts by crippling injuries vexed,
Unitas first and Cuozzo next--
What would become of the pass attack?
Then Matte stepped in at quarterback.
He beat the Rams in a great display,
He did - and he damn near beat Green Bay.
Ask him today to plunge or block,
Tom's the man who can roll or rock.
In Tokyo, they say karate
In Baltimore, they call it Matte.

Nash's work awakened in me a love for words and word-play that first saw the light of day when I was exposed to Dr. Seuss. The idea that someone could make a living via bad rhymes appealed to me then and appeals to me now.

When I think back to how I started as a writer, Nash plays a part. He was funny, poetic, prolific. He seemed, at least via the glorious pages of Life Magazine to have the world on a string.


Tim said...

As a kid and a BALTIMORE Colts fan, I had a copy of this magazine (at least I think this is the one). Then they lost to the Jets in Super Bowl 3 and it went into the trash.

ed keane said...

George as an Art Director for 30 years I enjoy every post on your blog. But I had to ad this, my memory of the late Bubba Smith.

My good friend Gene and I,
arrived early for,
a perfect seat to witness,
in his fathers tailor shop,
a custom clothing business.
A fleeting glimpse of Mr.Smith,
picking up the suits he ordered.
Before heading to the sunshine state
to face the Jets whom he would surely moider .
He had to duck to enter the basement shop, he stepped in and blocked the sun
Said hello, wrote a check then to the air port he did run.
There was no joy in B-town in January of “69
Broadway Joe and the mighty Jets crushed the Colts in record time.
Standing on my front porch, hearing neither cheer nor horn
I was still in awe of the man who blocked the sun,
that cold December morn

george tannenbaum said...

Thanks, Ed. Beautiful.