Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A mini-challenge in two parts

If you can name the two young women kissing Woody Allen in the photo in yesterday’s post, you will get extra points when the One Great Scorer comes to write against your name*. Oh, and googling or yahooing is verboten.

I recognized one of them immediately but it took me 24 hours to figure out who the other one is.

*For when the One Great Scorer comes
To write against your name,
He marks -- not that you won or lost --
But how you played the game.

Speaking of recognized, many people recognize the lines above but have no idea who wrote them or where they came from (for my readers in the U.K., from whence they came). Well, they are part of a longer poem called “Alumnus Football” by Grantland Rice, a famous American sportswriter of an earlier generation. The poem appeared in Rice’s Only the Brave and Other Poems, published in 1941.

In honor of the valiant but losing effort put forth by the outmatched boys’ basketball team of Readlyn, Iowa, last night (full story at Jeanelle’s blog), here is the entire poem. As poems go, it’s not a great poem, but it does have a message for all of us. Those with a literary background may hear echoes of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress or Robert W. Service’s The Cremation of Sam McGee. Or not. For purposes of our post today, the only thing that could have made the poem any better is if it had used imagery from basketball.

The second part of today’s mini-challenge, class, is to get through the entire poem without having a single cynical thought. This part of the challenge may prove much more difficult than the first:

Alumnus Football
by Grantland Rice

Bill Jones had been the shining star upon his college team.
His tackling was ferocious and his bucking was a dream.
When husky William took the ball beneath his brawny arm
They had two extra men to ring the ambulance alarm.

Bill hit the line and ran the ends like some mad bull amuck.
The other team would shiver when they saw him start to buck.
And when some rival tackler tried to block his dashing pace,
On waking up, he’d ask, “Who drove that truck across my face?”

Bill had the speed -- Bill had the weight -- Bill never bucked in vain;
From goal to goal he whizzed along while fragments strewed the plain,
And there had been a standing bet, which no one tried to call,
That he could make his distance through a ten-foot granite wall.

When he wound up his college course each student’s heart was sore.
They wept to think bull-throated Bill would sock the line no more.
Not so with William -- in his dreams he saw the Field of Fame,
Where he would buck to glory in the swirl of Life’s big game.

Sweet are the dreams of college life, before our faith is nicked --
The world is but a cherry tree that’s waiting to be picked;
The world is but an open road -- until we find, one day,
How far away the goal posts are that called us to the play.

So, with the sheepskin tucked beneath his arm in football style,
Bill put on steam and dashed into the thickest of the pile;
With eyes ablaze he sprinted where the laureled highway led --
When Bill woke up his scalp hung loose and knots adorned his head.

He tried to run the ends of life, but with rib-crushing toss
A rent collector tackled him and threw him for a loss.
And when he switched his course again and dashed into the line
The massive Guard named Failure did a toddle on his spine.

Bill tried to punt out of the rut, but ere he turned the trick
Right Tackle Competition scuttled through and blocked the kick.
And when he tackled at Success in one long, vicious prod
The Fullback Disappointment steered his features in the sod.

Bill was no quitter, so he tried a buck in higher gear,
But Left Guard Envy broke it up and stood him on his ear.
Whereat he aimed a forward pass, but in two vicious bounds
Big Center Greed slipped through a hole and rammed him out of bounds.

But one day, when across the Field of Fame the goal seemed dim,
The wise old coach, Experience, came up and spoke to him.
“Oh Boy,” he said, “the main point now before you win your bout
Is keep on bucking Failure till you’ve worn the piker out!

“And, kid, cut out this fancy stuff -- go in there, low and hard;
Just keep your eye upon the ball and plug on, yard by yard,
And more than all, when you are thrown or tumbled with a crack,
Don’t sit there whining -- hustle up and keep on coming back;

“Keep coming back with all you’ve got, without an alibi,
If Competition trips you up or lands upon your eye,
Until at last above the din you hear this sentence spilled:
’We might as well let this bird through before we all get killed.’

“You’ll find the road is long and rough, with soft spots far apart,
Where only those can make the grade who have the Uphill Heart.
And when they stop you with a thud or halt you with a crack,
Let Courage call the signals as you keep on coming back.

“Keep coming back, and though the world may romp across your spine,
Let every game’s end find you still upon the battling line;
For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name,
He writes -- not that you won or lost -- but how you played the Game.”

I will post my answers to the first part of the challenge (the two women kissing Woody Allen in yesterday’s post) here after some of you have had a stab at it in the comments section.

Update: To find out who the mystery kissers are, please proceed at once to the comments section. Do not pass GO; do not collect $200.00!


  1. I don't think I had ever before read the entirety of the Grantland Rice poem. The last lines are very familiar to many.

    As to who is kissing Woody Allen? I have no idea.

  2. The one on the left is Debra Messing...I'm working on the other one...

  3. I guess I'd never read it all... but I kind of like it. Esp. since there are a lot of people who shine in high school and never recover - they think life will be their playground too, and end up living in the past in their glory days. As for the photo, you're lucky I recognize Woody Allen! I've never seen even one of his films. Don't have a clue who the women are. Diane Keaton acted with him, but that's not her, I'm sure of that!

  4. I love it when people comment on my posts!

    Pat - No extra credit for you!

    Angela - You are correct and I am proud to be your father! Debra Messing (of Will and Grace) is the one I recognized immediately. The other one took a bit longer.

    Rosezilla (Tracie in Florida) - You are correct, too! It's *not* Diane Keaton! I had never read the whole poem before either until somehow it found a home in this post.

  5. My Feedjit thingy said "Birmingham, Alabama" and that's how I knew this "Angela" was my daughter. Please do not burst my bubble by telling me that many people named Angela live in or near Birmingham.

  6. Okay...part of me wants to say the other lady is Marilu Henner, but I still have my reservations...so, unofficially, is it Marilu?

  7. Your the first person I have run into that read the Cremation of Sam Mcgee. I loved that poem.
    The poem you shared was also enjoyable.

  8. Angela - As far as I can tell, it isn't Marilu Henner, although I can see how you might think that.

    Dr. John - Our entire ninth-grade English class had to read it! Of course, that was back in 1954 or 1955....

  9. No idea who the other woman is. I'm just glad it's not me kissing him! LOL

  10. okay, okay...I know who the other is, but I'm sad to say I had to cheat. Oh well, life's too short to worry about it as long as I have today!!

  11. Ruth Hull Chatlien - LOL, indeed!

    Angela - Okay, I'm ready to reveal who the women in the photo are. The one on the left, of course, is Debra Messing from the TV sitcom Will and Grace. But now that you say you *know* who the other one is but you had to cheat, I'm wondering whether I'm right about who I think she is. Please let me know. *I* think, with no cheating involved, that the woman on the right is Joyce DeWitt, who, along with John Ritter and Suzanne Somers, starred in the TV sitcom Three's Company. Or it could be Cindy Williams, Shirley Feeney to Penny Marshall's Laverne DeFazio on Laverne and Shirley. I'm getting more unsure by the minute. Help me out!

  12. She's too young to be Suzanne Pleshette from The Bob Newhart Show....

  13. Wrong on both guesses, Dad. The brunette is Tiffani Thiessen of "Saved by the Bell" fame. I'm wondering how SHE got hooked up with WOODY?!?!

  14. Never heard of her! I bow to your superior knowledge of current pop culture. Mine atrophied about the time Caroline Kennedy was in middle school....

  15. I'm late, and before reading any of the other comments because they may contain the two kissers' names.....is one of them Deborah Messing? Right at this very moment my daughter and I are watching "The Mothman Prophecies", and she is in that movie. At least, it looks like her---on Woody's right side.

    Well, thanks for thinking of my son's game when you posted the poem. Evidently, many aspects of sports and competition correspond to other aspects of life. I need to remember that.

    I really like the idea of the "Uphill Heart"!

  16. Okay, is it Debra Messing and Mary Lou Henner?

  17. Jeannelle - Yes, one of them *is* Debra Messing, so you got 1 out of 2. See my comment below to Pam for more information.

    Pam - Yes, one of them *is* Debra Messing, so you got 1 out of 2 also. The other one is not Marilu Henner. I thought the second kisser was either Joyce Dewitt of Three's Company or Cindy Williams of Laverne and Shirley, but my daughter says it is definitely Tiffany Theissen of Saved By The Bell.