13 thoughts on “Groh the Poet”

  1. Not enough that every meathead jock in town was on his ass, now he’s got a poetry snob to deal with? Sorry if he hurt your ears chicken boy.

    There’s no need to encourage this madness of obsessing on the million dollar coach and his every wimple and glide. If you’ve ever lived in a Big-10 or SEC town you will know what I mean. It can get much / much ! much @much worse. Believe me.

    Besides, for that guy to read that Ann Landers poem is nobler than you wish.

  2. There is no debating it: that’s an awful, awful poem. And he misread “pelf” as “self,” which really mangles the meaning. The former meaning riches, the latter being precisely the thing that he claims to want in the poem.

  3. I don’t know, I think I more or less understand poetry. (I am an editor at a poetry magazine. :) As a premise, you and I actually agree. The whole poetry-for-elites thing sticks in my craw. I have little use for most poetry, even ostensibly great poetry frequently bores me. But as bad as the poetry snob perspective is, so is the “all poetry is good” perspective. Neither is true, of course. Sturgeon’s Law applies as surely to poetry as anything else, and this dreck is well within that 90%. :) If you break apart the line breaks and just read it as prose, consider whether it says anything that isn’t trite, obvious, or clichéd. It fails all of those three tests. That said, it’s not clear to me whether you’re arguing that this poem is good or that all poetry has merit. If the former, well, intelligent minds may disagree on matters of taste. If the latter, then I can’t help you. :)

  4. Maybe the issue here is the different ways in which poetry is used by readers. Readers like myself (over-educated cultural elitists) use poetry as a way of reassuring ourselves that we’re as smart as we think we are; poetry should challenge us, be clever, be surprising, so we can apply our powerful brains to it and prise out its secrets. It’s about mastery. The harder the box is to unlock, the smarter we feel. (I’m not really joking — I have three degrees in literature and this is pretty much what we do.) By this standard, the poem Groh read is indeed bad.

    Nonscholarly users/readers of poetry — like Al Groh, I think — are after something different. They’re after something that feels familiar, accessible, non-threatening: hence all the cliches, obviousness, and triteness. It should express what seem to them to be core truths but with a bit of floweryness or unusual language. Not too unusual, though. I’m not slamming on this way of using poetry — it’s just different from what I generally do with poetry. Before the modernists rolled along, most published poetry was like this: sentimental, expressing conventional views. Poetry was also more widely popular as a form of literature that people actually read, in newspapers and magazines.

    I’m as much a culture snob as anyone, but I have to salute AG for reading a poem — any poem — not only to the press but also to his athletes. I know a lot of his athletes; there are not many people in their lives who are reading them any kind of poetry at all. I think it’s kind of sweet.

  5. I like it when you read me pretty poems, Coach. Takes my mind off losing to W&M and Duke. (Can I get a hug now?)

    Only regarding the University of Virginia could a discussion about the future of its highly visible NCAA football program/leadership so quickly turn into a debate about its losing coach’s poetry selection.

    So long as consistent victories in soccer, rowing, lacrosse and other poorly followed sports satisfy the UVA Board of Directors-Athletic Dept-Alumni, then get ready to expect more of the same from its self-defeating football program.

    The Absent Credibilty Conference…feel the burn.

  6. Only regarding the University of Virginia could a discussion about the future of its highly visible NCAA football program/leadership so quickly turn into a debate about its losing coach’s poetry selection.

    Uh. No. I think what you meant to say is that “when a bunch of people who don’t give a damn about UVA’s football program talk about the coach’s poetry, they talk about the coach’s poetry.” UVA has nothing to do with it.

  7. “highly visible” football program? really? only if you look at in an entirely circular fashion, as in “it’s highly visible to that relatively small group of alums and local football fans who desperately want a more successful program than Tech has.”

    Because if you mean highly visible on a national stage, I’m laughing very hard. i don’t mean that as a slam on Groh. Virginia has never been a football powerhouse. People in the Midwest (or anywhere else, for that matter) don’t see Virginia as “highly visible.” There are a LOT of D1 schools with middling programs that no one thinks of when they think “college football.” We’re among that group.

  8. Cecil: your post about types of poetry was very perceptive. Its true about other forms of the arts too-painting,Norman Rockwell as opposed to Rembrandt.Music-classical or pop. And there is nothing wrong with liking what you like. Groh’s poem was entirely appropriate to read to young athletes. Or he might have chosen the one by Grantland Rice(I think) about its not whether you won, but how you played the game.
    I agree that UVa football can do better than 5-7 and 3-9 records-George Welsh showed us that. But if having a bigtime program means diluting or compromising academics or the University’s character-IT IS NOT WORTH IT! Indeed, an argument can be made that this has already happened to a certain extent.

    And we should be proud of what teams like soccer, baseball and tennis have accomplished.
    And there is just something that seems wrong about the highest paid employees at colleges being the football and men’s basketball coaches.
    Is that why higher education exists-to field athletic teams for the amusement of the general public? Sometimes sure feels that way.
    Athletic scholarships for otherwise qualified students are not a bad thing. But on the other hand,when a college admits a student for no other reason than he can pass a football or make a layup-he is taking up a slot that might gone to another applicant with no athletic ability but with an intellect that could have handled college-level work.

  9. I agree, HB. That painter from up in Waynesboro — the one who does the Amish-y scenes with lots of geese in them. They’re really really popular, so we look down on them. But really, she paints well, and she found a unique niche. Just because lots of people like her paintings shouldn’t mean she’s not as good as a painter who does weird, off-putting stuff.

    I have no time for anyone who sneers at success in the “minor” sports and yearns for football prowess. In fact, I have a hypothesis that the vast majority of those yearners are NOT alums. Instead, I think they are locals who enjoy college football as a sport in general and who have latched on to UVa as the nearest option in terms of being able to attend games. If they lived near Tech, they’d be Tech fans.

    What they want out of UVa is nothing more than validation of their own sense of themselves (to the extent that any fan feels good when his team wins and low when his team loses). They don’t care about the academic reputation or the integrity of the institution. They want to feel good about themselves and apparently the only way they can achieve that is by being tangentially affiliated with extraordinarily athletically gifted young men. Now, it’s great that they follow and support the team (if they really do support it, rather than booing at the athletes). But I would say that someone who falls into this non-alum/local fan category doesn’t exactly have the institution’s overall best interests at heart.

    Just about anyone who attended or graduated from UVa, by contrast, is immensely proud of the achievements of the soccer team, tennis team, lax, swimming and diving, etc. And similarly, UVa students and alumni are much less likely to argue for a dilution of the school’s academic standards in order to meet Tech on a level playing field (so to speak).

  10. As an alum who now works at the University, who loves this institution (with all of its flaws), I say “Hear, hear!” to what HollowBoy and Cecil wrote.

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