Erratic Fire, Erratic Passion – The Poetry of Sportstalk
Edited by Pasha Mall and Jeff Parker
There’s a famous scene from Bull Durham where Kevin Costner’s Crash Davis lectures Tim Robbins’ Ebby LaLoosh on the finer points of how to give an interview. When LaLoosh responds that the result would be “pretty boring”, Crash notes: “’Course it’s boring, that’s the point.”
Professional athletes. They are among the most quoted in contemporary media, yet also the least eloquent – although that is often by strategy, rather than nature or potential. Trained by communications consultants to survive the pressure cooker of the post-game presser, they must be able to talk at length without saying much at all.
Those who go off-script, however, are the most colourful and outrageous personalities, if not the most substantial.
In Erratic Fire, Erratic Passion – The Poetry of Sportstalk, Pasha Mall and Jeff Parker have collected and shaped the meanderings, musings, ragings, elegies and celebrations of a number of celebrity athletes, and slightly torqued them into lyrics that reflect the sportsworld stage. The ones they pluck from post-game chats, interviews, and other ephemera also give us a new perspective on the individuals, as we stare up at them, their words dropped naked into the spotlight, shed of context.
Yogi Berra gives us simple haiku-like Zen. From Muhammad Ali comes sprawling, epic oratorio, mixing hooks of rhyme with jabs of righteousness. Mark Gonzales riffs Skateboard Blues.
This could all end up more gimmicky than inspired. But in the most successful examples, the type and/or shape of the poems throw the athlete or sportsfigure into sharp relief. The best of the bunch is knuckleball pitcher R.A. Dickey, known to be a thoughtful type, and his captured meditation on how he became successful at his bread and butter pitch becomes as much an eloquent lyric on spiritual self-discovery as coaching session.
And some, like Allen Iverson’s famous rant on ‘practice‘ (presented like an old-time jeremiad) are fun reminders of what it can be like if you just step away from the mic and let these people roll.
Listen up here.