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Category: Sports

POEM: Play Ball

Play Ball

It hasn’t been my favorite day.
So it’s a Red Sox podcast in bed.
My eyes are burning from overuse
& lack of sleep, but for some reason
I’m still awake, fielding a few
nighttime texts & thinking of
the day pitchers & catchers report.
I thought this would be the year
I’d take a break from baseball,
having seen one too many favorites
decamp for greener pastures.
But it hasn’t been my favorite day
& the days ahead are hard to see,
so instead I’ll turn this coal
into a diamond in my mind,
imagining the heroic young men
squinting into the Boston sun.
It’s a math problem, a Bach piece,
a well-loved album playing
softly as I search for sleep.
It hasn’t been my favorite day.
Play ball.

/ / /

10 February 2023
State College PA

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POEM: this is how it is, like

this is how it is, like

a guy I don’t know said I should listen
to three other guys I don’t know
(all of them Welsh)
talk about sports I don’t follow
& old shows I haven’t seen

OK, I said, I’ll do it
& thus begins a tale
of 16,000 miles in a minivan
listening to three Welsh guys
& falling rapidly in love

with your piggles, your talc
your rugby & beans (cough)
with Camarthen & Llanelli
& James & Bubbins & Garrero
& the mystery guitarist

living in a van has its ups & downs
five months behind me
with many more to come
but once a week on Tuesday
I’m guaranteed a laugh

/ / /

29 April 2021
State College PA
for yer men at the Socially Distant Sports Bar

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POEM: a song for Shawn Porter

(AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

a song for Shawn Porter

it’s the jump
the scoop
the sharp hiss of the jab
the gleaming gold &
the sheen of sweat
it’s the inside dog fight
the outside dance
relentless forward motion
500 punches & the crowd
is chanting Por-ter! Por-ter!
round 11: massive uppercuts
just missing their targets
he takes one on the chin
hears the count
stays standing
shouts Let’s go!
now it’s the 12th
everything is leading
to this moment
3 minutes to decide
whose arm is raised &
who slips out under the ropes
Porter’s right hand is working
but it might be too late
the bell marks the distance
now we wait


Jason Crane
28 September 2019
State College PA

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Book Review: Uppity by Bill White

Uppity: My Untold Story About The Games People PlayUppity: My Untold Story About The Games People Play by Bill White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A real page turner that highlights some of the lesser-covered parts of the game of baseball. While the racism that has plagued the game is certainly no secret, White’s first-hand account as a player, broadcaster and president of the National League puts a personal, human face on the changes baseball has made, and the distance it has yet to travel. This book was written by someone who is very confident, and who certainly seems to feel he rarely if ever made a mistake, but at the same time he made it through a four-decade career in a tough business as a black man, so some protective ego isn’t surprising. All in all, well worth reading.

View all my reviews

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We get it, nerds. You don’t like sports. Now hush.

This is a strange essay for me to write. I grew up hating sports and athletes. I was a band nerd and very tired of the way athletes were lauded in my high school while the band struggled with busted instruments and old uniforms and the jibes of our classmates.

Then I lived in Japan twice. The second time, my then wife and I got into soccer. We started going to Yokohama Flugels soccer games, and we watched the World Cup on TV. When we moved back to the US, we started going to minor league baseball games in Savannah, Georgia, and eventually ended up as season ticket holders for the former NY/NJ MetroStars of Major League Soccer. My sister and wife and I also followed the US Men’s National Team around the East Coast and Midwest, and my whole family got up at stupid o’clock to watch World Cup games from distant time zones.

In the 15 or so years since then, I’ve become a fan of listening to baseball on the radio. I read books about sports. I follow soccer sometimes, though not as much. Every couple years I go through a period of sports talk radio listening, though these periods always end. I love going to minor league baseball games. I’ve even watched some college football games to stay in touch with friends in one of the college towns I lived in.

Recently, as in the past few years, I’ve noticed a trend among my fellow nerd friends to be very dismissive about sports. Lumping every sports into “sportsball” is a common expression of this. And this fall, this meme was very popular (insert “sports” or any particular sport for “football”):


When I first heard “sportsball” years ago, I thought it was funny. Nowadays I’m starting to find it tiring. I get it, you don’t like sports. But you know what? Many people do, and in healthy ways. And just like it would make you angry or hurt to have people be dismissive of your passion, it probably bothers some people to have you be dismissive of theirs.

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to criticize about sports and sports culture. And I’m in no way suggesting we shouldn’t turn the same critical eye at the sports world that we should turn on every other facet of our shared lives. From the injuries in football, to the sexism and racism that pervades some sports, to the corporate behemoths who control much of the sporting world, you don’t have to look hard to find things to bemoan and to work to change. And you should.

But you also don’t have to look hard to find examples of bravery and heroism and compassion. From Muhammad Ali refusing the draft to this era’s Muhammad Ali, Serena Williams, breaking every tennis record and doing it proudly despite the racist, sexist culture of the tennis world, sports provides a public platform for some people to transcend the advertising and the hype and become true leaders. John Carlos and Tommie Smith. Martina Navratilova. Jason Collins. Billie Jean King. Jim Brown. Arthur Ashe. These are just some of the people who’ve used their fame and success as athletes to stand for something larger than themselves. Our world would be a poorer place without them. And they took their stands in the one place most Americans end up looking — the sporting arena.

It’s fine to not like particular things about sports, and I don’t want you to keep your specific and necessary criticisms to yourself. For example, I don’t want my younger son playing football after this season is over because I think it’s too dangerous. A lot of the culture here in State College, home of Penn State, disgusts me, including the lionization (see what I did there?) of the football team at the expense of so much else. Ditto for the previous place I lived: Auburn, Alabama.

But don’t cast the same aspersions on all sports or athletic activity. There’s a real place in our society for sports. And good people who love them and do so in a healthy way. Let’s all work on remembering that. And let’s also work on making the sports world better for everyone involved.

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POEM: playoff poem


playoff poem

one son is snoring
book open beside him

the other sleeps quietly
arms missing the dog

who is also snoring
she’s on a beanbag

out in the living room
where the TV is on

the Red Sox are playing
October baseball

while the last remnants
of an autumn storm

push around the leaves
but can’t get inside

20 October 2013
Oak Street

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POEM: listening for New York

listening for New York

the Mets are playing on the radio
I love the sound of the game
the low murmur of thousands of fans
the measured cadence of the announcers
even the ads make me feel like I could
step out my door and be there again
a thousand quick miles to the north
where the subways run all night

4 April 2013
Auburn AL

/ / /

The photo above was taken at Citi Field in 2011. It’s part of this series.

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POEM: opening day


opening day

stand with your feet touching
inhale as you reach your arms toward the sky
engage your core
say hello to the sun

in front of which a baseball passes
100,000 eyes follow it
from the yellow into the blue
100,000 lungs inhale

he reaches his arm toward the sky
glove held upward
no past, no future
just now after now after now

exhale, hands in prayer position
bend forward
touch your palms to the ground
feel the sure, steady earth

the ball falls into his glove
inhale, place your hands on your shins
100,000 lungs
exhale, lower your body to the ground

he moves into Player Throwing Ball
inhale into Down Dog, exhale
he is one fluid motion, thought-less
inhale, look at your hands

exhale, jump your feet forward
he straightens up, looks in at the next batter
inhale, raise your arms toward the sky
he stands beneath the blue, waiting

1 April 2013
Auburn AL

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