Written by Samuel Vargo
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Sunday, 26 June 2016

image for Kobe Bryant's poem about retiring from basketball isn't so bad, so all you 'literary' and writing hacks need to lighten up!
Kobe Bryant gave a literary farewell to the game of basketball and has been unfairly attacked for loving the game.

Kobe Bryant wrote a heartfelt poem about retiring from NBA Basketball and all he's faced, just about, is flagrant abuse from some members of the writing community. Sure, some die-hard Kobe and Lakers fans think Shakespeare or Chaucer actually wrote the thing, and to tell you the truth, in my modest opinion, the poem is impressive, but it's not THAT good.

Give Kobe Bryant credit. He's one of the greatest NBA basketball players who ever played. He's not known as a great writer. And any celebrity who wants to take a stab at writing is okay in my book. I laud Mr. Bryant for his literary achievement and I hope to see more work from him. Who knows, with time and some good coaching, he might just live to be one of America's great writers.

I had the unpleasant misfortune of listening to some jackass deejay on a radio station named Y-104 (that's not their real call numbers, by the way) who went on a hissy-fit rampage one morning lambasting Kobe Bryant's poem. Yep, some deejay named "Splatz" (that's not his real name, by the way), really tried to make Bryant's literary attempt a public eyesore one morning a few months ago. And although "Splatz" is hardly a member of the literary community, he thinks he is because he's such a know-it-all wiseguy. He most likely thinks he can write better than Shakespeare or Chaucer, this overly glorified voice on the morning radio from hell. Classic Rock. Classic Stone Age. Music from the long lost greats of the Ice Age.

And of course, two other great contemporary poets, Seth Myers and Shaq, had to chime in on Kobe's entrance into the literary world. In true bigmouth, wiseacre fashion, they really sound academic and snooty in a recent "Late Night With Seth Myers" episode. All I can say is Seth Myers will most likely be replaced before long because his ratings have to be really poor. And worst of all, he's just not funny. He did okay, I guess, as the anchor of SNL's fake news, but he seems to really be struggling now that he's made the "BIG TIME". And Shaq? Well, he's an old NBA has-been who probably can't spell very well. In all fairness, I have to give the Old Boy credit, though: As a sports announcer, he is very entertaining and in my humble opinion, is a helluva lot funnier than Seth Myers, who's paid to be funny. Myers' title, after all, is a "Comic". But Shaq needs to go back on that Weight Watchers diet. He's getting as big as a garbage truck. Maybe even a coal truck.

- Just more undeserved vitriol and sarcasm from these wiseguy literary "greats".

I find all this "literary and academic" criticism appalling since I know how petty, vindictive, and cruel the writing community can be - it's an insane asylum filled with self-righteous rogues and misfits. Sad to say, it's always been that way. And it's worse to live and breath in a backwards community where writers are seen as lowlifes and scumbags. The people of Oxford, Mississippi used to call America's greatest writer, William Faulkner, "Count No Account". Which is really a misnomer because they should have called him "The Greatest American Writer Who Ever Lived". And Faulkner even worked some pretty nasty jobs when he was a fledgling writer. He wrote As I Lay Dying while working some lame factory job of some sort. Oh, I guess it was Faulkner's fourth book, As I Lay Dying, and you'd figure he could've gotten a better gig than factory work. Maybe in a funeral parlor as some sort of an usher. Who knows?

As far as this writer of satire is concerned, I am writing this as I shovel coal in a coal mine. I'm using the light on my hardhat to see the screen on my laptop, which I have perched on a jagged wall in this dusty hellhole. The canary has croaked and it's high time to get the hell out of here! And I didn't even load my mandatory 10 coal trucks for this shift. I might get fired. And everyone I know tells me, "Get a job, you overly qualified slob!"

All I've heard from the writing community is "bad gunky" (to use a term so often used by another great American writer) about Kobe Bryant since he penned a poem and even had it published in an online sports literary magazine. It's called "Dear Basketball" and I think it might not quite be fit for being anthologized by the "Great and the Good" but it's definitely literary enough to find a place in a rather glossy online venue.

For those of you who didn't click on the poem's link, here it is:

Dear Basketball,
From the moment I started rolling my dad's tube socks
And shooting imaginary Game-winning shots
In the Great Western Forum
I knew one thing was real:

I fell in love with you.
A love so deep I gave you my all -
From my mind & body
To my spirit & soul.

As a six-year-old boy
Deeply in love with you
I never saw the end of the tunnel.
I only saw myself
Running out of one.

And so I ran.
I ran up and down every court
After every loose ball for you.
You asked for my hustle
I gave you my heart
Because it came with so much more.

I played through the sweat and hurt
Not because challenge called me
But because YOU called me.
I did everything for YOU
Because that's what you do
When someone makes you feel as
Alive as you've made me feel.

You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream
And I'll always love you for it.
But I can't love you obsessively for much longer.
This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it's time to say goodbye.

And that's OK.
I'm ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have.

And we both know, no matter what I do next
I'll always be that kid
With the rolled up socks
Garbage can in the corner
:05 seconds on the clock
Ball in my hands.
5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1

Love you always, Kobe

Yeppers, it's a bit saccharine and syrupy. The writing community, particularly the literary community, prefers its words well-done in the existential and morose deep-frying vats. They like poetry that would make readers want to shove a 12-guage shotgun in their mouths and pull the trigger. Or jump over a tall cliff. Oh, how many writers have taken their own lives because they took their own lives ever-so-seriously? Way too many. Some Spoof writers even get absurdist prose published. Good for us, I guess. Somehow, someway, I think this poem is actually about Yours Truly. Maybe that's why I like "Giddy Up You Old Fool" so dag-nabbited much!

The writing community, especially in the field of poetry, is a crazy and dysfunction mess of winos, jugheads, and hopheads. I know this because I am one of these misfits. I've been one of them since I was a kid in college and I know how deep-fried in beer batter these weasels can be. What they see as a "great poem" is really beyond me. This poem is anthologized in almost every anthology I've picked up, and for the life of me, I don't know how it ever became considered "great":

The Red Wheelbarrow
By William Carlos Williams

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens

All I can say about "The Red Wheelbarrow" is WTF?!

And here's another little ditty that's been so heavily anthologized it's almost sickening. For the life of me, I have no idea how this thing ever got to be considered a "great" poem by the literary community:

THE POOL PLAYERS.
SEVEN AT THE GOLDEN SHOVEL.
Gwendolyn Brooks, 1917 - 2000

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

Okay, okay, it's got a bit of local color in it and it may be a step up from the Wheelbarrow poem by Williams, but to say this thing is lacking as far as a "great poem" is concerned is pretty much on the mark. It looks like Brooks snagged a wet cocktail napkin with this thing scribbled on it while she was drinking with the boys at The Golden Shovel. I think it does, anyhow.

And here's another poem - considered a "poetic gem" - which was written by some bat-shit crazy lady who wound up committing suicide by sticking her head in an oven. This, too, is considered a "great poem" by primarily the American literary community. Oh why, oh why, did they have to burn Sylvia at the stake when she was crazy enough to be tied down and pumped full of Thorazine when she penned this hideous thing:


Daddy
By Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)

You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time--
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend

Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene

An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.

The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.

I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You--

Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I'm finally through.
The black telephone's off at the root,
The voices just can't worm through.

If I've killed one man, I've killed two--
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There's a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through.

All I can say is if you really hate your daddy, cut and paste this thing on the photo of a vulture and give it to your Dad on Father's Day. This is not, and I repeat, it is not, and should never be considered a "great poem". It was written by a very sick woman who was so depressed and crazy, she stuck her head in an oven and killed herself. And seriously, no literary mag would accept this thing today because many editors would view it as being anti-Semitic. It's coated with some pretty peculiar pejorative lines in relation to Jewish folks.

One English professor I had just thought this poem was "The Cat" and he was almost as crazy as Sylvia Plath. The university where I went for my BA (I think I went there, anyhow) even got rid of him after a couple of years of his drooling, boring, and hydrous-driven lectures. He was not only a horrible teacher, he was a horrible man to think this poem, written by someone in desperate need of a good year or so in an insane asylum, was a great poet. I got a "D" in his class, by the way. I only had one "D" as an undergrad although I think I got an "F" in Archery. So much for sad soliloquies....

On April 13, 2016, Rolling Stone published an article titled "Kobe Bryant Rages Against the Dying of the Light in Retirement Poem" and some writer named Steve McPhereson said of it: "This is what poetry has become in this day and age: not the pinnacle of artistic expression it was for Donne or Keats or Yeats, but the vessel you reach for when shit gets like, too real, man. But props, Kobe: This has to be the first time a poem crashed a website."

McPhereson goes on to write: "In his "Dear Basketball" ode on The Players' Tribune, Bryant announced he would retire at the end of the season, but he gave us no great insight into either himself or the human condition. It was written in free verse, the refuge of college freshmen. (Come to think of it, maybe this is the best argument for upping the age limit for the NBA, so players can get a couple years of college under their belt to better prepare for retirement poetry.) In places, it glances against rhyme ("socks" and "shots" in the opening stanza; "go" and "know" in the third-to-last; "socks" and "clock" in the penultimate one), which is the only thing worse ­- from a poetic standpoint - than regular undisciplined free verse."

Keep in mind, this is a magazine that also titled another story on Kobe Bryant with the title "Kobe Bryant: Goodbye to the NBA's All-Time Asshole" - and really, don't you get the feeling that the editorial mess of this pathetic rag doesn't like Mr. Bryant? I don't think the lame-brained editor who had the final go at this story even read it. At a lot of publications, editors, not writers, write headlines on stories. And this particular headline is far too harsh for the article's contents. Overall, I feel this story is sort of flattering and goes to great lengths to expound on some of the things Kobe Bryant has done on and off the court. And a lot of these things have been very good things. The writer gives out compliments, however, with some sarcastic backlash.

The reader here must also consider that Rolling Stone also published a 10,000 word story on a gang rape at a prestigious southern university that never took place. Although Rolling Stone deleted the story, you can read it in its entirety here. it was all 180-proof fiction. I even chimed in to give these lunkheads a good hammering in another online magazine. Not to leave out the fact that this horrible mess of what is considered "journalism" also made Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's face look like a cute little rock star on the cover of one of their issues, which caused national fervor.

And isn't this the rag that postponed putting the super-band Rush on its cover for more than 40 years? Wow, is all I can say. I need to get a job at Rolling Stone. Why sleep eight hours at night when I can sleep eight hours during the day working for this pathetic outfit?

Truthfully, I think Rolling Stone needs to give up the ghost. Nobody working in journalism believes a word they tell you. And most likely, not one lady at the beauty parlor or a guy sitting around in a muffler shop waiting for his car to be repaired, who's reading Rolling Stone now, believes one iota of what these vipers churn out - the guy's probably saying to himself "I should be reading The Sun or The Enquirer. Of course, this writer cites some of these tabloids to build my stories around, too, but I write comedy and satire, after all. Some of the articles in The Daily Mail that I've used here on The Spoof are real doozies.

Of course, not everyone in the writing community has exhibited hatred and bared their fangs at the NBA Basketball Great's try at being literary. Some academic poets - "names" that any literary magazine's team of editors would love to have grace the pages of their journals - laud Bryant for his work and find it quite good. Vocativ published a stanza-by-stanza tribute to Kobe Bryant's "Dear Basketball" and remarkably, the "Black Mamba" didn't come out all that bad.

"I love it. It's from the heart. I love that he's turning to his muse to say goodbye to the love of his life," poet Eileen Myles told Vocativ.

"I love that Kobe chose to address Basketball as if it were the eternal beloved, with the kind of devotion one would give only to a god," said poet Dorothea Lasky. "I love thinking of basketball and Kobe in a kind of lifelong dance. The way he performed for us in the poem how [he and basketball] first met when he was a little boy, and the way that the poem cycles back to that moment… It reminds me a lot of an Ars Poetica form, which is a kind of poem that poets often write to poetry itself. This is definitely Kobe's Ars Basketball," also is quoted as saying in the Vocativ article.

And some poets even consider it to be a very good contemporary poem. "Like Elizabeth Alexander's 'Praise Song For The Day', it is at once a private and a public poem," said Cornelius Eady, poet and founder of Cave Canem, a workshop for black poets. "There's a saying that the longest journey begins with the first step, but Bryant's 'Dear Basketball' suggests that before that step, you have to imagine the road. It's a wonderful praise song to the sport and an invitation to the fans to join him as that journey reaches a new crossroad," the Vocativ article says.

So there you have it. Don't expect this to be published as literary criticism. It won't. Ha ha ha. But if it makes the cut for The Spoof, I might jump up a few points on our Top Writer's Chart. In fact, I might even get pretty far ahead of that old bag of bones, mikewadestr. And if I do, I'll just say SWISH!

Make Samuel Vargo's day - give this story five thumbs-up (there's no need to register, the thumbs are just down there!)

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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