To An Athlete Dying Young
By A. E. Housman
The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.
Today, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.
Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.
Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears.
Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.
So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.
And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl’s.
The nature of pop culture is our hero’s are champions. Regardless if you’re an NBA fan, its hard to not admire Kobe Bryant. He was exceptional in ways few athletes are exceptional. He spoke 6 languages fluently, he was by all accounts an all in father, and he had lived his life passionately. His critics, which during his playing career were many, criticized he was selfish, he was too driven, but you don’t win 5 NBA championships, while jumping directly from high school to the NBA, by not being incredibly focused on your craft. Kobe played the game with a level of athleticism and competitiveness that is a rare skill. Kobe’s self proclaimed nickname, “Black mamba”, said it all, he was a fearsome opponent and a winner when the game was on the line.
When Bryant won the Oscar for best short, I checked out the video. I am not a big NBA fan, rarely watching games until the end of the playoffs. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. It is a poem, a love song, to a sport that enabled him to be his best self. With Kobe and Gigi’s tragic deaths, Dear Basketball is a touching epitaph.
By William Shakespeare