Al Groh & the poetry of being fired
My new favourite person in the world is Al Groh. Who? Groh is the former head coach of the University of Virginia football team. A week and half ago, his team lost to 42-13 to arch-rivals Virginia Tech. Groh walked into the post-game press conference, ignored questions about whether his job was in jeopardy and recited a poem to the confused sports reporters – a group of hacks more used to pulling offensive guards than poetic stanzas.
The poem was The Guy in the Glass by Dale Wimbrow. Here it is….
When you get what you want in your struggle for pelf,
And the world makes you King for a day,
Then go to the mirror and look at yourself,
And see what that guy has to say.
For it isn’t your Father, or Mother, or Wife,
Who judgement upon you must pass.
The feller whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the guy staring back from the glass.
He’s the feller to please, never mind all the rest,
For he’s with you clear up to the end,
And you’ve passed your most dangerous, difficult test
If the guy in the glass is your friend.
You may be like Jack Horner and “chisel” a plum,
And think you’re a wonderful guy,
But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum
If you can’t look him straight in the eye.
You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years,
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be heartaches and tears
If you’ve cheated the guy in the glass.
Groh then said: “When I visited the guy in the glass, I saw that he’s a guy of commitment, of integrity, of dependability and accountability. He’s loyal, his spirit is indomitable and he’s caring and loving. I’m sure I will always call the guy in the glass a friend.”
The university sacked him 24 hours later. Obviously, they weren’t fans of poetry. I’m a fan of Groh now. Wimbrow wrote The Guy in the Glass for The American Magazine in 1934.
When the people in power at AbeBooks decide it’s time to tell me that ‘we have decided to go in another direction. We’re letting you go,’ I’m going to recite a poem and let everyone think I’m bonkers. I’d almost certainly read Crow Blacker Than Ever by Ted Hughes because it’s so dark and threatening and would scare the living daylights out of the people handing me the pink slip.
When God, disgusted with man,
Turned towards heaven,
And man, disgusted with God,
Turned towards Eve,
Things looked like falling apart.
But Crow Crow
Crow nailed them together,
Nailing heaven and earth together-
So man cried, but with God’s voice.
And God bled, but with man’s blood.
Then heaven and earth creaked at the joint
Which became gangrenous and stank-
A horror beyond redemption.
The agony did not diminish.
Man could not be man nor God God.
Crying: “This is my Creation,”
Flying the black flag of himself.