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The Best Sports Poems
by Michael R. Burch

These are the best poems about sports by Michael R. Burch, an American poet who lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife Beth and two outrageously spoiled puppies. For an expanded bio, circum vitae, career timeline, reviews, interviews and other information of interest to scholars, please click here: Michael R. Burch Expanded Bio. To read the best poems of Mike Burch in his own opinion, with his comments, please click here: Michael R. Burch Best Poems.

The Locker
by Michael R. Burch

All the dull hollow clamor has died
       and what was contained,   
         adulation or sentiment,
   left with the pungent darkness
as remembered as the sudden light.

Originally published by The Raintown Review

Ali’s Song
by Michael R. Burch

They say that gold don’t tarnish. It ain’t so.
They say it has a wild, unearthly glow.
A man can be more beautiful, more wild.
I flung their medal to the river, child.
I flung their medal to the river, child.

They hung their coin around my neck; they made
my name a bridle, “called a spade a spade.”
They say their gold is pure. I say defiled.
I flung their slave’s name to the river, child.
I flung their slave’s name to the river, child.

Ain’t got no quarrel with no Viet Cong
that never called me nigger, did me wrong.
A man can’t be lukewarm, ’cause God hates mild.
I flung their notice to the river, child.
I flung their notice to the river, child.

They said, “Now here’s your bullet and your gun,
and there’s your cell: we’re waiting, you choose one.”
At first I groaned aloud, but then I smiled.
I gave their “future” to the river, child.
I gave their “future” to the river, child.

My face reflected up, dark bronze like gold,
a coin God stamped in His own image—Bold.
My blood boiled like that river—strange and wild.
I died to hate in that dark river, child,
Come, be reborn in this bright river, child.

Note: Cassius Clay, who converted to Islam and changed his “slave name” to Muhammad Ali, said that he threw his Olympic boxing gold medal into the Ohio River. Confirming his account, the medal was recovered by Robert Bradbury and his wife Pattie in 2014 during the Annual Ohio River Sweep, and the Ali family paid them $200,000 to regain possession of the medal. When drafted during the Vietnamese War, Ali refused to serve, reputedly saying: “I ain't got no quarrel with those Viet Cong; no Vietnamese ever called me a nigger.” The notice mentioned in my poem is Ali's draft notice, which metaphorically gets tossed into the river along with his slave name. I was told through the grapevine that this poem appeared in Farsi in an Iranian publication called Bashgah. The poem was originally published by the literary journal Black Medina.Michael R. Burch

(I stole this poem
from Muhammad Ali.)
—Michael R. Burch

This Ali tribute poem compares his youthful image to his older image, when he was struggling with Parkinson's, a disease my grandfather also wrestled with ...

For Ali, Fighting Time
by Michael R. Burch

So now your speech is not as clear ...
time took its toll each telling year ...
and O how tragic that your art,
so brutal, broke your savage heart.

But we who cheered each blow that fell
within that ring of torrent hell
never dreamed to see you maimed,
bowed and bloodied, listless, tamed.

For you were not as other men
as we cheered and cursed you then;
no, you commanded dreams and time—
blackgold Adonis, bold, sublime.

And once your glory leapt like fire—
pure and potent. No desire
ever burned as fierce or bright.
Oh Ali, Ali ... win this fight!

Villanelle-Ode to Bruce Lee
by Michael R. Burch

Try to hit him? You’ll only whiff
with this man as elusive as mist.
The Man. The Legend. The Myth.

Then you’ll feel his furious fists
but it’s useless to think to resist:
Try to hit him? You’ll only whiff!

Then you’ll feel the Force as it lifts
and you fly through the air like a skiff.
The Man. The Legend. The Myth.

Friend, give up. Surrender. Desist.
For a shadow can only be missed.
Try to hit him? You’ll only whiff!

Then your ears will soon ring with his riffs
as he tattoos your skull with his kicks.
The Man. The Legend. The Myth.

Many have been left stiff
like lemmings gone over the cliff.
Try to hit him? You’ll only whiff
with the Man. The Legend. The Myth.

hey pete
by Michael R. Burch

for Pete Rose

hey pete,
it's baseball season
and the sun ascends the sky,
encouraging a schoolboy's dreams
of winter whizzing by;
go out, go out and catch it,
put it in a jar,
set it on a shelf
and then you'll be a Superstar.

When I was a boy, Pete Rose was my favorite baseball player; this poem is not a slam at him, but rather an ironic jab at the term "superstar." I wrote this poem around age 18.

Larry Seivers had golden hands
by Michael R. Burch

Larry Seivers had golden hands,
platinum hands,
diamond hands,
hands of jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, sardius, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth and amethyst.

Other receivers were more elusive,
more physical,
flashier ...

but Larry Seivers had hands.

by Michael R. Burch

in an unplanned moment
as you rise
will teach your limbs the art of flight:
the waltz of light
through vaulted skies.

A falcon flies:
its keening cries
as sunlight fails
fall hollow to the earth below,
and you must know
how fierce the light of sunset feels.

You hear
those ringing cries, their echoes clear
though far away, and so you pause
—defying even gravity,
suspended over some vast sea—
then fall ... into applause.

Larry Legend
by Michael R. Burch

He's slow, can't jump,
looks pale and plump.
He talks too much;
he brags, and such.
He's not real nice,
has blood like ice
and will like steel
(and steal he will).
But when the game is on the line,
your team, or mine?

Big Mc Attack
by Michael R. Burch

Johnny Mc
is back—
the fierce
of words
and serves,
and taunts.

He flaunts;
he flails,
and rails.
he wails.
His ego
He grunts
and groans
and moans
and gee . . .
I think
he wants
to referee!

Johnny Mc
(thank God)
is back—
ing, fiery,
taking flack
(not hesitant
to give it back).

We love
to watch
him glare
and wince,
and since
we sense
his dreams
we sit
on pins
he wins.

For Jack Nicklaus, at the 1987 Open
by Michael R. Burch

When you were young
every putt was makeable
and every dream remarkable;
the stars were unmistakable
you set your sights upon.

Then, in your youth,
time not yet a factor
and age not yet your rector,
you plotted every vector
and victory shone ahead, like truth.

But uncouth youth was fleeting ...
soon losses grew more numerous;
time's skies became more cumulus;
the nerves with age—more tremulous,
as the sun from the sky was setting, retreating.

How have you then, as sunset nears
and the world looks on with unsure eyes,
cast off the crutch of age to rise
and stand as though the butterflies
have no effect, no, nor the cheers?

I wrote this poem after Tom Watson chipped in at the 1982 US Open to defeat Jack Nicklaus. Nicklaus was getting older, but he was still competitive.

There Are Dreams
by Michael R. Burch

for Jack Nicklaus

There are dreams
that you have dreamed
that are etched into your eyes.

There are dreams
that you have dreamed
that resignation can’t disguise.

There are dreams
that you have dreamed . . .
O, I’ve dreamed them, esteemed them.

Like fire,
flares most brightly as it dies.

The Great GOAT Debate
by Michael R. Burch

The great GOAT debate
can no longer wait:
we must know who’s best, and know now!

Is it Jordan, Kareem,
or Hakeem the Dream?
Is it Gretzky, the Rocket, or Howe?

Is it O.J. or Brady,
or are they too shady?
Tom Burleson or Monte Towe?

But now that I’m thinking
and done with my drinking,
before I make friends with a large purple cow ...

It’s the Babe, let’s get serious!
Babe Didrikson Zaharias!
Let the Ultimate GOAT take a bow.

Mildred Ella “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias was a basketball All-American, a baseball and softball star, a professional golfer who accumulated ten major championships, and a track and field legend who won two gold medals and a silver in three different disciplines at the 1932 Olympics while setting four world records in the process. She was also an expert diver, roller-skater, bowler and billiards player. Didrikson won the 1932 AAU track and field team championships while competing as an individual, by winning five of the eight events she entered and finishing second in another. She remains the only track and field athlete, male or female, to have won individual Olympic medals in a running event (hurdles), a throwing event (javelin), and a jumping event (high jump). Despite taking up golf in her mid-twenties and having to wait until age 31 to regain her amateur status, Didrikson won 17 straight women's amateur tournaments, an unequaled feat. Altogether, she won 82 golf tournaments. She made the cut at two men’s PGA golf tournaments, the only woman to do so, and she did it sixty years before any other woman even tried. In 1934 exhibition games, after being taught the curve ball by Dizzy Dean, she pitched one scoreless inning against the Dodgers and two scoreless innings against the Indians. Didrikson still holds the world record for the longest baseball throw by a woman. The world has never seen anyone like her.

“She is beyond all belief until you see her perform ...Then you finally understand that you are looking at the most flawless section of muscle harmony, of complete mental and physical coordination, the world of sport has ever seen.” – Grantland Rice, considered by many to be the greatest sportswriter of all time

The Ballad of King Henry the Great
(aka Derrick Henry)
by Michael R. Burch

Long live the King!
Send him victorious,
happy and glorious,
long to reign over us:
Long live the King!

Long live the King!
Send him like Sherman tanks
Mowing down cornerbacks,
Stiff-arming tiny ants:
Long live the King!

No T.O.
by Michael R. Burch

Lines written after the aptly-named Eric Eager said, “A. J. Brown is Terrell Owens.”

I’m young, I’m big-hearted,
but I’m just getting started.

I’m running my own race
at my own damn pace.

T.O. belongs in fabled Canton town,
but I’m A. J. Brown.

The second stanza was actually written by A. J. Brown and published in the form of a tweet.

A True Story

for Jeremy

Jeremy hit the ball today,
over the fence and far away.
So very, very far away

a neighbor had to toss it back.
(She thought it was an air attack!)

Jeremy hit the ball so hard
it flew across his neighbor’s yard.
So very hard across her yard

the bat that boomed a mighty “THWACK!”
now shows an eensy-teensy crack.

Originally published by TALESetc

Tallen the Mighty Thrower

Tallen the Mighty Thrower
is a hero to turtles, geese, ducks ...
they splash and they cheer
when he tosses bread near
because, you know, eating grass sucks!

Just Smile
by Michael R. Burch

We’d like to think some angel smiling down
will watch him as his arm bleeds in the yard,
ripped off by dogs, will guide his tipsy steps,
his doddering progress through the scarlet house
to tell his mommy "boo-boo!," only two.

We’d like to think his reconstructed face
will be as good as new, will often smile,
that baseball’s just as fun with just one arm,
that God is always Just, that girls will smile,
not frown down at his thousand livid scars,
that Life is always Just, that Love is Just.

We do not want to hear that he will shave
at six, to raze the leg hairs from his cheeks,
that lips aren’t easily fashioned, that his smile’s
lopsided, oafish, snaggle-toothed, that each
new operation costs a billion tears,
when tears are out of fashion.
                                             O, beseech
some poet with more skill with words than tears
to find some happy ending, to believe
that God is Just, that Love is Just, that these
are Parables we live, Life’s Mysteries ...

Or look inside his courage, as he ties
his shoelaces one-handed, as he throws
no-hitters on the first-place team, and goes
on dates, looks in the mirror undeceived
and smiling says, "It’s me I see. Just me."

He smiles, if life is Just, or lacking cures.
Your pity is the worst cut he endures.

Originally published by Lucid Rhythms

Charlie Hustle
by Michael R. Burch

Crouch at the plate,
intensity itself.

Follow the flight
of the streak of white
with avid eyes
and a heartfelt urge
to let it fly.

Sweep the short arc,
feel the crack of a clean hit,
pound the earth
toward first.

Edge into the base path,
eyes relentlessly relentless.

Watch his every movement;
feel his every thought;
forget all save his feet;
see him stretch
toward the plate ...
and fly!

Fly along the basepath
churning up the dirt,
desire in your eyes.

Slide around the outstretched glove,
hear the throaty cry,
"He's safe!"
And lie in a puddle of sunlight
soaking up the cheers.

A Texas Leaguer dropping
to the left-field side of center
sends you on your way back home.

Take the turn past third
with fervor in your eyes
and a fever in your step,
the game just strides away ...
take them all and then
slide your patented head-first slide
across the guarded plate.

Pause in the dust of your desires,
loving the feel of the scalding sun
and the roar of the crowd.

Shake your head and tip your cap
toward the clouds.

Slap the dirt
from your grass-stained shirt
and head toward the clubhouse ...
just doing your job,
but loving it
because it is your life.

This is a poem I had forgotten about for nearly 50 years. According to my notes, I wrote it in 1977 around age 19. This was one of my early attempts at free verse.


The Sliding Rule
by Michael R. Burch

If you’re not quite kosher,
like Leo Durocher;
or if you have a Pinocchio nose,
like Peter Edward Rose;
or if your life turns tragic,
like Ervin Johnson’s magic;
or if your earthly heaven
is stopped, like Howe’s, at seven;
or if you’re a disciplinarian
like Knight, but also a contrarian;
or if like Joe you’re shoeless
because you’re also clueless;
or perhaps like Iron Mike Tyson
you work a little vice in;
or like Daly working the jackpot
you’re less unlucky than merely a crackpot;
or like Ruth you’re better at drinking
than at dieting and thinking;
or perhaps like Andre Agassi’s
your triumphs are really your tragedies . . .
though The Judge might call you a sinner,
society’ll proclaim you a WINNER!

Y2k: The Score
by Michael R. Burch

You should have known
when you were giving us wedgies,
pulling down our pants
in front of the cheerleaders,
playing frisbee with our slide rules . . .

that the years are exceedingly cruel.

You should have seen,
dashing across the gridiron
(as the cheerleaders screamed
in a panty-show of ecstasy),
playing the hero, the bull-necked jock . . .

the hands on the face of the unimpressed clock.

Though you were popular,
the backseat Romeo, the star
who drove the flashiest car,
though you lived out our dream
and took the prettiest girls to the dances, the prom . . .

you never had a chance. Something was wrong.

We missed the big dances and proms
as we hissed and we schemed,
as we wrote and re-wrote our revenge
while you partied like Stonehenge.
Now your business is in debt to the hilt.
It’s too late to cry: Foul! Unsportsmanlike! Tilt!

One statement of ours and yours are all lost!
Your receivables, aging and gathering dust,
will yellow like urine one soon-coming day.
While you were scoring, you missed this play—

Jocks: Zero. Nerds: Y2k.

Michael R. Burch Related Pages: Light Verse, Children's Poems, Doggerel, Early Poems, Epigrams and Quotes, Epitaphs, Erotic Poems, Family Poems, Free Verse, Prose Poems, Experimental Poems, Haiku, Limericks, Love Poems, Nature and Animal Poems, Parodies, Satires, Rejection Slips, Romantic Poems, Poems about EROS and CUPID, Song Lyrics, Sonnets, Time and Death, Villanelles, Critical Writings, Literary Criticism, Poetry by Michael R. Burch, Auschwitz Rose Preview, Did Lord Bryon inspire the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley?, Ancient Egyptian Harper's Songs, Dante Translations

You can find Burch's self-analysis of his poems here: "Auschwitz Rose" Analysis, "Epitaph" Analysis, "Something" Analysis, "Will There Be Starlight" Analysis, "Davenport Tomorrow" Analysis, "Neglect" Analysis, "Passionate One" Analysis, "Self Reflection" Analysis, Understatement Examples from Shakespeare and Elsewhere

Michael R. Burch poems about: Icarus, Ireland, Time, Aging, Loss and Death

The HyperTexts