Monday, December 7, 2009

Ogden Nash on Baltimore vs. Green Bay

Tonight's NFL Ravens-Packer match-up reminds Rick Johnson of when the Baltimore Colts forced a play-off game with archrival Green Bay 44 years ago. The play of the Colt's third string quarterback later inspired Ogden Nash to versify:

Is there a Baltimore fan alive
who's forgotten Tom Matte in '65?
The Colts by crippling injuries vexed,
Unitas first and Cuozzo next--
What would become of the pass attack?
Then Matte stepped in at quarterback.
He beat the Rams in a great display,
He did - and he damn near beat Green Bay.
Ask him today to plunge or block,
Tom's the man who can roll or rock.
In Tokyo, they say karate
In Baltimore, they call it Matte

This was a stanza in a wonderful feature that Nash did for Life Magazine on his beloved Baltimore Colts in 1968. While reminiscent of Nash honoring baseball's all-time greats in 'Lineup for Yesterday' , it's Colt-centricity makes it very unique. What other team can boast having a ballad written about them by America's Poet Laureate? The photo-journalistic-poetic pages:(Click the photo to enlarge for easier reading)







The above courtesy of Google Books.

Back to Rick Johnson's memories of the December, 1965 Packers- Colts game, he writes:

Baltimore vs. Green Bay is etched in the lore of the football gods. And no, I’m not talking about the standout performance from this past Monday Night. Stay with me for awhile. The following will bring back to life, if only for a few moments, a Baltimore football classic from a different day, a different genre.

Imagine a NFL team going into a playoff game without a passing attack. Imagine a defensive coordinator who must only plan against a third-string quarterback (who really plays halfback) who doesn’t know the plays, and places his team at a disadvantage the moment he attempts a forward pass. The adversary calls it lady luck. The professional calls it an opportunity.

Minus their first and second string quarterbacks, Johnny Unitas and Gary Cuozzo, the 1965 Baltimore Colts forced a playoff game with their arch-rival Green Bay Packers to determine the Western Division champion, by defeating the Los Angeles Rams in their final regular season game. The Packers, who tied San Francisco in their regular season finale, thus forcing the playoff game, won Commissioner Pete Rozelle’s coin toss to host the game at Lambeau Field.

You can read the entire post here.

3 comments:

russ mckay said...

You might enjoy rumorofhumor.com which is primarily directed at tweens was influenced by Ogden Nash and in fact contains a poem with that title!

Thomas Beck said...

After the Jets defeated the Colts in Super Bowl III, Nash wrote a funny poem in which he lamented the Colts' defeat, which was also published (I think) in Life Magazine. Anyone have the text or know where I can find it? Thanks!

JohnBrady said...

@ Thomas: A search in the New Yorker archives came up empty. If you find it, I'd really appreciate if you could share it.

 
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