The 49ers’ Rush for Super Bowl Gold

Vince Lombardi Trophy

Vince Lombardi Trophy

Sports Saturday

Two weeks ago I reflected on the Baltimore Ravens and celebrated the fact that they owe their name to a poem. Their foe in the Super Bowl, the San Franciso 49ers, owe their name to something less elevated: the insane 1849 Gold Rush.

During that time period, Thomas Hood’s poem about gold, written earlier, became popular. It expresses the obsession with gold that many experienced in 1849, and it is akin to the obsession that football teams have with winning the Super Bowl. In its tangible form, the desire is for the Vince Lombardi trophy which, if we want to be strictly accurate, is sterling silver, not gold.

I particularly like the obsessive beat of Hood’s first line: “Gold, gold, gold, gold.” Meanwhile, “heavy to get and light to hold” describes the trophy perfectly.

“Hoarded, bartered, bought and sold”? Well, the NFL is definitely a billion dollar business with gambles made on men’s health and prospects, the players treated as financial assets and “what have you done for me lately?” the only guiding rule. (Witness Peyton Manning being cut from the Colts.)

How about “price of many a crime untold”? Well, there’s the seamy side of the NFL, whether it be Belichick’s spygate, Payton’s bountygate, injuries covered over, owners squeezing taxpayers and the players union.

Sometimes the grip leads to a thousandfold good: the tremendous pleasure we get from the game. Sometimes it leads to a thousandfold bad: players’ lives destroyed.

Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl.

The Grip of Gold

By Thomas Hood

Gold, gold, gold, gold!

Bright and yellow, hard and cold,

Molten, graven, hammered and rolled,

Heavy to get and light to hold;

Hoarded, bartered, bought and sold,

Stolen, borrowed, squandered, doled;

Spurned by the young, but hugged by the old

To the very verge of the churchyard mold,

Price of many a crime untold.

Gold, gold, gold, gold!

Good or bad a thousandfold!

How widely its agencies vary,

To save – to ruin – to curse – to bless -

As even its minted coins express:

Now stamped with the image of Good Queen Bess,
And now of Bloody Mary.

Another Super Bowl note: My friend John Morrow reminds me that a conundrum facing families all over the country last year will confront them again this year. Here’s my previous post on how novelist Tom Robbins handles the dilemma:

Downton Abbey vs. the Super Bowl

Other Previous Posts on Super Bowls

Eli, The Unpromising Youth of Fairy Tales

Rogers No Longer in Odysseus’ Shadow

A Champ on the Field, a Thug Elsewhere

Win or Lose, Turn to Beowulf

Bread (Pretzels) and (Super Bowl) Circuses

Quarterback Poems for Inspiration

Beowulf and Rifts within the NFL

Coach James Caldwell, English Major

Colts Football Doggerel

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  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

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