I am a cardboard cutout.
I sit here in the stands.
I do not think.
I do not blink.
I do not clap my hands.

You are a cardboard cutout.
You sit there next to me.
You do not cheer.
You have no fear
Of unreality.

We are the cardboard cutouts.
We die in living rooms.
We watch TV.
We cannot see
Beyond our living tombs.

And so the game’s a shutout.
We heard the final call.
Put down your beer.
Pack up your gear.
The Devil cried “Play ball!”



Joe Tessitore is a retired New York City resident and poet.

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27 Responses

  1. Joseph S. Salemi

    A nice use of limericks as stanzas in a satiric piece.

    When I first saw those surreal “cutouts” on the TV screen, taking the place of a crowd of baseball fans, I was stunned. Then it occurred to me that it wasn’t actually surprising, since we now live in a country where that which is fake, ersatz, and meretricious is valued far above that which is genuine and real.

    There isn’t any reason why the players shouldn’t be replaced by cutouts too. It would certainly save the club owners a lot of money.

    • Julian D. Woodruff

      Why, it eludes me, is anybody watching these dehumanized exercises? And I might have asked the same 5 years ago. This is a ghost of the game Ted William’s played.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Just look at Rob Manfred, the obnoxious shyster who is the current Commissioner of Baseball. He represents to perfection the utter decay of the game.

    • Terry L. Norton

      Although the stanzas are five lines, they do not follow the limerick rhyme scheme of aabba. Nor do the stanzas follow the form’s accentual meter of three stresses in the “a” lines and two stresses in the “b” lines. The fact that I mention these matters in no way detracts from the fine satire displayed in work.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Yes, Mr. Norton, you are quite right. I jumped the gun by calling the stanzas here “limericks.” Thank you for the correction.

  2. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    You capture the sheer absurdity of our times in this chilling poem, Joe. The jaunty form belies the horror of the message beneath – stanza three gave me goosebumps. Very well done, indeed.

  3. C.B. Anderson

    Check your beer, Joe. Make sure that IT is real. You do know how to turn a double play!

  4. E. V.

    This is great, Joe! (Even though I’m not a sports fan, this poem has universal appeal because its theme is bigger than a ball game. It addresses the absurdity of our times.) You’ve succeeded in doing what good poets do; interpret historical and/or current events through an artistic lens. The words read smoothly and beautifully. It was also important to include the year so that in the future, readers will have that reference point.

  5. Sally Cook

    Joe –
    You have moved by leaps and bounds to become an excellent poet.

    Reading this succinct verse, I could not help but think of our neighborhood team – in a crosslots field, boys and girls of various ages all hoping to hit a homer, and how the interactions of all the children contributed in various ways to our summer fun. What a great time for a motley team such as ours. Occasionally somebody’s dog joined in, running all the bases, even though he had no dog knowledge of home plate. And at the end of an afternoon, there was always a mother there with lemonade or some other cooling drink.
    That’s when baseball was fun !
    Too bad everything has become stiff unreal and cardboard, aiming to take the pure joy of being alive, in essence, the humanity out of all of us.
    Tell me its an accident; don’t expect me to believe it.
    Great poem, Joe !

  6. Peter Hartley

    Joe, short and snappy, with a wholesome and salutary message, very well put indeed, and scarcely a good advertisement for sports on the TV. Coming from the U.K. and knowing nothing about baseball in America or over here the finer points of the poem elude me but I like my own misinterpretation of your poem. It does sound a bit shocking to me, though, to use cardboard cut-outs to augment the apparent crowd numbers. If I were sitting there with a piece of cardboard either side of me it would make me feel extremely FAT. Nobody likes to feel FAT, unless perhaps it’s someone else’s FAT. If it’s somebody else’s then that’s OK. But even so I’d probably be disgruntled enough to walk out. Time would be better spent reading Joe’s poetry.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      The cardboard cutouts are there because of the mindless Wuhan Flu hysteria that now grips large parts of the United States. The gathering of great crowds is forbidden (unless you are rioting and looting on behalf of BLM), so naturally our sports stadiums are empty. There are no actual flesh-and-blood fans present at these games.

      To make things look halfway normal, these stupid cutouts are superimposed on the TV screen. It’s an abject attempt to pretend that nothing has changed.

      • Peter Hartley

        Joe S – Many thanks for explaining to me what is going on. There was me thinking it was all about trying to give the overweight guilt complexes for indulging in spectator sports when it is far more fatuous than fat could ever be. Do they think we don’t know the difference between a cardboard cut-out and a human? It reminds me of the cut-out police officers you sometimes see in cut-out transit vans perched on motorway bridges in the U.K. to slow down the traffic. The last time I saw one of these trompe l’oeils blown flat I laughed so much I nearly caused a multiple pile-up on the M60. You couldn’t hornswoggle a semi-conscious gibbon, surely, with that sort of device in a baseball stadium?

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Let’s just hope the stupid liberals don’t think that we can fight the next war with cutout soldiers.

    • Julian D. Woodruff

      Mr. Hartley,
      Your comment reminds me of Flat Stanley, hero of a long popular kids’ book series here in the US. But at his flattest, Stanley displays more depth than the cut-outs, and likely more than the baseball personnel.

  7. David Paul Behrens

    Nice poem, Joe! Personally, baseball is my favorite spectator sport and I consider it to be the greatest game ever invented in the history of the world. I enjoy watching it, even if only on TV. The cardboard cutouts are rather weird,
    but at this point I will take anything I can get. It’s better than nothing.

    • Joe Tessitore

      There is a potentially sinister bent to “I’ll take anything I can get” and I believe that our task-masters have latched on to it.

      Nothing may in fact be better.

  8. Joe Tessitore

    Many thanks – in particular to Beth and Sally – for your kind and generous comments.

  9. Jeff Eardley

    Joe, sums up the spectatorless sport these days. We even have fake crowd noise as well over here.

  10. Margaret Coats

    Joe, it’s a superb poem in reading well and dealing effectively with an important issue. There are some superb comments here too, proving that you as poet are capable of inspiring serious discussion. Congratulations!
    This made me wonder how baseball is faring in Japan, where high school baseball is by far the most important and most televised sport. I found the summer national championship was cancelled in May, whereupon Japan’s premier newspaper, Mainichi, immediately responded with a well-reasoned call for substitute events. The editorial considered not only baseball but all high school sports, and music and drama. It concluded, “The experience of having dedicated oneself to a shared activity with peers in their youth will become a valuable asset for these children. Adults need to exercise wisdom to create opportunities for students to appreciate the splendor of their club activities.”
    Happily, substitute baseball events in various regions have taken place. If we can judge by arrangements for July grand sumo, 25% capacity attendance by spectators may have been allowed. One young team captain said, “We must always play at the top of the rankings!” after his team members, shoulder to shoulder, had themselves sung the school anthem. What a healthy attitude displayed by both athletes and major media!

  11. David Watt

    Joe, your poem is very well executed, and highlights one of the many oddities of our times.

    Some months ago A “Fan In The Stands” scheme was thought up here for football supporters to purchase a cardboard cutout of themselves. Supporters would have to pay $22 plus tax for the privilege of having a photo replica of themselves attend matches. It was even said that this “would make fans feel like they were part of the action!”

    • Julian D. Woodruff

      A bit like the old “pet rock” craze, only with the addition of an impressive dose of vanity. We see this in the purchase of names bricks or seats for a theater, museum etc. But for games being played before make-believe crowds? Get a life!

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      One of the insane things about America is that there is always someone, somewhere, somehow desperately trying to think up a new absurdity that will make him money.


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