The football field seems like about the least likely place to find a poet. That’s not the case, though, when the NFL’s Cleveland Browns are in play. That’s because of Myles Garrett, ferocious linebacker, apparent dinosaur lover… and poet?!
The man is a mastodon on the football field – a whirling dervish of physicality who hits his opponents with nearly unrivaled ferocity. He is one of the reasons why the NFL prognosticator markets will almost certainly have the Browns slated as odds-on favorites to finally make the postseason next year. Indeed, most everyone is predicting improvement for the Browns, and while rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield gets a lot of the credit, Garrett is the foundation on which the team’s rebuild started to work at last.
Not only does all of this paint the picture of a man unlikely to harbor an interest in poetry, but it also seems as if Garrett would hardly have time for any meaningful pursuits aside from turning the Browns around. However, you might come away with a different idea if you take a look at Garrett’s poem, “I Hate You”, which he posted on social media. It is, as Browns Wire notes, a “glimpse behind the smiling face and rippling muscles.” It may not be the stuff of traditional poetry journals, but it is quite the read nonetheless – an honest, spill-my-guts poem that delves into the heart, mind, and soul of a ferocious competitor.
Right off the bat, the metaphor air became acid is striking, suggesting an environment that has turned dour, or even foreboding for Garrett. It sets the tone of gloom, anguish, and even regret that lasts throughout the poem. This is followed by an admission, clichéd as it is, of someone falling for someone — over and over and over. It means this poem is about love, one likely lost and regained, then lost and regained again. The allusion to kryptonite and Lois Lane that ends the first verse describes this lost love perfectly: It is a cause of great happiness, but a recipe for destruction at the same time.
A deep sadness, though, is palpable in Garrett’s poem, and hyperbole — This bleeding heart dripping on the page / drained in your hands as you remain unfazed — underscores it in a most gut-wrenching way. There is deep and consuming pain, that much is undeniable. The second verse establishes this, and makes it clear why the poem has been written in the first place: There is a message to be conveyed, and heartache to be soothed in the process.
Love is conceptualized in the third verse, with a jarring but effective use of metalepsis. Love has become foreign to Garrett, and this has caused feelings of despair. Self-pity — I don’t deserve you, a soul spurned / a soul he nor I have earned — creeps in by the fourth verse, clearly underpinning the depths of gloom to which Garrett has fallen, all because of the love at the core of the poem.
But love is resilient, and by the end, it is all that matters: You never make it a day / where I can say / you’re not on my mind / so I sit and rhyme / with my time. Just as hyperbole heightens the feelings of sadness and despair, it emphasizes the intensity of Garrett’s love — I’d travel every country, venue, and view / If it meant coming back to tell you / Fuck, I love you. That final line, in particular, rings with irony, and is a blunt, forceful counterpoint to the poem’s blistering title, “I Hate You.”
Garrett’s poem is admittedly simplistic, but it is charmingly moving at the same time. His raw emotions shine, and that makes the poem relatable, which on some level is what most poets strive to achieve. On a larger scale, it is inspiring to see poetry exist so far out of its conventional, academic realm. It is also an important reminder that the emotional effect (the “purpose”, if you will) of writing poetry far outweighs any merits or external recognitions that come from it—even linebackers need to let their feelings out!
If you want to check out more of Garrett’s poetry, visit the official Cleveland Browns website or The Checkdown on Instagram.