Gaining Yardage

“Gaining Yardage” by Leo Dangel is a casually worded free-verse poem. It reads like a conversation and tells the story of two young people – friends – who play football with equal anility (not very well); and how they work together to get a touchdown.


The value of friendship is inexpressible.


Wordplay, jargon (football-related).


Are Arlo and the speaker friends?

What makes someone a good friend?

What ideas does this poem share about friendship? Do you agree?

What is odd about the last two lines of this poem?

List the jargon used in the poem. Find definitions of each term. Do the definitions you find work within the context of the poem?

Examine the poem’s use of pronouns. Is the antecedent for each pronoun always clear? What would you recommend the poet do to solve his pronoun problems?


“Gaining Yardage” by Leo Dangel
The word friend never came up
between Arlo and me – we’re farm neighbors
who hang around together, walk beans,
pick rocks, and sit on the bench
at football games, weighing the assets
of the other side’s cheerleaders.
Tonight we lead 48 to 6, so the coach
figures sending us both in is safe.
I intercept an underthrown pass
only because I’m playing the wrong position,
and Arlo is right there to block for me
because he’s in the wrong place,
so we gallop up the field, in the clear
until their second-string quarterback
meets us at the five-yard line,
determined to make up for his bad throw.
Arlo misses the block, the guy has me
by the leg and jersey, and going down,
I flip the ball back to Arlo, getting up,
who fumbles, and their quarterback
almost recovers, then bobbles the ball
across the goal line, and our coach,
who told even the guys with good hands
never to mess around with laterals,
must feel his head exploding,
when Arlo and I dive on the ball together
in the end zone and dance and slap
each other on the back.
They give Arlo the touchdown, which rightly
should be mine, but I don’t mind,
and I suppose we are friends, and will be,
unless my old man or his decides to move
to another part of the country.