Study Guide

Casey at the Bat Competition

By Ernest Lawrence Thayer

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"Casey at the Bat" is a sports poem, so it isn't too surprising that competition is one of the poem's main themes. We see elements of competition just about everywhere we look in this one: Mudville vs. the visiting team, Casey vs. the pitcher, Casey vs. the crowd, and ultimately Casey vs. himself. That's a lot of competition for one poem, right? (And if you argue with us, that's just one more competition this poem's started.)

Questions About Competition

  1. In most competitions there is a winner and a loser. Who are the winners and losers in "Casey at the Bat"? Think beyond the obvious answers (Mudville, Casey) and explore what else is won and lost in the poem.
  2. Why do you imagine Thayer had Casey lose the battle to the pitcher? Why did he have Casey fail?
  3. In traditional terms, Casey is clearly the loser in this competition. Can any of you optimists out there find a silver lining in his defeat? Is there any aspect of this competition in which Casey is a winner?
  4. Casey and Mudville have just suffered a crushing defeat. Imagine you are Mudville's coach. What do you say to the team, and to Casey individually, in your post-game speech?

Chew on This

This poem is less about competition between sports teams or individuals than it is about the psychological competition between expectation and reality. (Yes, really.)

You know that saying, "It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game"? Thayer doesn't buy it for one second. In "Casey," winning is everything.

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