Both poems show the view that fame dies very fast. In “To an Athlete Dying Young”, a metaphor is used to compare glory to the “rose”, which is a symbol of beauty and fragility, (“it withers quicker than the rose”) The fact that fame is compared to a living thing shows that it is natural for it to “grow” and “die”, and it is a continual process since people are getting famous and then gradually be forgotten and the cycle continues. However, it is different for the athlete who died young, since he has not completed the “fame cycle”, his name remains “unwithered”. In people’s heart, he remains young forever, as we can see the repetition of “lad” in the poem, and the “still defended” shows a sense of continuation, that his spirit never dies, and people will always remember and support him. The “Ex-Basketball Player” in contrast, totally supports the view that the fame ages with the aging athlete. As we see from the description of Flick having “old bubble-head style”, which is obviously out-dated, and the elbows being “loose and low” shows his physical degradation, and the comparison of him to a gas pump dehumanizes him and thus shows a form of disrespect of the people towards him. Furthermore, the “grease-gray” suggests dullness and the descriptions of his daily activity of smoking “those thin cigars, nurses lemon phosphate” suggests a form of ordinary and banal lifestyle which implies that his fame has died. The intensive use of commas and full-stops in the entire poem also suggests the “short-lived” glory of the basketball player.
Both poems show the athletes’ splendid past and how they brought their town the glory. However, the difference is for the “athlete dying young”, people rewards him and glorify him when he died. The two “shoulder-high” in the poem shows firstly how the athlete honored the town, and the “shoulder-high we bring you home” shows that when he dies, people honor him and his high status remains in people’s heart. Furthermore, “silence sounds no worse than cheers” shows people’s sincerity in mourning him and the tribute that they are paying for him. “Silence” also shows the respect that people still treat him as an important person and his significance dose not “wither” with his death, In the “Ex-basketball Player” however, although “he was good : in fact, the best” , in one “home game”, his hands were like “wild birds”, very agile and brave and capable, he won the game and brought his town glory, there is no mention of him been honored in return. In contrast, the phrases such as “most of us remember anyway”, “makes no difference” and “kind of”, shows an apathetic attitude of the people toward him. There is the sense of ignorance and people are not bothering anymore about him. The “applauding tiers” in the last stanza personified the tiers of the pump to the hands of the human beings, but the difference between them is that the tiers would never clap for the “ex-basketball player” which again shows that he has been forgotten by his supporters.
In conclusion, by putting the two poems together, we see that while an athlete grows old but still alive, he retired and become an “ex-“ player who was only remembered by the people occasionally, the athlete who dies early would always be remembered in his most glorious moment.