“There goes Roy Hobbs, the best to ever play the game.”



Up front, from the crack of the bat, I tell you Roy did not have eyes to get out of the game.  Not yet, anyway, because he had a goal to accomplish.  He wanted to be the G.O.A.T.(greatest of all time), but Bernard Malamud wrote it differently, calling it “the best to ever play the game”.

“Oh, Roy” said Barbara Hershey as the Black Widow.  “You’re precious.”

Then she shot him in the gut and left him lying on the floor, hoping he would die.

Rather neatly, he got to impress Bobby Savoy, and his own son, and cement his own legacy in one nice at bat, the cost being that it would be his last time at the plate, as a sort of all-or-nothing, bunched-energy all into one good swing, knowing that what good swing was all that was left in him.


He was “The Natural”, a mythical great baseball player, playing with a bat labelled “Wonderboy” that he made from timber of an Ash tree that had been struck by lightning.  He turned the lumber on the lathe himself, boned it, chipped it, shaped it, honed it to be a great bat.  I’ve heard World Series champion Nomar Garciaparra commenting that Ash had sort of corky type of hardness that really made a ball pop of the end of the bat, and a good strength-to-weight ratio.

Anyway.  Some new corn-fred Iowa farmboy of a relief pitcher comes in and throws a sort of Mariano Rivera fastball that breaks Wonderboy.  Meanwhile, Roy had helped the batboy make his own bat, labelled the “Savoy Special”.  Fighter insignia figures large in the symbols held in esteem by Roy, as he has a military fighter plane insignia on a patch that he wears on one arm.  After a team-mate notices the patch, he adds one to his uniform, and suddenly his play magically improves, and then everybody on the team is wearing the patch, superstitiously.

The superstition is a playful element that conjures a kind of absolutist mojo, that Roy can be flatly the greatest of all time, no bones or buts about it, no argument from the peanut gallery.

And what of these superlatives, after yesterday, New Year’s Day, with its accompanying resolutions, plans, pretenses, do any of us aspire to something great?  To become something better than average in the new year?  To be an absolute, to be actually one of the superlatives behind going about at some piece of work?


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