A true classic from when I was growing up, the movie The Natural with Robert Redford in another one of my favorite movies of all time. The takeaway from this movie is, in my opinion, about never giving up on your dreams. In the movie, Roy Hobbs, played by Redford, is a teenage phenom baseball player who gets a shot at the pros. Without giving away the entire story line, his journey to the Major League level gets derailed early in the process. He ends up wandering through life for quite a while, and eventually gets a shot with a minor league team. He gets a lot of strange looks and “grandpa” jokes from his new team mates as he joins them in the clubhouse for the first few times. Once he picks up a bat and heads to take batting practice, everything changes.
His girlfriend from his teen years gets left behind as he chased after his dreams, but he never forgot her. They end up reconnecting once he is playing baseball again, and it appears he is trying to have a “redo” moment with her. Glenn Close plays this role, and she is very traditional and cautious when they meet again so many years later. She has a pivotal scene in the movie, and it is symbolic of several different things depending on your point of view.
One of the most memorable lines in the movie is when Hobbs is asked about what he wanted to do within the game of baseball. He says: I wanted to be the best. I wanted to walk down the street and have people say “There goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was.” I am not sure that I can totally relate to this; I played Little League baseball as a kid, but I was by no means much above average. I wrestled my freshman year of high school, but I think I did that mainly because my Dad was a great wrestler and I was raised to follow in those footsteps. A neck injury in my try out for the Varsity team ended that run before it ever started. I moved over to racquetball, and despite having exposure to the highest level of the sport very early on in the process, I never thought I would be number one. My goal was always to make it into the top 20 in the world, and I did accomplish that. I sometimes wonder if my mindset would have been hellbent on being number 1 if that would have made a difference in the end result.
I am not sure if my lack of burning desire to be the absolute best has held me back in any way. To be completely obsessed can be very taxing, especially if you fall short of that goal. I am well aware of, and do my best to avoid, the nagging feeling of regret that plagues many people. I do believe that I have pursued the things I wanted to excel at, and gained a high level of proficiency at hobbies and professions alike.
But here is the question:
What would being “the best there ever was” do for you?
Is there anything other than the approval and acceptance of others that this would do for you? Is this the key to a happier life, more money, or anything else? Does this level of being driven ever end happily?
Certainly in the world of sports, the ability to outshine your team mates and opponents likely gets you paid more than others. But that cheddar comes at a hefty price. Is the spotlight and all the scrutiny that comes with it these days really worth it? In the movie, there are bribe attempts, cheating, even a deliberate poisoning, all in the name of winning. The super rich adversary that Roy Hobbs faces in the movie has more money than he knows what to do with, and he gets his kicks manipulating the players and the game of baseball. A sad and shallow life, a miserable old man trying to find a way to stay relevant. Roy couldn’t be bought, and plays of the love of the game. An epic clash ensues, and the plot of the movie comes to a dramatic head and…well, I don’t want to give it away, but it is an awesome ending to say the least.
Check it out when you get the chance…well worth the time.