News · 02/04/2010

Robert Kloss on 2009

Contributor Robert Kloss (author of “The Man Who Lived Amongst The Cannibals”) writes in response to our recent question about what sparked imaginations in 2009.

I’m drawn to heroes, the need for heroes, the inspiration of heroes, the failures of heroes. The egomania and madness of heroes. I believe in heroes, I suppose, the same way I believe in the potentials of fiction. That, plus my midwestern born football fanaticism, determines my moment of 2009. Late August, the scene: Brett Favre being driven to his new team while helicopters circled overhead. Brett Favre stepping out of the car, shaking hands with new coaches, his wife in tow, helicopters yet circling. Moments later, Brett Favre zipping passes to his new teammates. Already, championship starved Minnesota wondered: Is this the year?

For me, the moment was the return of the hero, Beowulf stalking back from retirement for one last shot at the dragon. Beowulf’s ego, Beowulf’s sense of duty, Beowulf’s fatal foolishness. Now, although his deeds aren’t really deeds, a football hero is still a hero if he manages to rouse within us a belief in certain possibilities, a greatness perhaps, much the same as the stuff a writer writes matters although, as my students sometimes insist, this stuff never happened, this stuff has no tangible relation to what goes on around us.

That Favre went on to have a terrific season, a nearly unprecedented season for an athlete his age, enhanced that first moment, cast it with an even more glorious sheen. His failure, was perhaps his finest moment: gray and worn, carried off the field with a badly twisted ankle, only to hobble back, again and again, beaten like he’d never been before, and yet never bowing, always firing away, was somehow even finer than the rest. Somehow our finest moments are the refusal to quit against the harsh inevitable failure. These moments often best captured by our greatest writers, Santiago and his raw red hands against the cruelty of the heavens. Beckett’s unnameable, muttering along, against the silence of the heavens, I can’t go on, I will go on. Sometimes captured by our athletes, images seen by helicopters hovering above.