Thorn: Marshall Locke, poet, playwright, songwriter, outfielder

From SABR member John Thorn at Our Game on March 6, 2017:

Last week the New York Times highlighted “Walden: A Game,” an improbable new video game that prompted players to “collect arrowheads, cast their fishing poles into a tranquil pond, buy penny candies and perhaps even jot notes in a journal — all while listening to music, nature sounds and excerpts from [Thoreau’s] meditations.” After picking my jaw up from the floor — go outdoors, dammit — I spotted these offhand words from the game’s lead designer, Tracy J. Fullerton, which played off some of the thoughts I had been gathering for this evening’s talk.

“Games are kinds of rehearsals,” she said.

Yes, I thought, they are: rehearsals for the struggles to come in real life … beyond the vicarious replays of mysteries in the sacred grove.

Today, because of their ubiquitous media coverage and salaries befitting a Hollywood star, we think of professional athletes as not only champions for our dimly understood longings but also as champions of a shared present-centered ethos. The connection of sports heroes to Hollywood is periodically reinforced by crossover cameos (think Space Jam) but, once upon a time, the link between sport and stage was profound. It has been preserved as if in amber by the use of the word “player” to describe athletes and actors in a variety of settings from theater to ballyard to burlesque to vaudeville and, in its earliest days, cinema.

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Originally published: March 6, 2017. Last Updated: March 6, 2017.