Favorite Fictional Characters, #337: Crash Davis
To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of Bull Durham. But then, I don't really like Field of Dreams, either. (The Natural and Major League above both for me.). Part of it is that I have small patience for Susan Sarandon's cliche minor-leage madam, or for Tim Robbins' lackluster knucklehead fireballer Nuke LaLoosh. The movie also suffers from a case of Kevin Costner trytooharditis. You're gritty, you're a man's man, you're a tough guy. We get it, Lt. Dunbar.
And yet I have a soft spot for catchers, having been a poor-to-middling one myself, especially those who are long-suffering second-class wielders of the tools of ignorance (though of the species, I prefer Tom Berenger's Jake Taylor). Costner's Crash Davis is a has-been who never really was, a small-time journeyman who made a living at the cusp of The Show, a sometime striver who has never really gotten his shot. He's frustration in a chest protector, convinced that his moment never really came, the opportunity to prove himself never really materialized. How many souls exist in that same quiet desperation, that same slog of days that become years pursuing a dream that retreats no matter how hard we chase it? Crash knows the clock is striking midnight soon, and that it's never going to happen, and yet all he knows is baseball, all he knows is the chase for the brass ring.
How galling it was for him to find himself thrust from the role of young hero into aging mentor, especially to a more-talented but less-disciplined tyro like Nuke. That transition from leading man to grizzled supporting graybeard, from Han Solo to Obi Wan Kenobi, is a jarring one, an unwelcome reminder of our inexorable mortality. And once you cross that threshold, once you trade in your mitt for a clipboard, you've hung up your youth and accepted that some things you dreamt of will never happen. Some accept that moment with grace and dignity and resignation, and some rage against the dying of the light. Crash Davis rages, even as he knows the truth, even as we all do.