What will my redeemer be like? I ask myself. Will he be a bull or a man? Will he perhaps be a bull with the face of a man? Or will he be like me?
--Jorge Luis Borges, "The House of Asterion"
Fans, this is why I love you so much: You have hope that the guy you have not seen is better than the one you have seen.
To be a sports fan is to wrestle Antaeus. Expectations are unavoidable and, by necessity, overly optimistic.
And like the Greek giant, the expectations of the sports fan grow more fragile the higher they are held aloft. For example, to a breed of starry-eyed fan the best player on the field is always the player held off the field.
Why these coaches charged—and charging highly—to win games would choose to field inferior players is a riddle the sports fan cannot solve. It is an old dilemma that resurfaces each season, as predictable as . . .
In a famous review of a nonexistent retelling of Quixote, Jorge Luis Borges wrote of a Frenchman who sought not to retranslate or reinvent or reimagine the classic tale, but to rewrite it: sentence by sentence, word for word. Borges's supposed author planned to immerse himself so thoroughly in the background and underpinnings of the work that, when he attempted to write his own story, Quixote would have to come out.
This culmination of inevitable influence is not without precedence. Nabokov is to have stumbled across a ghastly novel called Lolita from 1916 about a pedophile carrying his prey from hotel to hotel. If any pleasure is in it, it is not Nabokov's.
Uncle Milty was such a charming thief that he invented his own rule for the occasion: by the time he told your joke a third time, it belonged to him.
The kicker in Borges's review was that he found the new Quixote, though only available in fragments so far, superior to the intact original. The new story, being new, allowed for fresher exegesis, more creative metaphors, more current allusions that the old version, though word for word the same, couldn't logically contain.
To convince by reason is not the task of fandom. As theater critic John Lahr wrote of Bill Hicks's irresistibly unspeakable comedy, it convinces through joy. The vaudevillians appreciated their own absurdity: their jokes were funnier when they were Milton Berle's.