I’ll start with something controversial – Roger Federer is a decent tennis player.
Okay, I’ll push the boat further out. He’s awesome with a raquet. He’s beyond good, beyond excellent, into a realm that once made him untouchable, a sports God who just kept breaking records at will, and awed billions with the grace, ease and ruthlesness of his game.
Key word being once.
Now he’s still a great player, getting old gracefully, winning the odd tournament and warming tennis fans’ hearts the world over. And that’s why I love watching him even more. The magic is still there at times, but his game is not as consistent as it was, he’s lost a little of his speed and his winning edge is less keen than it was. He’s become more human, really.
Which makes his quest to beat the superhumans Nadals, Djokovics et al of this world even more interesting. He’s the hero with a past, the man struggling to go beyond his limits. Just once more.
He could do it in years gone by, and though his body is not as spry as it once was, his mind and heart keep pushing him to the limits – to fight as far and as long as he can while being a mere mortal.
He is Hector, a brave man who’s fighting an impossible enemy. We all admire Achilles, because perfection shines with a cold beauty that’s impossible to ignore. But we don’t love him – not until he is brought down by his own weakness. Because perfection is shimmering and enticing, but arrogant and untouchable.
Epic is about your heart, it’s the process of being moved to care about someone because they strive with all, and more.
Even if it’s doomed.
Even if it’s an impossible quest that will end in tragedy, or defeat. Epic is the process, the journey, the struggle. It’s what we are, warts and greatness and vulnerability. Epic is being beaten, sometimes or too often, though we’d all like it not to be true.
Epic is going down fighting.
The dominant Federer would not have made a good book protagonist. But the current Federer is the old gunslinger who steps up under the midday sun, ready for a last duel. He’s used to winning because he’s been Federer, but he doesn’t really know if this time it’s going to be enough.
Which is exactly what the epic hero should be.
Now there’s got to be one more book in there…