Rookie of the Year

The Last Word on When to Quit

This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #97. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.

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A tongue-in-cheek but also painfully earnest look at pop culture and anything else that deserves to be ridiculed while at the same time regarded with the utmost respect. It is written by Matt Marrone and emailed to Stu Horvath, who adds any typos or factual errors that might appear within.

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One clear idea emerges from that crucible, forged and hard as rolling steel:
We mustn’t give up.
Ever.

I went to L.A. for the World Series.

I also went to Houston for the World Series, but I didn’t have coffee and cherry pie with a Woodsman there, so for the purposes of this story it doesn’t count.

My trip to Los Angeles was a work trip and there was a lot of work and a lot of baseball. There was also a ton of Twin Peaks. I had drinks at the bar where Diane first appears in Season 3; ate lunch at the diner where the waitress passes out in Part 8; took that aforementioned coffee and cherry pie – and a photo – with one of the actual Woodsmen at the Double R Halloween pop-up in Hollywood; and I even bought a package of jerky at the same deli in Burbank – the same checkout counter, too – where Sarah Palmer had her chilling encounter with dried, smoked vacuum-packed turkey.

I didn’t have time to get to Glastonbury Grove, about an hour’s cab ride each way from my hotel, but I did have one last Twin Peaks treat waiting for me when I got home.

Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier had arrived on Halloween, in an Amazon box thousands of miles away in Queens, as I watched the Dodgers beat the Astros to force a Game 7 at Chavez Ravine.

When I got home two days later, I reintroduced myself to my family. But the minute my wife left for work the next morning and I’d dispatched my son to school, I tore it open. I burned through the surprisingly thin volume in a single sitting.

There are a couple twists and more answers than you might expect. And a whole host of flaws, too, but my main takeaway wasn’t about any of that.

What struck me most were the final words of the book, already excerpted above, and now here again:

One clear idea emerges from that crucible, forged and hard as rolling steel:
We mustn’t give up.
Ever.

When Part 18 of Season 3 ended in a Carrie Page/Laura Palmer scream, it left me with a crushing, hopeless feeling that lingered for weeks.

I’ve written about it in this space before, about my interpretation, partly conceived in self-defense at that knockout gut-punch. I love the ending –even, if not especially, because of that pain. But damn.

And then comes The Final Dossier, which goes so far as to put the owl cave ring on the finger of our current president – little surprise if you follow Frost on Twitter, or if you simply share his growing concern for the times we live in – yet ends on a hopeful note.

The sentiment in those final three paragraphs is what seemingly dooms Dale Cooper in Season 3. It’s the belief that betrays him into becoming the next Philip Jeffries, untethered from time. It’s Cooper’s refusal to give up, long after he seemingly should have folded a decent hand instead of going all-in against the devil. After 25 years, it’s the same fatal flaw that traps him in another kind of purgatory – if not hell itself – where the deepest trauma is played out on a loop that lasts forever.

That, for me, is the feeling at the close of Season 3. But The Final Dossier delivers one last voice – that of the increasingly confounded and confounding Agent Tamara Preston, who hurriedly books her plane ticket back to Philadelphia to escape Twin Peaks’ changed past, just as it begins to dictate a disorienting future. She hints that maybe, just maybe, going all-in might not be so catastrophic.

I know I’m not alone in wanting to believe Cooper’s journey doesn’t lead to endless, repeating failure, that there’s room for something more, something less bitter. But as I watched him stagger at the end of Part 18, I didn’t feel that. Not in my bones. But these words? Well, they don’t reveal an escape hatch. They don’t promise a different outcome the next time through the cycle. Or even that there will be a next time through the cycle. In fact, since Tamara Preston doesn’t know about that scene outside the Palmer/Tremont house – though the two timelines seem to be melding together as she speaks – her words don’t seem to tell us anything at all about those final, harrowing moments.

But Mark Frost knows about them. And while this is simply one of the two co-creators’ arguably non-canonical account of the story, told through the eyes of a newbie character who isn’t ostensibly referring here to the finale – and perhaps is speaking more to us about the real world we as readers inhabit – the book ends exactly as I might have hoped.

One clear idea emerges from that crucible, forged and hard as rolling steel:
We mustn’t give up.
Ever.

That’s 18 words — one for each part of Season 3, including the finale — and one tiny crack, just wide enough to let a single beam of light get in.

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Matt Marrone is a senior MLB editor at ESPN.com. He has been Unwinnable’s reigning Rookie of the Year since 2011. You can follow him on Twitter @thebigm.

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