Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 495

“The Year of the Hot Jock” is essentially the story of an immoral man who skids willfully to his own destruction. An embodiment of all that is negative about American society, the great jock Pablo Diaz, like the horses he rides to victory, races thoughtlessly to his own demise.

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The story has little to do with jocks or horse racing; rather, it shows the end of a man who, typifying the vision of America and its values of greed and materialism, exists in a state of moral dissolution. Diaz has everything that money can buy: expensive cars; strings of women, including his wife, who satisfy his physical lust but do not give him love; children who are not subjects of love but objects whose affection is to be bought with mopeds and wide-screen television sets; respect and reputation as defined by this society; as well as total self-blindness.

As a jock—in both senses of the word—Diaz not only rides horses and women but also manifests the characteristics of the male muscle without thought or morals. As “The Year of the Hot Jock” is not about horse races or jocks, it is not about sports. Irvin Faust uses the jock here as a representative American type, much as Arthur Miller did with Willy Loman years earlier in Death of a Salesman (1949). It is the characteristics of the person, not the job, that are exposed and attacked.

Because Pablo Diaz’s immorality is a given, he experiences little in the way of moral choices. For years, he has been following the instructions of his trainer whenever he races, finishing in whatever position he is ordered. When his friend Rafe approaches him with the same deal, he hesitates out of loyalty to his trainer and the danger of not knowing for whom he is working. When Rafe is caught, Diaz resolves to do what he considers to be the right thing, which is to give money to Rafe’s wife and kids while he is in prison. Distancing himself from the actual conspiracy of pulling the race, Diaz denies what he has done; nevertheless, he places second in this race as he was asked to do by his friend.

Holding the entire story together is the overall metaphor: Life is like a horse race, and those who run fast and hard will finish close to first. This, in turn, does not mean victory and happiness, but certain and early destruction. Those who live by the sellout will die by the sellout. Diaz’s way of life is not only pointless and misguided, but also stupid and evil. Not only does he work his own destruction, but he also lives a hopeless and purposeless life. Diaz, along with his race to the finish, is a comment on the proverbial “life in the fast lane” in America. Ostensible success, as defined by society, is a culprit that not only destroys but also prevents a meaningful life and activity.

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