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From The Editors: Best of the Good, Worst of the Bad

Larry Bean

“Jesus saves,” declared a bumper-sticker slogan for the Big Bad Boston Bruins of the early 1970s, “and Espo scores on the rebound.” (“Espo” is Phil Esposito, the former Bruins’ center who held the league’s single-season goal-scoring record prior to the Wayne Gretzky era.) Now, Santa Claus saves, and Lucifer, Vlad the Impaler, and Caligula are among the very bad but not so big figures that could score on the rebound. Santa is one of the goaltenders on the new Good Versus Evil football table, while the latter three are opposing strikers.

The Eleven Forty Co. (www.elevenforty.com) of Scotland makes the table, and when the Scottish say football, they mean soccer. In America, table soccer is better known by the trademarked term Foosball, which is how the word for football is pronounced in Germany, the country where this table game first became popular—in bier stubes among soccer players—80 years ago. The Good Versus Evil model is a limited edition of Eleven Forty’s made-to-order Opus football table, with which it introduced its Doppelganger technology. The process enables the company to construct from photographs or other images miniature, handpainted, cast-aluminum twins of friends and family or, in this case, saints and psychopaths. (Mother Teresa and Mr. Hyde are both represented on the Good Versus Evil pitch.) The London marketing company 20ltd.com (www.20ltd.com) commissioned the Good Versus Evil table and will sell only 20 of them, each for £14,500, or about $29,000.

Like our Best of the Best selections, the soccer table’s rosters—which feature only beings who are fictional, deceased, or immortal—invite discussion over the relative merits of each choice and prompt questions concerning who was omitted. (Dr. Jekyll but no Dr. King?) The eclectic nature of the lineups indicates the vast range of definitions for good and evil, even when the concepts are viewed through only a British/Judeo-Christian prism. Flash Gordon was selected to the Good squad, as was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, ironically as a striker. A British soccer god, Bobby Moore, captain of the English national team that won the 1966 World Cup, is a stopper, and God flanks Mary Poppins.

Sir Thomas More, the British statesman and archetype for attorneys who, as portrayed in the play and film A Man for All Seasons, noted, “I’m not God,” while asserting the sanctity of the law, made the Good team. More’s king, Henry VIII, lacked such humility. In 1535, after declaring himself Supreme Head of the Church of England, Henry ordered More, his former confidante, executed because he refused to repudiate the pope and accept the annulment of the king’s marriage, his first of six, to Catherine of Aragon.

Needless to say, Henry VIII, who later apparently decided that it was easier to behead a wife than to annul a marriage, was never considered for the Good team, but Dr. Martin Luther King was, along with British abolitionist William Wilberforce, though neither made the final cut. “I think that Martin Luther King should have been on the Good side,” says Marcus Husselby, the managing editor for 20ltd.com. “We certainly wanted to mix it up a bit. We wanted to avoid the standard good-and-evil chess set with the Stalins and the like. Of course, Hitler is still on there.

“We also wanted to put a couple of players in there that people had to think about,” Husselby adds. Christopher Robin would be one of those players. Presumably, the young boy from the Winnie the Pooh stories represents the innocence of youth. Yet life was no pot of honey for the person on whom the character was based, Christopher Robin Milne, the son of Winnie the Pooh author A.A. Milne. Of his father, with whom he was estranged, the adult Christopher Robin wrote, “[He] left me nothing but the empty fame of being his son.”

Robin bristled at being what we now call a “celebutante,” and while that role may lack nobility, even the worst of those who embrace it could not crack the Evil team’s lineup, a literal and literary murderers’ row: Hitler, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Jack the Ripper, Rosa Klebb (of From Russia with Love fame and perhaps the evilest of geniuses from the Bond series), the Child Catcher (playing goalkeeper opposite Santa Claus) from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and Lady MacBeth (not a murderer, but certainly an accessory before the fact).

The world’s present population has no shortage of candidates for a future Evil team, and the contents of the Best of the Best issue might be necessary diversions from that reality. Like the table soccer rotas, the lists of cars, yachts, watches, etc. that follow could be longer in many instances, but none of these rosters contains items unworthy of inclusion. That, at least, is the goal.

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