Sparks Fly On E Street: Bruce Springsteen, “The Hitter” (2005)

At first listen, a depressing story about a boxer whose glory days have gone by. An earlier version of “The Wrestler?”

Well, during that first listen I sort of got caught up in the violence and the gory details. Leather gloves slipping “‘tween skin and bone,” broken jaws, blood on the floor. And actually, worse than that was the resignation, the weary tone of the storyteller’s voice. The light of success was gone, replaced by a fading substitute.

When I was finally able to hold the dislocating emotional shock of the story at a remove, I noticed that I’d missed the true heart of “The Hitter,” delivered with these lines: Understand, in the end, Ma, every man plays the game/If you know me one different then speak out his name. Does every person at some point in their life give in to a grand bargain? Trading adventure for comfort? True love for security? Wealth for a life well-lived? Part of me thinks that’s absurd. It’s binary, reductionist thought, coming from a purely cynical outlook.

On my darker days, I’ve certainly had thoughts along those lines. But when the clouds clear, I have to admit that yeah, I do know me a few different.

Up next: All I’m Thinkin’ About

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to, and Salon, he originated several of our weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at
Mark Saleski