I was watching “Monk”, season 4 episode 3, where at the end Natalie says “Mitch was right. The great ones play hurt”. She was surprised by the “bold” and unusual action by Mr. Monk, but even with this context I cannot figure out what exactly she meant by “the great ones play hurt”, and my guesses in the past haven’t always been right.

Of course I searched online, but no useful results. I have no idea who Mitch is, maybe something I missed in the series. If it’s a pop culture reference, I apologise but I couldn’t find anything that pointed me to it. I also checked the definitions on urban dictionary, which usually contains at least one good explanation of an idiom, but this time it still wasn’t satisfying. If someone could help, would appreciate it!

  • 2
    I'm going to guess that it means that it means something like, "even though injured, the great ones persevere."
    – user888379
    Jun 13, 2020 at 22:35
  • 1
    Absent any real context (I have never seen "Monk" and have no idea what it is; "Mitch" is unknown to me too, and who or what a "great one" is, is a mystery) unfortunately, everything will be a guess. In some contexts, "to play hurt" is the same as "to pretend to be hurt", and "hurt" can mean "offended, saddened," as in "hurt feelings" or injured.
    – Greybeard
    Jun 13, 2020 at 23:05
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    Yeah, as @user888379 suggests I suspect this refers to a sports player who will continue to play even when injured.
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 14, 2020 at 0:02

1 Answer 1


I believe that Mitch is Natalie's deceased husband, certainly not any recent icon of note but an occasional presence in the drama. "The great ones play hurt" is a way of saying that the best players play though the pain, meaning in spite of it. They Persevere just like user888379.

  • That's right, I realized who "Mitch" was shortly after, but it plays no significance in the meaning. Makes sense, thanks.
    – Nagev
    Jun 14, 2020 at 16:30

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