Friday, May 4, 2012

Mariano Rivera

This Is a Huge Loss 

I know this is silly.  I, myself, have wished plenty of times that I could go off into a comfortable retirement at 42 years old.  But the potential end to the career of Yankee closer Mariano Rivera because of a torn A.C.L.  really hit me hard today.  It's not because of what it means to the Yankees, which, apologies to David Robertson, is BAD NEWS.  It's not really because of what it means for Rivera.  The injury is, of course, painful; and I'm sure he didn't want to go out this way.  But he will be able to live a normal, comfortable life in his native Panama, or wherever he chooses to settle, once he recovers.

It hit me so hard, I think, because -- and I know this is corny -- he is such a great example of how to live your life.  The key to his success was that nothing that happened on the field ever knocked him off of his feet.

Along with Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, Berra, DiMaggio, and Jeter, Mariano Rivera is a Yankee demi-god.  He's Major League Baseball's all-time career saves leader and the best pure closer ever to have played the game.  But he also blew a save in Game 4 of the 1997 ALDS that ended up costing the Yankees that series.  He blew a save in what would have been the series-winning Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS that led to the Red Sox unprecedented -- and humiliating -- comeback from a 3 games to 0 deficit to win that series.  Perhaps most devastating, though, was his blown save against the Diamondbacks in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series.  He cost the Yankees the game and the Series with a throwing error on a bunt and by giving up the game-winning bloop single to Luis Gonzalez.  He took each of these failures in stride, though -- part of the deal.  During post-game interviews he'd always talk about how sometimes you get them, and sometimes they get you.  And he meant it.  And, especially after that Bill Buckner moment that was 2001, he kept being great.

We should all live like that.  It's just baseball.  It's just a game.  It's just one test.  It's just work.  Tomorrow is another day.  I try to do it, and much of the time I can't.  This guy did it on one of the world's biggest stages every day.  I know Mariano Rivera is a very religious guy, and maybe that's what allows him to approach his work, his life this way.  I'm not religious, but I think the key is finding something to grab onto that's bigger than you.  Your family, maybe.  Your writing or your music, if that's what you're into.

So the end of the Mariano Rivera era isn't just a sad day for the Yankees or for baseball.  It's a sad day for everybody who could use a role model that says, "I've failed.  I've failed in front of millions, and my name is on the list of the biggest failures in sports history, right next to Bill Buckner.  Forget that, though.  I came back the next day and the next day and the next day, and I just kept doing what I do the way I do it.  And I kicked all their asses."

Here's wishing Mo a speedy recovery and a wonderful retirement.  Can't wait for that Cooperstown speech.

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