Yankees Closer Mariano Rivera
A few notes:
A short note:
Mariano, thank you. People this week have waxed poetic about your demeanor, your dignity, and, yes, that impossible ERA (earned run average). You’ve made almost every Yankee game you’ve pitched in an eight-inning game, and for that, we thank you. I’ve always appreciated your intimidating intro with Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” When I was younger, the only other people who had entrance theme songs of this caliber were The Undertaker and Triple H. However, you were different. People keep mentioning how humble and gracious you are, and I’m sure those are great qualities that people like to see in their athletes. Yet, it seemed like you showed off every time you were up on the mound. Every interview I’d read about your mistakes (the Boston Red Sox 2004 slip-ups, the Marco Scutaro walk-off against the A’s, the Arizona Diamondbacks debacle in 2001), you took personal responsibility one step further.
You didn’t just say it was your fault, you didn’t even give the batter credit for getting the hit. In fact, you believed in your stuff so deeply that any mistake you made must have been because you threw the pitch a few inches up. It spoke to a belief in yourself that I wish others (including me) would emulate. Your aura is the stuff of legends, and we may not ever see anything like this again. In a time when we always want to find out how our superstars tick, find their flaws, then turn on them the minute they don’t meet our lofty expectations, you laid it all out on the field for us, begging us to look at your artistry, mastery, and frigid science under New York City-level pressure.
Rather than beating yourself up for the mistakes, you kept sanding this gargantuan legacy you’ve built, constantly working on the two or three pitches that’s bewildered bench-warmers and future Hall of Fame hitters alike. That’s what people don’t get, either. You took those memorable mistakes and only got more focused, more enigmatic, answered more questions, and mentored more players. You’re one of the few people who, when people shine a spotlight on you, you shined brighter than that light could provide. As almost perfect as you were in the ninth inning, we all still wanted to watch. We just knew, and so did you.
The tag line for the last season has been #ExitSandman. Major League Baseball now has to wake up to a baseball where a ninth inning is just a little less guaranteed upon your entry.