I don’t like the New York Yankees. Anyone who knows me well knows that. I always root for whoever is playing against them. This weekend will be different – my admiration for Mariano Rivera will trump those feelings.
Mariano Rivera is the greatest relief pitcher in baseball history and he’s retiring at the end of this season. There have been countless tributes to him in recent weeks, as he nears retirement. One of the best, by Joe Posnanski is here. Another, from ESPN, is here. This entire season, as Rivera has played his last game in each city, his opponents have paid tribute to him, celebrating his career and honoring his legacy. Through it all, he’s been gracious, appreciative and professional.
I can think of no other athlete who has been so universally admired and respected while being one of the best in his sport for so long. Barry Sanders, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Serena Williams and others have been at the top of their sports for years, but each had detractors and critics. Try to find anything negative about Rivera, anywhere – it’s awfully hard to do. He’s a humble, private, respectful man. In a time when athletes are no longer role models, he’s a throwback – the kind of player every kid would hope to be (and parents would dream of their child becoming).
I always root against the Yankees, but this weekend will be different. The Yankees will close out their season with three otherwise meaningless games against the Houston Astros. I’ll root for them to win, in a close game, every time. I’ll root for them to have a lead as the game enters the ninth inning, so Rivera can enter, just a few more times, to close out the game. Let him earn the last saves of his unparalleled career – he deserves it.
For now…I’ll leave you with this thought:
Mariano Rivera, one of baseball’s greatest players – and a great man – is retiring. Like millions of other fans, I will miss watching him play.