Friday, May 4, 2012

Crying over Mariano

I'm sure there will be no shortages of fond reflective pieces all over the interwebs today about Mariano Rivera. He's just too good. At his craft, at his job, at his age, as a person. The first ballot Hall of Famer is the all-time saves leader, a playoff warrior, and so consistent performing a duty that routinely chews up and spits out it's participant. When you sit back and look at the gravity of the injury: his season is done. Then expand wider to his career, his influence in the clubhouse and the field it's almost too much to take in.

As a Phillies fan, I'm wondering why I feel sad for Mo. Sure he's a good guy and an excellent ballplayer, but that hasn't elicited a feeling that is best described as "bummer" in me before. Especially from a non-Phillie.

When events like this happen, people want to feel involved. They want to participate to reflect and share their feelings as if it's entirely unique and personal. When Whitney Houston died, it's not uncommon for people to express their feelings over Facebook or Twitter. iTunes record sales for Houston shoot up thousands of percents because why? Did all of these Houston fans not own the Bodyguard soundtrack? No, they weren't really fans in the first place, but they wanted that experience of being included and participating in the magic that was her music. Something that many of those iTunes purchasers took for granted while she was alive, only to show up late to the party once they realized her talents are now finite.

The benefit of knowing and acknowledging the above paragraph is that you don't succumb to such empty and soulless trysts of a nostalgia you never had but then, suddenly, wanted.

So that has very little to do with my emotional output for Mariano. I think most of the bummer feel comes from just the circumstances of seeing one of the all time greats of baseball history go down in a heap. Appearing mortal. Abruptly (potentially) ending his illustrious career not on his terms, but on the terms of a freakish accident.

We have all seen players that hang around too longtarnish their legacy, put on jerseys that just don't look right, force comebacks, or are forced to retire because their bodies just can't take it anymore. Very few athletes are able to or capable of making the decision to leave on their terms -- at the right time. Mariano looked like he was going to be able to make that decision. He was healthy, coherent, still on top of his game, and before the season started he hinted at possibly thinking about retiring. He earned that right. He was prepared to leave the game with as much class and respect as he entered it with.

Should this be the end for Mariano Rivera, it's just not the way any baseball fan would want it scripted. His #42 jersey will be the last 42 worn in baseball for the rest of time. It'll be Exit Sandman, and well, that just plain sucks.

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