Sports fans and non-sports fans alike woke to the news – Mariano Rivera, arguably the best closer in recent baseball history tore his ACL and will be out for the rest of the season. Even those sports fans who don’t cheer for the Yankees met the news with a mix of heart break and nausea. The era of Mariano Rivera is coming to a close and it’s hard to imagine.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Mo – think of your typical professional athlete. Now think of the opposite. That’s him. A humble guy who is so proud to be doing what he loves. He’s a guy who realizes he’s a position to give back and does so regularly. He runs a charitable organization that gives out over $500,000 to needy children each year and in 2010 he gave and additional $627,000 of his own money (source). He invests in his local community. He is soft spoken and takes responsibilities for the mistakes he makes. He’s a rare type of guy – not just in sports but in life.
As a closer, he’s quite simply the best. He made his debut as a Yankee in 1995 and never left. He’s a 12 time All Star, A 5 time World Series Champ, a World Series MVP (remember – he’s a closer, that’s a huge accomplishment), the all time leader in regular season saves, post season saves, and games finished (source).
But as a 42 year old there were doubts about whether he’d be back next year. His contract expires at the end of this season and while Mo is still great he started the 2012 season having already decided whether he wants another year – and characteristic to his reserved personality he hasn’t turned his decision into a spectacle, planning to retire or continue on quietly and respectfully.
My heart breaks for Mariano Rivera. His legacy and the legacy of the #42, deserve a better ending. New York Times sports writer Tyler Kepner sums it up nicely in Imagining a 9th Inning Without Its Star without too much technical baseball talk and with a last paragraph that will cause even the hardest of hearts to melt a little.