It’s been said that the only guarantees in life are death and taxes.
For the better part of my life, certainly for my formative years, the only guarantee I’d known was that if the Yankees had a close lead late in the game, “Enter Sandman” would soon be blasting at scores of decibels.
To be honest, I wish I had something profound to write about here, but I don’t. I’m just…sad. I’ve been a Yankee fan since 1995 – coincidentally Mariano Rivera’s rookie season; If baseball has been one of the biggest parts of my life since that time, it can be said that Mariano Rivera has had a major presence in my life. I’m not trying to be hyperbolic, but for almost two decades I’ve been watching Mariano Rivera perform his job with such alacrity that I’ve taken him for granted; there have been countless times in my life where I’ve simply turned off the game in the 9th inning, already knowing the outcome – the Yankees would win (by the same margin at which I left the game), Mariano Rivera would smile, and high-five his teammates. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
For years now, we, as Yankee fans, have been preparing ourselves for the day in which we would be forced to replace our immortal closer. Still, we never expected for it to be like this – with Rivera clutching his knee and being carted off of the Kauffman Stadium field, all the while smiling as he rode off. I’m not sure there’s a greater quality to define Mariano Rivera with than his smile. Even in the worst of times, the man finds the best in everything.
As a team, the Yankees have the personnel to replace Mariano sufficiently, but emotionally? – I’m not sure anyone is ready for this. Mariano Rivera included. There aren’t enough words in my ACL-induced, half-drunk lexicon to sufficiently describe the emotional attachment that I’ve just now realized I have to this man. Sports-related injuries happen, and a lot of times they suck, but I’ve never felt a real emotion as a result. Shit, Mariano Rivera’s been hurt before and it didn’t feel like this. I mean, it was painful to watch Antonio Osuna (remember him?) attempt to close out games, but it didn’t feel like this. Seeing Mariano’s career possibly end in this manner, though, seems to put everything in perspective. Seeing this happen really just makes me appreciate Derek Jeter that much more.
This isn’t some big existential crossroads for me or anything, but maybe it’s time for me to stop taking things/people/moments for granted, and appreciate them while they’re here. I don’t consider myself a pessimist, but I suppose I do live with a glass-half-empty mentality. I see Derek Jeter batting .400 and I can’t help but think that he’ll have a stretch where he hits .200 and go through some sort of regression to the mean. But fuck it. Not anymore. I’m just going to ride this out, and enjoy every last inning of Derek Jeter’s career, for which I am blessed to have witnessed. Because at some point – possibly when we least expect it – it’s all going to end.
There’s no point in belaboring just how great Mariano Rivera has been – the best way to put it, really, is that there is no one on this planet who is better at their job than Mariano Rivera is at his. Witnessing the Mariano Rivera era is almost like living in the Shakespearean era, except instead of flawless iambic pentameter, Rivera has been equipped with a bat-shattering cutter. There can never be another writer like Shakespeare just as there will never be another closer like Mariano Rivera – I can only be grateful that I’ve been able to watch him pitch for eighteen years.
If I could travel to any moment within the Mariano Rivera era – besides stopping 9/11, of course – I would have go back to the first time I ever turned off a Yankee game as he was pitching and punch myself in the face. It may not be the most poetic ending to piece about a man whose pitching style best resembled poetry, but it’s the only appropriate reaction. I really didn’t know just how good I had it.