I knew that this text, coming from my Red Sox fan-friend, could not be good.
"Please don't tell me you're at work and I'm the one to break the news..." he continued.
He was, but who cares? There's no good way to receive news like that. I might as well have been there the moment it happened, watching Mo shag fly balls during batting practice in Kaufman Stadium when he caught his cleat awkwardly between the warning track and the grass, twisting his knee and ultimately tearing his ACL. Maybe I could have helped?
Beyond winning, there is a very select number of things that a true fan holds to be more sacred in sports. There are the franchises themselves, and what they mean to a city in the grander scheme. I can only imagine how fans of the Dodgers felt as their team was torn out of Brooklyn and shipped to Los Angeles. There are the stadiums and arenas that house the countless memories we accrue from years of fandom . I am admittedly envious that Fenway still stands, even if it's idea of legroom is a cruel joke and there's no designated area for non-denominational prayer. I miss the old Yankee Stadium.
Finally, there are the players that make those memories, their legacy, and how we, as fans, get to say goodbye and thank them for spending their careers playing for us. In 2001, 56,000 fans had the chance to chant Paul O'Neill's name during the last innings of game 5 of the World Series, the final game he would play in Yankee Stadium. Last season, Jorge Posada was able to send himself off with a game-winning, division-clinching RBI to the delight of the home crowd. Andy Pettitte's final season, 2009, was so good (he won every series-clinching game in the playoffs including World Series Game 6, at home, against the Phillies' Pedro Martinez) that he has decided to come back for one more.
And while we aren't always so lucky, we were sure we would be with Mariano Rivera. Everything up to this point has been perfect. Simply put, it wasn't supposed to happen like this. He was supposed to go out on the mound, to a thunderous ovation in the Bronx, throwing one last bat-breaking cutter, closing out one final save. It did not truly matter if this moment came in the World Series or the regular season, just as the gravity of the final game in the old Yankee Stadium was not offset by the fact that the team had missed the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. A disappointing 2008 season was insignifcant in the shadow of the history of Yankee Stadium. In that way, Mariano's career speaks for itself, and he deserved, deserves that final moment on the mound.