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Yankee Rivera’s Class Act Is a Teachable Moment

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Let me make this clear from the outset, I am a Mets fan, but I have nothing but admiration for New York Yankee great Mariano Rivera. He has always been a class act, and now that he has gone down with a season-ending ACL injury to his right knee, he has risen to face the situation as would be expected of a legend. Indeed, the cream does rise to the top.

Mired in the center of the country in Kansas City instead of at home in the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium, Rivera still came out and faced the swelling crowd of reporters with his characteristic good humor and genial attitude. He handled the questions deftly, and how tiring they must be to a man standing on crutches, but Rivera answered those reporters and never wavered. He also made it clear that it’s not over, not by a long shot.

In recent times we have seen the implosion of the professional athlete. I call them “sports brats,” and this runs through all sports. Professional athletes tend to forget that kids are watching them, and as hard as it is to face, every moment can be a teachable one for impressionable youth. We like to gloss over the ugly side of sports to fit our needs, but for every Mean Joe Greene handing a kid a Coke moment (which was, of course, an advertisement), we get much more of the Amar’e Stoudemire smashing his hand, and that is not what sport is all about.

Somewhere along the way we have lost sportsmanship. Perhaps this is an archaic concept now, but I think it still applies, perhaps now (in this amazingly fast-paced, technological world) more than ever. While kids get the idea that the only thing that matters is winning no matter what the cost, the truth is that how you play the game is certainly just as (if not more) important now. In a few seconds, an ugly scene can go viral, available for the world to see again and again on YouTube.

We have lost sight of civility and the idea that rules structure a game, as do codes of conduct fitting a professional athlete. We have Stoudemire losing his cool and ruining his team’s chance in the playoffs, the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal, Tiger Woods destroying his family and career, Roger Clemens (and all the other stars linked to steroids) letting kids think it’s okay to take performance enhancing drugs, Serena Williams cursing out a line judge, and the list goes on and on. These sports brats do not embody anything but the allegiance to the almighty me; oh, and for those kids watching, who cares?

That is why Rivera leaves a great impression with his work ethic, his demeanor, and his embodiment of sportsmanship. You can only hope for the sport and for the man that he is right, that he will be back and pitch again. This way he can go out on his own terms and not with an injury beyond his control. It is a long road ahead for Rivera – it’s bottom of the ninth, bases are loaded, and the best hitter in the league is at the plate, but remember this is Mariano Rivera, a legend in his own time and a class act all the way!

Photo Credit – cnn.com

About Victor Lana

Victor Lana has published numerous stories, articles, and poems in literary magazines and online. His books In a Dark Time (1994), A Death in Prague (2002), Move (2003), The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories (2005) and Like a Passing Shadow (2009) are available online and as e-books. He has won the National Arts Club Award for Poetry, but has concentrated mostly on fiction and non-fiction prose in recent years. He has worked as faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with Blogcritics since July 2005, has edited many articles, was co-head sports editor with Charley Doherty, and now is a Culture and Society editor. He views Blogcritics as one of most exciting, fresh, and meaningful opportunities in his writing life.
  • Artie D’Alessio

    Great, Vic…..LOVED it…..you are always right on!!!

  • http://wp.blogcritics.org/writers/charlie-doherty Charlie Doherty

    As a Red Sox fan, you would think it would be hard for me to highly respect any Yankee at any time. That’s not the case with Rivera. He is the Michael Jordan of his sport – and even better than him since MJ sort of sullied his legacy a bit with his unsuccessful comeback with the Wizards.

    I don’t think this is the last the baseball world will see of Mariano The Great, but if it is, it’s the best career any closer has ever had that he is leaving behind.

  • http://viclana.blogspot.com/ Victor Lana

    Thanks Charlie and Artie.

    Mariano is that kind of player that rises above team loyalty because I think we realize how much he means not to just the Yanks but to the game of baseball.