Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Legend of Mariano Rivera

The kid, no more than six or seven, sees the pitcher warming up in the bullpen.

"Is that Mariano?" He asks, his eyes wide with excitement.

"No," says the man sitting next to him. No, it's not Mo warming up in the bullpen, it's Damaso Marte.


One is 42, one is 43, and yet there are such different emotions attached to the two numbers.

What's the difference between 42 and 43?

What's the difference between the sun and the moon, night and day, water and land?

One enters the game and there is an air of inevitability, even when he does his job: the Yankees will lose this game, it's just a matter of when.

One enters the game and there is an air of inevitability, because he does his job: we are witnessing the Hammer of G-d.


In his sci-fi series, Douglas Adams humorously proposed that the number 42 is the answer to life, the universe and everything.

For the Yankees, 42 is the answer, the solution to any ailment, any ill, any misstepping reliever.

Number two might be an icon, the number most readily associated with the team, but 42 is something else entirely.

Forty-two is legend. Myth. Forty-two cannot be mortal. It cannot.


Forty-two has had his failures, just as the Greek gods had theirs, but the failures are noticeable only because the successes are so great.

Of the eight teams to enter the 2009 postseason, midway through the LCS, only one has not blown a save opportunity. Only one.

You have three guesses.

You'll need one.


There is one reason that the legend grows: he does not lose himself in it.

He does not promote himself as the Greatest of All Time; he lets others do it for him.


When did we know?

Have we always known?

It's grown over the years, grown to the point that we cannot imagine life without Forty Two.

Sometimes they say that the most important ballplayers are the ones that you don't think about until after they are gone, but he has transcended this.

We know he can't pitch forever, but we hope, and he teases us.

He has the greatest season of his career at an age when most athletes have already begun to break down, with an injured shoulder to boot, and he follows it with 2009, with his 500th save, first career RBI, and a flat-out magic act last night.


Forty-two doesn't need any Chuck Norris facts, any internet memes or doctored videos. He doesn't need the promotion.

He just does his job. No more and no less.


He misplays the bunt.

Going to third is the right decision on the play, the out is right there for him to take, but he slips on the grass and we groan.

We hold our breath. Any other pitcher on the mound and surely some of us would have left, but we can't leave here. All he needs is a chance. A strike out and then a double play, maybe. A broken bat grounder. If anyone can do it, he can.

Chone Figgins grounds out to first. Mark Teixeira makes the put out.

Bobby Abreu is intentionally walked to set up a force, and then Torii Hunter grounds to Teixeira who gets the out at home.

We exhale, a little. An out can't score a run. Vladimir Guerrerro grounds out.

The Stadium explodes.

In this moment, anything is possible.

The legend grows.