Boston, forgive me, but Mariano Rivera is great

This week, I wanted to write about something flashy, something exciting or even something that would cause a reader to shed a tear.

I hail from Boston, so I figured I would write something awesome about this year’s Red Sox team. They have clinched the AL East title and are well on their way to finishing with the best record in the MLB. After the last two years of debauchery in Boston baseball, it was refreshing to see guys with big bushy beards, bigger personalities and the biggest desire to win. This team is reminiscent of the ‘04 Red Sox who christened themselves “The Idiots” while on their way to ending an 86-year-old title drought. Along the way they engineered the greatest playoff comeback in sports history and captured the hearts of New England.

I figured I would write about the Sox because being in Illinois, everyone thinks that all Sox are white and 86-year-old droughts are nothing when compared to 105 years. I knew most people would not be bothered with a story about the best team in baseball, and seeing as not many New Yorkers make their way out to the Midwest (it’s too slow for them), I assumed I would not offend anyone by rhapsodizing about my beloved Sox. New York’s baseball team is rife with injury and scandal and is on pace to finish third (maybe even fourth!) in the AL East. I figured I would throw some jokes in about A-Rod and his steroid use, and perhaps even some digs at Joe Girardi for not being able to keep his players injury-free. Then I thought of Mariano Rivera.

And there went my hopes and dreams for a Boston column. I felt an unearthly pull to pay my respects to the greatest relief pitcher in the history of the game, even though he spent his whole career wearing pinstripes.

Whew. Now that I’ve described my thought process in choosing a topic, let me lay out for you, dear reader, exactly how I feel about Rivera.

I get sick to my stomach every time he comes in to close out a game against the Red Sox. Full-blown nausea that does not subside until about 30 minutes after the game ends. I have anxiety when the eighth inning hits because I know this is probably the last chance my team will have to score any runs against the Yankees’ bullpen. The ninth inning is effectively nonexistent in terms of offense. Strangely, while my stomach is doing somersaults, I have a simultaneous wave of respect for Rivera wash over me. I cannot help but like the guy. He is dominant at what he does but never talks trash, never loses his composure and never seems to utter any sort of expletive on the field. He is beloved by his teammates and the city of New York and deserves lots of credit for spending 19 years in the same uniform. He and Derek Jeter were cornerstones for the Yankees’ success during my lifetime, from the late ’90s all the way through 2009, when the Bronx Bombers won their most recent World Series.

Another interesting thing to note is that Rivera is the last active player to wear the No. 42 on a daily basis. The number was retired league-wide in 1997, but any player who wore it then was allowed to retain the number with whatever team they were on until the end of their career. It is somewhat fitting that the last man to wear Jackie Robinson’s number is probably the only one who deserves the number retired in his own right.

My last ounce of reluctant respect for Rivera is based around his lack of PED use. It sounds foolish to laud someone for not doing something wrong, but Rivera was one of the most dominant players in the MLB during the heart of the steroids era. In 2001, when Barry Bonds blasted 73 home runs, Rivera saved 50 games, which at the time was the fourth-most saves ever in a single season. The whiff of suspicion of steroid use has never drifted anywhere near Rivera, and hopefully it never will.

Rivera has been receiving acknowledgment of his great career all week, and thus I add my small contribution to his ever-growing pile of praise. Now please, before the Red Sox have to play him again, leave, dear Sandman.

P.S. To all my friends and family at home: I have failed, please accept me back and please chastise me gently. I sang the praises of a Yankee. Wow. College has changed me.

Peter is a freshman in Media. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @pbaileywells22.