Mariano Rivera, born in Panama City, Panama, is the greatest relief pitcher in the history of baseball. No serious person will argue that point, I think. He has arrived at this status as a result of being a reliever—mainly the closer—for the New York Yankees, for nearly twenty years now.
Being a New York Yankee fan by birth (born in the Bronx even if I grew up largely on distant shores) those few times that Rivera blew a big save naturally loom unnaturally large in my memory, but taken as a whole his achievements defy explanation or even praise. What can you say about someone who is so beyond-the-norm of excellence?
2013 is to be his final year of pitching for the Yankees, at the age of 43, if the amazingly-stellar year that he’s having so far (30 saves, 1.83 ERA) does not compel him by acclamation to return for yet another year. There is much being said and written about his career and his character. He is clearly one of the most loved and respected players in baseball, by both friends and opponents, and by both players and fans.
In his “farewell” year, a persistent sub-theme in all of the media coverage is how Mariano Rivera—a Christian—is constantly giving primary credit to God for his talent and for his achievements.
Frankly speaking, this is a double-edged thing for believers (in God, not Mariano). Whenever a sports figure gives credit to God for some achievement—a home-run, a touch-down, a championship—it closely treads the line of complete absurdity. Why would God possibly care if one team or another won, or if one athlete or another triumphed in some nickel and dime contest? There are galaxies yet to be born; there are people dying, bereft; there is anguish beyond measure crying out for attention. The alleged concern of God with the success of some super-wealthy sportsman seems incongruous if not positively tasteless.
Why on earth (or in heaven) would God give a man named Mariano Rivera a mysterious and magical gift of mastery of this pitch, called “the cutter,” with which he could vanquish his baseball opponents year after year, leaving them helpless even though they all knew exactly what was coming, time after time after time?
Yet, might it just be conceivable, I wonder, that God would give such a gift, out of His infinite resources, just so that in this high profile farewell year for Mariano Rivera, people might read pieces like this one at CBS Sports?
Opportunities for pushing your brand are few, and they must be seized when they appear. God knows it’s true.