Boy, do the Yankees and their fans miss Mariano Rivera!
Until his retirement, the Yankees knew that if they could hold a lead until the eighth inning, they could bring in the Sandman to throw his wily cutter and shut down the opposition and score another victory.
Throughout 2013, his final season, Mariano was accorded tremendous respect, with presentations to him in many cities. Even the fans of such formidable foes as the Boston Red Sox and the New York Mets respectfully cheered for him.
Baseball lovers will tell their progeny that they saw the great Rivera pitch for the Yankees, much as their fathers told them about their memories of seeing the Babe, DiMaggio, and Koufax.
There is a great lesson to be gleaned from the Rivera hype, one that we need to impress upon ourselves and teach our children. The great Mariano, often called Mr. Automatic, with more saves than any other closer in baseball history (652), and the only player to date to be unanimously voted into baseball’s Hall of Fame, was far from infallible. It was he who failed to close out the decisive Game 7 of the 2001 World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, when he blew the save in the bottom of the ninth inning, when he allowed a bloop single with bases loaded to score the winning run.
The 2004 ALCS was even more disastrous for Rivera when he blew saves in Games 3, 4, and 5, allowing Boston to become the first team in MLB history to win a best-of-seven series in which they trailed three-games-to-none.
He began the 2005 season dismally, even getting booed by his own fans. Baseball journalists speculated if his days as a dominant pitcher were over.
And yet, he is regarded as the greatest closer ever.
It’s a lesson and a message that can’t be repeated enough. Greatness is not synonymous with perfection! Greatness is more about consistency, effort, goals, determination, and, perhaps most of all, resiliency.
We live in a society in which everyone wants to be the best, and we feel that second place is the same as last place. The result is that people are often trying to outdo each other, and wear an artificial persona, pretending to be something they’re not to impress people they don’t care for. What a tragedy!
A person must be aware of who he/she is, which includes one’s individual weaknesses and strengths.
In our time, we have seen the heights that “American Boys” could achieve in Torah leadership. Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt”l, the Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva, attended Ida Crown in Chicago, Rav Sheinberg zt”l, a Yankees fan as a child and known by his peers as “Lefty Sheinberg,” became the Rosh Yeshiva of Torah Ore, and Rav Yitzchok Sheiner shlita, who attended public school in Pittsburgh in his youth, is today the beloved Kaminetzer Rosh Yeshiva.
We all have ups and downs. The question is what we capitalize on. A person who tries to cover over his shortcomings and pretend they don’t exist will end as a failure. The successful person, however, will embrace his imperfections and learn to work with his strengths.
Yes, we must always have high aspirations and hopes for ourselves. But at the same time, we need to accept and love ourselves for who we are, and we must appreciate and value what we have achieved through our efforts. We have to be the best we can be, not the best that anyone can be!