My parents were Brooklyn Dodgers fans, in the era of "Wait Til Next Year!". On a shelf in my office are yearbooks from those powerhouse teams of the early 1950s. I was probably the only kid south of Paramus who had any idea who the hell George Shuba was, or what an Oisk might have been. And I grew up hating the Yankees for standing in the way, so many times, of those long ago Dodger teams. For preventing Campy and Duke and Junior and Newk and all the rest of them from winning more World Series and assuming their rightful place on Baseball Olympus.
I went to college and grad school in New England. This coincided with the Yankees rousing themselves from their decade-long slumber and once again becoming beasts. They remembered that they were the Yankees, damnit, and proceeded to use the Red Sox as punching bags with greater and greater precision. I lived in Connecticut; I lived in Boston. It was painful to watch.
2009. I found myself in a sports bar the night of the last game of the World Series, my Phillies in the days of thinking they were going to make a dynasty versus the resurgent, unkillable Yankees. Pedro Martinez is on the mount, pitching on guts and baling wire, and it's not getting the job done. The Phils, for their part, are flailing - Ryan Howard chasing, Chase Utley hurting, Jimmy Rollins trying to do too much - and they go down to defeat. The Yankees are world champions, and the Phillies aren't, not any more.
In other words, I hate the Yankees. I am second generation, or maybe third, hating the Yankees.
But no one who calls themselves a baseball fan, be they a Yankee hater born and bred like me, should be glad to hear the news on Mariano Rivera. Love him or hate him, love his team or hate his team, or simply wonder how the hell he does it when everyone, and I mean everyone including the peanut vendors, knows what pitch is coming next, he is an icon of baseball. He is one of the guys you tell your kids "I saw him" about, twenty years down the line. He is, in a very real sense, a legend of the game, and we are all poorer when legends end.
And yeah, this is almost certainly the end. It's nine months to recover from a blown ACL, and Mo had already been hinting he was hanging up the spikes after this year. I can't see him doing the rehab and coming back, not at his age. He might surprise us yet. After all, he's been surprising us every year for the last ten or so - all those "is this the year Mo loses it" stories, all the panic when the annual blown save came along. But the invisible demons conjured by sportswriters had no power; a torn ACL, that's something else.
So Yankees fans and Yankees haters, count yourselves lucky that you got to see him, and count yourself sad that he's gone.