In the wee hours of Monday morning, November 5, 2001, I was in a hotel room in Wilmington, North Carolina, crying my eyes out. I had tried not to be loud as I didn’t want to disturb my best friend who was sleeping in the other bed but I couldn’t help it. I sobbed and some of the noises that came out of me were guttural. And no matter how much I tried to surpress them, I couldn’t even control myself.
That reaction was a culmination of a lot many different emotions which led to the ultimate breakdown over sports. It was a combination of my delayed reaction to 9/11 and the events of the Fall of 2001, up to that point. It was also because I knew things wouldn’t be the same for the Yankees. I knew that the dynasty was over.
I was nearly despondent and I didn’t speak to anyone in anything other than monosyllabic grunts for nearly 24 hours. And that was just from watching my favorite team lose the World Series on a bloop hit.
Have I cried about sports since that night in 2001? Oh yes, plenty of times. I’m one of those people who becomes emotional about sports. I’ve cried happy tears and I’ve cried sad tears but nothing has come close since then, not even 2004, until last night.
When the news first came to light that Mariano Rivera had hurt his knee and was carted off the field in Kansas City, I instantly felt sick to my stomach. I knew it was bad even if I didn’t want to admit it at first. Because of that, I lashed out at people on Twitter who were comparing Mo’s imjury to Chicago Bulls superstar Derrick Rose who injured his ACL last week in a game against the Philadelphia Sixers. I was telling them to stop playing amateur doctor, I told them to wait for an official diagnosis and to stop overreacting because they were just making people more nervous than they needed to be.
I was one of those nervous people. Thinking about the possibility of Mariano Rivera tearing his ACL was too much for me to bare. My heart was racing, I worked up a bit of a sweat, my breathing became shallow, I was actually having a full blown anxiety attack.
I couldn’t concentrate on anything and I barely paid attention to the Yankees’ game last night.
And then it happened, our worst fears became realized.
After the Yankees had lost their game to the Royals last night, it was announced that Mariano Rivera had a torn ACL in his right knee and that his season would be over. And that quite possibly, this could mean the end of his career.
Without warning, the tears started flowing from my eyes. I honestly didn’t expect a reaction like that. I figured I’d be more angry about the way Mo’s season ended; how it was completely unfair it was that he hurt himself doing something he’s always done – shagging fly balls in the outfield.
And then, they wouldn’t stop. I was completely wrecked. This was the worst case scenario.
Mariano Rivera had come into training camp in 2012 hinting that this could be his last season. And Yankee fans knew the end would be at some point in 2012 but not in May, not like this.
Mo was supposed to go out after getting the final out of the World Series winning game. He was supposed to help the New York Yankees win their 28th championship. He was supposed to end his career on a high note. He was not supposed to end it grimacing in pain and grabbing his injured knee on the warning track of Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.
Just when Yankee fans thought that Joba Chamberlain’s freak accident on a trampoline was the oddest way to possibly end a season, we now have Rivera’s mishap in the outfield. Only this time, it is entirely possible that the injury could be career ending.
Rivera and his teammates spoke to the media last night and it was as if they had lost the seventh game of the World Series again. Actually, it was worse. They weren’t even this crestfallen on that fateful night in Arizona in 2001.
This was different.
Mo had tears in his eyes when he spoke about his injury. He said it was possible he may never pitch again. He also said that he felt like he let his teammates down.
Watching Rivera break down like that was too much for most people to take. Even people who hate the Yankees were beside themselves last night watching the game’s greatest closer talk about his injury.
Mariano Rivera transcends baseball. Fans of other teams may not like seeing Mo come in to close the game against their team but they respect the man. He’s not boisterous on the mound, he just comes in, throws his cutter and he saves games.
Does this mean the season is over for the New York Yankees? Not by a longshot. Of course, it won’t be easy. The Yankees do have capable arms in the bullpen who can take over for Rivera but this will be the ultimate challenge for the team. This will definitely test their mettle.
Not having Mo around will be an adjustment for everyone – teammates and fans alike. Rivera was the Yankees’ pillar of strength. He was the guy everyone always counted on seeing closing out games for the Yankees. He was the constant. And so was his cutter.
To hear Rivera say, “I don’t know,” when asked if he would return from this injury was too much for everyone to bear. Twitter had become like a funeral. People were down to begin with but to see Rivera like that made it so much worse. Maybe he was overwhelmed by everything that had happened last night and that he was consumed by the gravity of the diagnosis. Maybe he woke up with a clearer head today.
I was up until 5:30 a.m. last night and as I was falling asleep, the heavens opened up and there were loud, violent claps of thunder; streaky flashes of lightning began filling up the early morning skies. As I was lying there, waiting for my swollen from crying eyes to become heavier with sleep, I wondered if perhaps the storm was Mother Nature’s delayed reaction to the news that Mariano Rivera may have ended his career.