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Archive for September, 2013|Monthly archive page

Exit Sandman: A Bittersweet Bronx Goodbye for Mariano Rivera

In Sports on September 27, 2013 at 1:19 am

Mariano Rivera's Last Game at Yankee Stadium

The whirlwind farewell tour for Yankees’ closer, Mariano Rivera, certainly had to have its emotional moments, but nothing, including his retirement ceremony at Yankee Stadium, could have compared to his final moments in front of a near capacity crowd in the Bronx.  If this was Hollywood, Rivera would have entered game 7 of the World Series in the bottom of the 9th inning of a one-run game, retire the side, and the credits would roll over the still shot of Mo holding the championship trophy over his head.  However, no Hollywood ending could possibly measure up to the reality of the Bronx ending…raw, bittersweet and emotional. Not since Lou Gehrig’s “luckiest man on the face of the earth” speech have so many tears flowed inside of a baseball stadium.

As Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” blared through the crisp fall air of Yankee Stadium for Rivera’s final appearance as an active player, the legendary closer made his way to the mound as he has done so many times before.  Trailing 4-0 in the 8th inning of a relatively meaningless game, there was no pressure to perform, and no chance to earn one final save.  But it didn’t matter.  Mo’s last appearance will be remembered for many, many years to come by those who experienced it at the stadium or on TV.  As time passes, no one will remember that the Yankees lost to the division rival Tampa Bay Rays, although they may remember the tremendous class that the visiting team displayed, and the deference that they paid to one of the most transcendent players to ever play the game.

Rivera earned this night, not just because of his achievements, but also because of the way that he carried himself both on and off the field.  Mo arguably represents everything that is great about sports better than any other professional athlete in history.  However, no argument can be made about Rivera being the greatest closer in Major League Baseball history.  He is, quite simply, the best in the world at what he does, and his departure from the game will leave a void that extends way beyond the Yankees organization and their diehard fanbase.  The game of baseball will go on, as it always does, but it will never be the same without Rivera.

In his final game, Rivera faced four batters.  He didn’t blow his trademark cut fastball by any of the batters that he faced for a strikeout.  In fact, each batter made solid contact, but none reached base, largely due to Mo’s stellar fielding abilities, which haven’t diminished at all despite being the oldest player in the league.  Although he admittedly struggled to maintain his composure in the face of overwhelming emotions, Rivera retired each batter, just as he has done time and time again over the past two decades.

With two outs in the 9th inning, Joe Girardi got the approval to send Andy Pettite and Derek Jeter out to the mound to relieve their longtime teammate.  The three remaining members of the “Core Four” stood on the mound together for one last time in front of the home crowd.  Known for his unwavering composure, Rivera surprised himself as he broke down in the arms of Pettite when the reality of the moment set in.  After a long embrace, Jeter shared a similar moment with Rivera.  All the while, the members of the Rays all stood patiently outside of their dugout, and cheered along with the home crowd.  It didn’t matter that they were still fighting for their playoff lives.  This pivotal moment in baseball history was bigger than one game, regardless of its playoff implications.

While the game lacked suspense, Rivera’s unorthodox exit left everyone in the stands and the viewing audience wondering if he would return to the mound to face one last batter.  He wouldn’t, but it didn’t matter.  The last out of the inning was almost an afterthought, and Rivera had nothing left to prove.  A poetic ending to his illustrious career at Yankee Stadium was achieved as his performance inched him into first place as the pitcher with the lowest career ERA in Major League Baseball history.

Ideally, Rivera’s final innings would have occurred in the playoffs, but there is something to be said for having the last MLB player to ever don the number 42 end his career with 42 post season saves.

When it was all said and done, Rivera returned to the Yankee Stadium mound one last time after sitting alone in the dugout basking in the moment, perhaps purposely prolonging it so as to not have to say goodbye.  He dug his cleats in as if he was going to pitch, and then dropped to his knees as gathered a handful of loose dirt in his hands, taking a piece of the place that he has called home for nearly two decades.  It was a poignant moment that will always be remembered by those who watched it happen in real time, and for Rivera, it was undoubtedly a bittersweet Bronx goodbye.

 

 

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A World Of Fantasy

In Family, Life, Sports on September 24, 2013 at 12:40 pm

A World Of Fantasy

When Waldo’s Life launched on January 1, 2010, it was a simple, no-frills blog.  Through the years, it has evolved into much more than I ever anticipated.  Truth be told, I never expected anyone outside of my Facebook friends to read so much as one article back in 2010.  There has been an ebb and flow to Waldo’s Life – periods of constant updates, followed by long breaks for various reasons.  With no real goal in mind, other than to share my thoughts on various subjects (most notably my family life), it gives me great pleasure to announce that with this post, Waldo’s Life will break the 100,000 page view mark.  The title of the post – A World Of Fantasy – has nothing to do with reaching this milestone, however, it is a perfect representation of what this blog is about – Waldo’s Life.

For many years, I was the commissioner of a fantasy football league that I created.  Like millions of other people, fantasy football became something of an obsession, but that was before I had children.  Once my kids were born, it became unrealistic to glue myself to the television all day long on Sundays to see how my players were doing.  And since I took it very seriously, the only real alternative was to give it up entirely.  I missed it at first, but that feeling went away very quickly.

As my son’s interest in football grew, we decided to have our own weekly version of fantasy football, in addition to making weekly picks of the games.  It was a no-stress way of enjoying a hobby that I once loved.  Eventually, my wife and daughter wanted to get in on the action as well, so they made some picks midway through last season.

This year, we decided to create a 4-team, family league (Waldo Fantasy Football League).  Much to my surprise, I am the least competitive of the four of us.  My son takes great pride in having the highest scores (which happens often).  My wife does a celebratory dance when one of her players scores a touchdown, and my little one is so focused on the games that she didn’t even say hello to me this morning.  Her first words today…“Who won the Broncos game last night?”

When I decided to quit playing fantasy football, I did so with the intent of being there for my family on Sundays.  Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine a scenario where family day and fantasy football would be one in the same.  My wife, who used to mock my obsession with fantasy football, now has trouble pulling herself away from the NFL RedZone channel, which shows the scoring plays for every game as they happen.

To paraphrase one of my favorite all-time bands (Triumph)…my family truly is lost in a world of fantasy, and life in the Waldo household has never been more entertaining.

A special thank you goes out to all of those who have been a part of the Waldo’s Life journey to 100,000 page views!

Saying Goodbye to Pee Wee Football

In Family, Life Lessons, Sports on September 9, 2013 at 12:18 pm

Pee Wee Football

Our son was only five years old when he strapped on a football helmet for the first time.  He was raised to love the game long before he ever stepped onto a football field.  The picture of him dressed as a football player for Halloween when he was two years old is one of the most memorable of the thousands that we have taken of him over the years.  He wasn’t gifted with the natural ability that some other kids had, but he practiced as hard as any kid that I’ve ever coached through the years.  As a result, he developed into a very good football player, a lunch pail kid with average size and speed, but more heart and determination than most.

He had his challenges through the years – most notably trying to live up to the impossible expectations that go hand-in-hand with being a coach’s son – but he never lost his passion for the game.  Pee wee football helped shape him into the kid that he is today, which is why it was incredibly difficult to take it away from him.

Kids stop playing pee wee football for various reasons.  Some don’t have what it takes to withstand the physicality of the game.  Others lack the mental discipline that it takes to function as a part of a team.  Politics surrounding parent-run pee wee football leagues has caused numerous kids to leave the game.  None of the aforementioned reasons caused us to make the decision to pull our son out of pee wee football.  Although we were exhausted by the politics, our decision was based strictly on protecting him from harm, now and in the future.

There is risk in everything that kids do, sports in particular, but the risk that football poses is unique, and one that we were no longer willing to take.  The fact of the matter is that we are armed with information in 2013 that simply wasn’t available in 2007 when our son started playing tackle football.  No longer is the term “getting your bell rung” an acceptable description of concussion symptoms caused by a blow to the head; at least it isn’t to those who have evolved and taken heed to the warnings about head injuries.

Armed with the knowledge of the potential lingering effects of repeated blows to the head, we chose not to allow our son to continue playing the sport that has meant so much to all of us.  Understandably, our son was not happy with our decision.  And though we have shared numerous stories with him about the potential long-term effects that playing football could have on the rest of his life, he would strap on the helmet today if we told him that we changed our minds about letting him play.

Our son is angry, frustrated and sad about not being able to play the game that he loves, and I don’t blame him.  I was only allowed to play one season of football in junior high school before my parents refused to sign the permission slip to let me play again.  I felt all of the emotions that our son is feeling, and I had only played football for one season.  He played eight seasons of football, so I can only imagine how much more intense his feelings are right now.

Pee wee football parents are incredibly passionate about the game.  Most who read this story will probably disagree with the decision that we’ve made.  Not too long ago, I would have disagreed as well.  However, parents who find themselves questioning whether or not they want to allow their sons to continue playing football out of concern for the potential lingering health effects down the road, may find solace in the fact that a football coach (who loves the game) chose to make the same difficult parenting decision.

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