The video of Yankee closer Mariano Rivera being carted off the field after tearing his ACL and, perhaps, ending his magnificent career, stays fixed in the mind, perhaps because of the open, earnest smile that Rivera flashes to his teammates as he rides the cart back to the training room. The look on his face is so benign, so genuine that in a single image, it seems to summon everything about the man.
Okay, I’m an Oriole fan. And before I moved to Baltimore, I grew up in D.C. with the Washington Senators. The Yankees — damn them — are my lifelong bete noir. And I have seen Mariano Rivera go lights out on the home team in so many one- and two-run games that I should rightly be unable to summon anything more than a basic, casual amount of empathy at the idea that at forty-two years of age, with Cooperstown dusting a spot for him, he might not to be able to do it anymore.
Except that warm, sheepish smile — as if he’s embarrassed this happened while shagging outfield flies, as if he’s a little apologetic for somehow becoming the center of attention — is pure Rivera. The guy is to be loved. Even from Baltimore.